So why exactly is messy play so important? Well, let’s start with what messy play is exactly. Messy play involves the senses. It allows for tactile (touch based) exploration which can (and probably will) result in mess – which for adults could be a little anxiety provoking, especially if you’ve been watching Marie Kondo on Netflix.
This type of play, as chaotic as it seems, is rather important in child development and learning. This is one of the ways that children navigate and begin to understand the world around them. There are opportunities to experiment, explore, learn cause and effect, socialize, communicate and be creative embedded in what seems like the simplest of activities. This is part of the beauty of messy play and sensory exploration; watching the focus and attention a child gives something as ordinary as a tray full of oats and containers. It’s magical!
What are they learning while playing in that tray of oats?
So much! First, they are touching, smelling and seeing the oats themselves. You can start by talking about what oats are, how are they used and where they come from. When they sill up containers they are learning about volume – how much can fit in that container? What happens when it’s over filled? Then when they dump it out they are learning that if they tip it the container is now empty – and guess what? They’ll fill it up again! Repetition is a good thing.
Messy play and sensory exploration includes a whole host of learning opportunities. It can be wet, dry, artistic, constructive, big, small. Let your imagination run wild. It engages touch, smell, sight, taste and sound. it’s also not just slime and play dough. It’s fabric, paper, water, colour, music and sound, tasting foods, smelling a flower. These are all beautiful ways to engage with your senses and that’s really what it’s all about. Building a neurological network of experiences that connect and build and help build the foundation for learning that children will use through out their lives.
Have fun and let the kids play!