Messy Play

Why is Messy Play good?

I often get asked about messy play and why it is important for children. I love doing messy play with the babies and children I see and want to emphasize ‘ MESS IS GOOD’ for children.

Messy play is important for young children, giving them endless ways to develop learn and have fun. All types of play are essential for children’s development and early learning.

Play helps children to:
– develop and improve their gross and fine motor skills
– refine co-ordination and concentration skills
– use senses to explore and discover
– supports development of creative thinking
– assists children to discover and explore their environment
– work cooperatively and collaboratively
– inspire imaginative play

The brain learns to accept and process tactile input( messy play) in a certain sequence…

When you hear the word tactile, think touch and texture. The tactile system includes theentire network of skin, including inside of the mouth. The tactile system is quite complex and the nervous system processes different types of tactile input via different pathways to the brain, therefore a child may tolerate one form of tactile input just fine, but completely disgusted by another. Deep pressure touch is the most accepted form of tactile input overall. Then you have all of the other forms of tactile input…from light touch to various
textures and mediums. And the brain experiences this differently based on where the input is received…such as to the hands or feet, the back, face, the entire body or any combination in between.

The brain learns to accept and process tactile input in a certain order. It is incredibly important to assess this and follow this process to avoid uncomfortable and possible set backs for tactile system development. This is particularly important for children who demonstrate tactile defensiveness. This is when touch sensations are perceived as being ‘like fingers down a blackboard’.

As a therapist I have always worked on the premise ‘ what a child avoids or seeks too much of is what the child actually needs but it needs to be presented in a way that the child can process it and make sense of the information without been too overwhelmed.

This sequence of play in my experience works well if your child avoids messy play or becomes upset when exposed to any form of messy play:

Begin with DRY textures, watching to see that your child accepts and tolerates play to the hands and feet with at least 3 different varieties of DRY textures. Then move on to the IN BETWEEN textures Then finally WET MESSY textures.

Dry Texture Play Ideas: This includes:

  • Dry beans, lentils, corn, rice, paper, oats, flour, muesli
  • Grass, leaves, tree bark
  • Different fabric textures
  • Wood chips, rocks and pebbles
  • Sand or dirt
  • Ball pit
  • Lycra tunnel
  • Confetti
  • Flowers
  • Sensory Bags

Progress finally to Messy Texture Play/Wet Ideas: This includes

  • Whipped cream, jelly, yoghurt
  • finger paints including doll face painting/ cars
  • shaving cream
  • Mud
  • Soap foam
  • Water Play
  • Slime

Have fun!!
Exempts from Play Sense by Desiree Frigenti- available for purchase.

“In Between” Texture Play Ideas: This includes
(Textures that are not dry, but don’t adhere to the skin)

  • Playdough
  • Clay
  • Kinetic sand
  • Cooked noodles
  • Squishy type fidget toys
  • Water beads and crystals
  • Balloons with rice or water in them
  • Writing/ drawing in glitter
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