The Benefits of Messy Play

Messy play, also known as sensory play, is a highly-beneficial activity for children, as they tend to naturally use their senses to explore their surroundings and make sense of the world. It is an excellent way to engage your child’s senses, which encourages them to think, feel and compare their experiences, environment and the objects within it. 

Here are some of the main benefits that messy play provides:

  1. Fine motor: Develops fine motor skills through small hand movements, such as picking up objects, moulding materials, and manipulating tools.
  2. Gross motor: Develops hand-eye coordination, spatial awareness, body control and balance.
  3. Sensory exploration: Engages sense of sight, sound, touch, taste and smell. Encourages exploration of different textures.
  4. Cognitive development: Develops brain nerve connections, promotes concentration, discovery, problem solving, enquiry, experimenting, investigating etc.
  5.  Creativity: Sparks imagination to create shapes, forms and objects.
  6. Language development: Introduces new words to a child’s vocabulary and stimulates language development.
  1. Relationships: Enables children to play alongside each other and interact with one another, where they learn to share space, equipment and experiences. 
  2. Calming: Provides a calming sensation for children who are feeling agitated, as they become absorbed in the activity.

Materials and tools for messy play

Messy play is easy to set up using things you may already have at home and cost-effective materials. While the possibilities are endless, here are some popular materials and tools you could use:



Note: When setting up a messy play activity, always keep the child’s safety in mind, especially with water play, choking hazards, fragile items, sharp objects etc. 

Some children may feel cautious about getting messy or exploring unfamiliar materials and textures. Let them know it’s okay and show them by rolling up your sleeves and joining in! However, it is important to remember that children should never be forced to participate in messy play, or touch materials they are uncomfortable with. They should be allowed to explore the materials at their own pace.

While you can certainly do messy play sessions indoors, some are best done outdoors to make clean up a lot easier. Large plastic trays or shallow containers can help keep things contained, and it’s best to have tissues, wipes or cloth ready to wipe hands and faces or to clean up spills.

This article was reviewed by The Energy Source’s Director, Physiotherapist and Sensory Practitioner, Joanna Hutt.

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