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Updated: May 29, 2020

Some kiddos love getting their hands messy, bringing a trail of dirt and rocks with them wherever they go. Other children can’t stand having dirty hands, requesting that they be wiped and washed immediately. Although it gives your mop a workout, the benefits of messy play outweigh the irritation.

The sensory experience of messy play makes children more aware of their bodies, as well as their comfort levels. Does your kiddo walk around with food on their face and not even notice? Will they dive into any sensory bin filled with mystery ingredients? Or do they cringe at the idea of walking through the sand with bare feet at the beach? Some kids crave extra sensory stimulation on their skin, while others do everything they can do to avoid it - like wearing boots to the beach!

Messy play stimulates the senses and helps to build motor coordination (how can I get this mud all over my face?). When your child squeezes that homemade slime with their hands, or picks out pebbles from their mud pie, they are developing and refining their fine motor skills. The muscles of their fingers, wrists, arms, and shoulders are all helping to make small movements.

Messy play also encourages gross motor skill development. When they roll through a puddle, throw water balloons at their siblings, and jump over the sprinkler, they are improving their balance, coordination, and strength.

Another benefit of messy play is for improving eye-hand coordination. This is an essential part of learning to draw and print. Building shapes out of play doh and copying scribbles in pudding are directly related to the way they sign their name on your Father’s Day card. As a bonus, it’s way more fun than writing their name over and over on a sheet of perfectly lined paper.

Kids who like to keep clean hands will be more comfortable using different tools - raid your kitchen for whisks, spoons, and spatulas. Start with dry items, such as cereal and rice, before moving onto slime and other sloppy concoctions. Follow their lead and don’t push them into an activity they aren’t comfortable with.

Don’t be afraid to bring in small toys, such as cars or animals,

to make the play more exciting. Maybe all of your animals slipped in the mud and now they need a bath!

Paper plates, serving trays, and cookie sheets work well for messy play, and plastic tablecloths keep your furniture safe while your child learns about their senses. If you are nervous about messy play, try it out in the bathtub or the back yard.

Messy Play Ideas:

> pudding or jello

> sand (regular or kinetic)

> water beads

> hair gel

> cooked spaghetti

> homemade slime

> cool whip

> corn starch (+ water)

> raid your fridge for leftovers

"At the end of the day, your feet should be dirty, your hair messy, and your eyes sparkling."(And Next Comes L)

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