Messy play is by far the hardest kind of play for parents to be comfortable with. I know many parents who believe that their children should not make messes and should stay clean and tidy. I understand that. I like to have a clean house and a clean child. There is a part of me that twinges every time that J makes a huge mess. But, I try to see through the mess and recognize it for the learning experiences it’s providing my child. Plus, the freedom to just let loose and play is exhilarating!
Check out some examples of learning that has come out of our messy play.
When you slap a liquid it will splatter on your face!
Freely mixing colors together makes new colors!
Take this example. A child sees a bucket of cornmeal for the first time. It looks solid at first and they reach in for a handful, then the powder falls through their fingers. Add some water and it becomes a solid. This experience makes them think about their understanding of the properties of cornmeal.
There is so much cognitive development that can happen through messy play! It is also great for self esteem, problem solving skills, and large and fine motor skills. If an adult plays along, it’s wonderful for social development, attachment, and language development.
The best part of messy play is that it really enhances a child’s ability to be creative. Creativity is important in order to think outside the box and come up with different solutions to a problem. I encourage messy play as much as possible because creativity is something I find to be VERY important for an child and later on as an adult.
How to not pull out your hair while playing messy!
For me, I don’t mind a mess…as long as it’s pretty much contained to one area.
- If I know that it is going to be a huge sloppy mess I will sit J at the table and not let him run around.
- You can always cover the floor with plastic. (I know lots of people who use cheap plastic table cloths for this.)
- If I feel like the activity needs more space or the table won’t work, I’ll lay down towels in the kitchen.
- One of the best places to do messy play is outside with a water hose near by.
- Another one of my favorite places for messy play is in the bathtub! Let them play and make a mess then just turn on the water for a bath…easy peasy.
- Adult sized shirts make great smocks or just strip them down to their diaper.
“I don’t want my child to think that messes are ok”
Man, I’ve heard this a thousand times. Messy play is not teaching your child to be a messy person. If done correctly, it’s teaching your child that being creative and making a mess is ok, but that we must always clean up after ourselves! I involve J in the cleaning process so that he knows that we do not leave messes behind. By involving your child in the cleaning, your teaching them responsibility, how to follow directions, and how to take care of their things.
Hey! Kids will make messes! That’s what washing machines and soap are for!
Activity # 7: Make a Mess!
Here are some great things to make messes with:
- cornmeal or cornstarch
- shaving cream
- whipped cream
- sand and water
- cloud dough – this stuff looks so cool
- oobleck – probably the coolest thing ever
What do you think about messy play? You ok with it or does it make you uncomfortable? You willing to try it out?