The benefits of Messy Play when it comes to child development

“Messy Play” The mere words invoke fear and dread into the hearts of many parents, but here at Piptree Early Learning, we encourage our children to embrace messy play and the learning and development that comes from it.

The idea of messy play can be a frightening and stressful one for parents.  Finger painting, muddy puddles, glue, glitter, GAHHH!  But wait – we want you to know that the benefits of this often dreaded play are huge.

Messy play is a particularly important form of play for babies and toddlers.

Cognitive development in children occurs when their senses are stimulated and messy play is awesome because it stimulates so many of their senses at once.  But how does it help your child develop?

Physical development

Through touching and experimenting children develop fine motor skills and hand eye coordination. It is these hands-on activities that give your child the chance to discover and explore different textures. Is it soft, hard, slimy, smooth? As children explore objects and materials such as water, paint, playdough, food and sand in an unrestricted way, it enables them to understand how things feel, smell and taste. Imagination and experimentation during messy play is always encouraged at Piptree Early Learning as well as sharing what they have learned with others.


Through discussing what they are doing and feeling, children can then start to articulate differences. This also encourages children to think through their actions so they can explain it to others. They will use objects and gestures to share resources, negotiate and take turns that helps to build their confidence when socialising.

Social and emotional development

Giving children an environment where there is no right or wrong builds self-esteem and positive experiences. By working in a group, they have opportunities to make new friends and learn respect for others as well as themselves. As children engage in messy play activities, they share their feelings and thoughts with each other, which supports their emotional development.

Setting up messy play at home

There is no right or wrong when it comes to messy play so any child can participate, whatever their ability. When thinking of an activity, always keep safety in mind and don’t be afraid to get involved. Try and make new things with your child and talk through what you are doing to help them learn. When it comes time to clean up, we have a few tips to help minimise the mess and ensure it doesn’t get out of control.

  • Have a spare set of children’s clothes ready.
  • Only commit to messy play when you have enough time for clean up.
  • Have a set of clothes for messy play or wear a protective apron.
  • Use water-based paints because they are easier to wash off most surfaces.
  • Cover surfaces such as floors and tables with washable sheets or old towels. Plastic painting tarps can be found at the hardware store, which can be reused.
  • Setup messy play areas in places around your house that is easy to clean, such as outdoors or a tile floor.
  • Have a set of rules about how different materials are used. For example: ‘the paint stays outside’, ‘the sand stays in the sandpit’.
  • Supervise children during messy play and remind them of the rules if they forget during all that creating and exploring.
  • Have fun! Kids love messy play. Even if you aren’t participating, you can ask open ended questions such as ‘Why did that happen?’ or ‘How did you create that?’ to encourage critical thinking.

Messy play at Piptree

When your child is at Piptree Early Learning they will have many opportunities to create, build, investigate and discover. Best of all, we take care of the mess!

Messy Play Child Development

18 May, 2017 / 0 Comments