"We don't have messy children, just improper clothing"
The benefits of messy play, indoors and out as well as with food are far reaching.
Children experience tactile sensory input and problem solve with quantity, flow, mix and experimentation. With others, they experience joy, negotiate frustrations and can explore limits. Children learn that every experience is different and that they can direct the order of events and this encourages creativity. With input from adults, they can take this creativity further and further.
In regards to sensory experiences children learn about different textures and feelings and establish what they like and don't like while observing others reactions which may be different from their own. Socially, children learn boundaries with others, what is helpful in messy play with others and what leads to disruption. Messy play is a well-known emotional expression in childhood. Children directing and taking charge of their space and their 'mess' or creations facilitates belief in their capacity, a sense of agency and is therefore important for the development of self-esteem.
Adults support all sorts of play by a process called 'scaffolding' which means that a small amount of input can take children further and further in their play. Have you noticed how your child/ren will play A LOT longer if you are alongside them and have little inputs? The same is true for messy play. They can have your help with paint and colour mixing, e.g. going on an adventure to create a colour all by themselves and then have you change it with them entering into a whole new colour journey.
In regards to health and messy play with the natural environment, it is well established scientifically that when children are exposed to harmless microbes their immune system becomes stronger. Motor development is supported, through the use of fine motor skills in particular. Language development is supported through the processing and expressive language involved in discussing what has been created.
Go-To Messy play activities:
- Finger painting (using yoghurt with dye if you like)
-Paint with brush
-Pens and paper
-Water trough and water play
-Hands on baking
-Gardening, planting, digging and weeding
-Making a sand garden
-Chalk board or driveway drawing