Messy play in early years


What is messy play ?

The term messy play or sensory play can be used interchangeably as it means the same thing, it is  any activity that stimulates young children’s senses such as touch, smell, taste, movement, balance, sight and hearing.

Sensory or messy activities facilitate exploration and naturally encourage children to use scientific processes while they play, create, investigate and explore.

According to Piaget’s theory of development, children from the age of zero to eight are in two different stages of development: the sensori-motor stage from ages zero to two and the pre-operational stage from age two to around seven or eight.

In both of these stages, playing through experimenting and exploring their environment is critical for development.

The sensori-motor stage from birth to two is all about using the senses to explore this brand new world. How things feel, taste, sound, look like, and how babies move in order to explore these things aids in their cognitive learning. They quickly learn how much strength they need to pick up a lego or how soft or hard it feels.

According to Benjamin franklin  children tend to learn fast when they are involved, he quote

‘ Tell me and I forget ,teach me and I remember, involve me and I learn’

Importance of messy play in early children’s development 

    • Fine Motor Skills

 When children squeeze play dough , manipulate fluffy slime, make marks in shaving foam  or scoop up moon sand , they are learning to refine their fine motor skills by using the muscles in their fingers, wrists, arms, toes and shoulders to make small movements



    • Gross Motor Skills

When children stomp on water, throw sand or produce large scale mark making with bigger objects such as brush, they are also enhancing their gross motor skills. Children use the larger muscles in their arms, legs, feet and body to make bigger movements which support balance, coordination  and strength.


    • Language and communication

 Messy play helps to improve children’s vocabulary, playing with different messy activities help them discover new words such as  hard, squishy, fluffy, slimming, sticky, smooth, rough . It supports their language development and encourages them to communicate effectively with others. 

    • Muscle Strengthening

When children practice fine and gross motor skills in messy play, they are strengthening their muscles and developing muscle control in their body. Mark making in paint,sand  helps children improve the muscles in their hands and fingers, which also prepares them for holding a pencil and controlling these movements for writing, whereas, activities such as stomping on paint will strengthen the muscles in the legs.


messy play

    • Calming and soothing

Sensory play is great for a frustrated or an anxious  child, it helps children to relax and feel good. It can provide an outlet for frustration or angry feelings. It can soothe or calm when sad and distressed. Messy play can also help build a child’s confidence.


messy play also enhances the children’s hand-eye coordination, such as cutting shapes out of a dough , pouring sand  in a bottle or throwing goo at a target, which helps children develop their hand-eye coordination.


messy play

    • Body Control & Balance 

Messy play enhances children’s body control and balance through the large and small movements that they make when they play. Simple actions, such as pouring water from one  cup to another, helps children focus their fine and gross motor skills, which improves their control and balance with practice.

    • Spatial Awareness

Messy play also makes children more body aware, it gives them the opportunity to learn about boundaries. When participating in group messy play activities, such as imaginative play, cooking an imaginary meal, throwing picnics and tea parties ,children begin to respect others’ spaces and develop social skills.





1 comment on "Importance of messy play"

  1. Nice write up……keep up the good work😊☑️

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