Children’s imaginations are sparked when they have the opportunity to play with tactile materials like pasta, rice, sand, water, chalk, paint, play dough or paste. They make their own discoveries and subsequently this stimulates their curiosity and develops knowledge too.
We think there are a handful of reasons why messy play is so important in the early years for children.
What Messy Play Can Do for Children
Fosters Curiosity, Imagination and Exploration
Children play with these materials learning foundation skills. They love to pour, pack and puddle the materials with trial, error, delight and frustration. Curiosity helps children to be observant and think to figure out a process.
Promotes Physical Development
Hands-on play offers many physical benefits, allowing children to develop an awareness of their body and personal space. All the while, they are strengthening their muscle control and inciting muscle memory. Activities such as pouring, shovelling or drawing in the sand, for example, help build strength in the large muscle groups at the top of the arms and it is these muscles that then enable the smaller muscles in the hands and fingers to make precise and controlled movements.
Supports the Ability to Play Independently
Among today’s younger generation, some say children are losing the ability to be able to amuse themselves with all those electronic distractions. With messy play, it’s open-ended and children - as they learn to make their own entertainment - can play for ages.
Encourages Communication and Language Development
Messy play naturally enriches social relationships. It can be such a fabulously engaging activity, both with family and other children. Young children can’t always explain the situation verbally, so getting their hands messy, in a group, allows them to create experiences share their discoveries in different ways.
Practices Good Concentration and Nurtures Future Skills
Concentration levels are high while engaging in messy play. From exploring objects and engaging all of their senses to thinking through their discoveries and trying to communicate them children happily learn to concentrate as well as concentrate as they learn.
Here are 3 of our favourite simple messy play ideas to keep toddlers busy. These are recipes to keep your little one busy and active:
Coloured Play dough
2 cups plain flour
1 cup salt
1 tbsp oil
1 cup cold water
2 drops liquid food colouring
Step 1: Combine plain flour and salt
Step 2: Add water, food colouring and oil. Mix until ingredients are combined.
Step 3: If consistency is too wet add a little plain flour
Original recipe from Australia’s best recipes on Kidspot
Coloured Dried Pasta
Dry Pasta (different styles)
Step 1: Measure 1 Cup of pasta into a container. Try to do several colours of pasta in different containers and mix them together for rainbow pasta
Step 2: Add 1 Teaspoon of Vinegar.
Step 3: Add as much food colouring as desired (deeper colour= more food colouring)
Step 4: Cover the container and SHAKE vigorously for a minute or two. Check to see if the past is evenly coated
Step 5: Spread on paper towel or plate to dry in an even layer
Step 6: Once the coloured pasta is dry transfer to a bin for sensory play
Original recipe from @littlebinslittlehands
Rainbow 1 cup water
- tbsp soap
A few different Food colouring
Step 1: Add water, soap, and a drop or 2 of food colouring to the blender
Step 2: Start at a low speed then increase to medium for about 1-2minures until you like the texture, then pour into a play tray and start playing.
Original Recipe from @mothercould
What Messy Play activities do you love to play with?
Share your photos on and tag @edxeducation or #edxeducation so we can share with our community on Facebook / Instagram / Twitter
Heather Welch, International Brand Manager, Edx Education