When talking about messy play, this is no reference to unhygienic living standards or toys strewn all over the house. Its about activities such as jumping in puddles, making mud pies, painting, sand play, clay molding and play dough.
Children, especially young children, need to explore their environment with all their senses. Children learn primarily through play, so combining their need to play and their need to explore often results in a mess. This can’t be avoided and we would do well to remember that a degree of mess is part of life as a child and not something to become uptight about.
Play that incorporates rich textural experiences allows children to express their emotions through manipulating the materials (clay, paint, sand) and refines their sense of touch. The richer the textural experiences, the richer their cognitive and language development will be – how can a nine-year-old grasp the concept of “slimy” if he has never touched anything “slimy”? They also learn about cause and effect (mixing colors, pressing too hard on your play dough sculpture) as well as size, shape and many other concepts. Messy play materials should encompass different temperatures (cold, warm, tepid), textures (rough, smooth, wet, dry), scents, appearances and locations.
Nothing can replace the fun and learning of a childhood filled with messy play.