The Importance of Messy Play

If it hasn’t been in the hand and the body, it can’t be in the brain” - Bev Bos

I love this quote and it’s so true. You only have to watch a baby or toddler pick up everything they come across and either take it straight to their mouth to explore or manipulate it in the hand.

Children learn through touch. It’s through touch and exploration that children develop their senses and it is our senses that provide us with the foundations for everything that we do.

Like building a house, a strong foundation is important for the higher thinking skills, such as reading and writing; and emotional skills, such as empathy, creativity and planning.

By allowing babies and young children to explore and manipulate different textures and materials you are, in fact, helping to build these strong foundations.

While all our senses are important, the skin is the largest sensory system in the body. Our skin is where we end - and the rest of the world begins! It is our first line of information from the outside world, protecting us and providing vital information to our brains to help us discriminate between different feelings.

5 Benefits of Messy Play for a Child’s Development

  • Improves fine motor skills

  • Improves gross motor skills

  • Improves hand-eye coordination

  • Improves speech, language and communication

  • Improves emotional development

Messy play is amazing for developing fine motor skills. Fine motor skills are the skills/movements that use the small muscles in our hands and wrists. They are essential for many every-day tasks such as doing/undoing buttons and zips, feeding yourself, writing and using various tools. Messy play presents lots of opportunities for squishing, squeezing, pulling, stretching - all of which are great for honing fine motor skills.

Gross Motor Skills

Gross motor skills use the larger muscles in our arms, legs, feet and body. It is our gross motor skills that enable us to make bigger movements which support balance, coordination and strength. Like fine motor skills, we need our gross motor skills to carry out many every-day tasks; tasks that we may take for granted such as running and jumping, catching and throwing, even sitting still on a chair! Any activity that uses the hands is also building strength in the shoulders and upper body. Babies participating in messy play, will be having to hold their body up, move limbs

Hand - Eye Coordination

Hand-eye coordination is the skill that enables the eyes to guide the hands in accurate movement. Good hand-eye coordination is important for so many everyday tasks, such as handwriting, reading,doing up buttons, picking up objects and putting them down. The list is endless.

Messy play enables children a safe environment to practice and hone these skills. Whether it’s pouring water from one container to another, passing gloop between hands, or simply picking up a paint brush, all these activities help to strengthen hand-eye coordination.

Speech and Language

Through messy play, children get to explore, use and be exposed to lots of different vocabulary. Messy play is great for extending ‘describing’ words. Think about exploring cooked spaghetti and how many different words you can use to describe the experience.

Emotional Development

By building the nerve connections within the developing brain’s neural pathways, you are creating a solid foundation for emotional development. Something that is becoming ever increasingly important in a world that is full of sensory overload from technology.

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