Messy Play

Messy Play

Messy play is the greatest way for a child to explore their feelings and creativity. It enables a child to express themselves in their own way. This may include painting, sand and water play, sensory play, creative exploration, indoor and outdoor play. The list is endless. Messy play has an endless list of benefits for young children. These include gross and fine motor skills, hand and eye coordination, focus skills, cognitive thinking, curious play, mathematic development, using all five senses, balance, coordination, communication skills, exploring and thinking and understanding of the world around them. Messy play gives children the opportunity to mark make. This could include painting, marks in the sand. Children express their feelings. For instance, sadness, anger or happiness. Children love the opportunity in messy play to mark make. Messy play is simple activities that are fulfilling and children really enjoy. Messy play is a child led activity were children are given an opportunity to create their own ideas and curiousity into play. It encourages children to work together and explore with other children. This gives great opportunity for communication. The child learns textures such as if it is hard or soft, gooey or sticky. Messy play impacts a child’s life in so many ways and should be explored in new and engaging ways. Using open ended materials throughout messy play is important. This could include loose parts or materials. Messy play is what it says, children get messy, enjoy getting messy and messy is the ultimate learning for children. Even though sometimes messy play is a lot of clearing up afterwards, it engages children to have fun fulfilling areas. After messy play, encouraging children to help tidy up afterwards is another important aspect. I hope the activities below give some new ideas.


1. Sand play area. This could include a particular theme. For example in summer a beach theme with water include. The child may mix the sand and water. It may include a theme such as cars and the child creating a race track using the sand.

2. Mud kitchen. This may include pots, pans, utensils, trays and a washing up dish. Children may decide to create a mud cake or pie. This may be created by mud, water, grass, leaves and flowers from around the early years practice or at home. The mud kitchen gives children the opportunity to explore cooking, sharing, working together, independence and outdoor play.

3. Toy art. This could include using toys such as cars or tractors. It may include creating print using the vehicles, stamping using the vehicles on a sheet of paper. This is also a great group project were the service may explore vehicles. The children could create the prints with pictures of the vehicles that created the prints on display.

4. Rice play. This could be done with using different food colouring within a tray and the children mixing and feeling the different textures.

5. Pasta play. The early years educator or parents boiling pasta, when cool use different food colouring or paint and put into a tray. This activity also gives the opportunity for children to explore sensory textures. The children may decide to use the pasta as a kitchen prop. The pasta may also be put in sandwich bags as a sensory bag. Another fun may include a rainbow using spaghetti and food colouring.

6. Jelly play. This is a particular fun activity for children from a young age. The children may be put in a bath, tray or sensory area and give children the opportunity to explore sensory and textures. This could also include hiding objects within the jelly and the children searching for particular activities within the jelly. For instance, a search map and tick list of items. This could also include blue jelly with boats that creates a water sensory play. The jelly could have fish toys underneath the jelly.

7. Shaving foam. This is also a great activity which may include mixing with paint or food colouring and a little water. This can also be turned into a art activity. For example, creating plants by dipping a sheet of paper in the mix of shaving foam and paint and scaping the excess off the sheet. This can also include shaving foam and paper within a sandwich bag.

8. Play dough. This includes including the child or children in making the playdough and choosing the colour. For example, mixing paint, glitter or vanilla extract into the mix. Play dough has endless opportunities. This may include stamping, kitchen play, creating objects.

9. Painting. The child or children may mix paint colours and create their own picture. This includes exploring the colours mixed, the textures and marks made on the paper. This is a great for communication skills.

10. Home corner using materials such as cereals. This may include creating a farm using Weetabix for bales and cheerios for grass. Shreddies may be used as hay. Rice krispies may be used as food for the animals. This may include using blue food colouring on the cheerios to create a duck pond. Bubble wrap may be used as the duck pond also.

11. Bubble wrap. The child or children painting the bubble wrap and then printing. The child may bust the bubbles. This could also be used in the above activity in farm play.

12. Car wash/Toy wash area. This includes fairy liquid, water and sponges. The children may get involved in washing toys at home or within the early years service.

13. Spaghetti hoops within construction play.

14. Marshmellows in waterplay

15. Ice play. This includes mixing paint into the ice. Great activity for painting and exploring cold textures.

16. Water play including paint, pasta, jelly mix, food colouring, compost.

“Play is the highest form of research”

Albert einstein

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