Have you ever wondered why children are so attracted to anything messy like mud, sand and even just plain water. They seem to be unable to walk past a puddle without having the urge to jump in it! Even indoor plants are a major attraction for little hands to play in and feel the soil texture.
Messy play stimulates children's senses. It is a tactile experience that helps their fine motor skills and hand eye co-ordination development. Children are curious creatures and messy play taps into their natural curiosity and helps build self-esteem and confidence. Messy play is vital to the development of children. Children simply need to get down and dirty!
Young babies learn through their five senses: touch; taste; sight; smell; and hearing. This is their way of interacting with the world. All the experiences are stored in their brain as knowledge. Providing them with a large range of different experiences including messy play, helps them stimulate their brain development. They are then able to use this information to decide on how to react to different situations.
Young children are easily distracted because of their short attention span. Providing them with the opportunity to construct their own knowledge, is the best form of learning. Sensory or messy play gives them this kind of learning as they manipulate, experience and investigate their environment.
Children actively explore their world unaware of what messy incidents may occur due to their natural curiosity, lack of boundaries and of course their high energy rate, as they simply plough through and investigate everything. Sometimes this can lead to incidents and outcomes their parents are not happy about! For example a pot plant overturned and soil spilt everywhere.
A helpful way of redirecting unacceptable investigation is by offering sensory or messy play activities. For example, when finding your toddler investigating the texture of the soil in your pot plant you might redirect and say "How would you like to help me in garden? I can pull out some weed while you dig with your shovel". Building a sandpit and having a designated area for your child to dig in the garden, is also a great way for your child to experience messy play.