MESSY PLAY – Powerful benefits for your child

Messy Play for Kids
Messy Play for Kids

Messy Play / Sensory Play is a type of experimental play. It is also called sensory Play because it engages and develops all your child’s senses along with balance, or movement.

According to Piaget’s theory of development, children from the age of zero to around two are in what is called the sensorimotor stage where the kid explores its surrounding. They are curious on how things feel, taste, look, sound. It is of little wonder as to why they put almost everything in their mouth and reach out to touch or pull any item that piques their interest.

From age two to around eight the preschool years they develop in a more advance way to produce signs, symbols, language and other skills.


  1. Messy play meaning
  2. Importance of Messy play
  3. Benefits of Messy Play Explained
  4. Messy play ideas for preschoolers
  5. Note to Parents

What is Messy Play?

Messy Play for Kids
Messy Play

Messy play, or otherwise called sensory play, is a type of play activity engaged by children to learn while they smile in oblivion as they sit in a controlled mess they have created.

In this type of play children can work with their hands (most of the time their face, body and legs) to create a little mess.  

The popular ingredients of messy play are the sticky groovy slime, paint, glitters and the usual sand, clay, mud or/ and water.

Research suggests that sensory play helps build neural connections that support thought, learning and creativity

Why is messy play so important?

Messy play for children has numerous benefits and is one of the very important forms of play for your child. Some of the benefits of messy play are.

  1. Aids in Physical development
  2. Improves Communication and Language
  3. Improves Concentration and Independent play
  4. Increases Creativity
  5. Enhances Mathematical Ability
  6. Increases Awareness of the World
  7. Fosters personal, social and Emotional Development

Benefits of Messy Play Explained in Detail

Messy Play
Finger Painting

I have outlined below the details of some of the numerous benefits of engaging in messy play with your kid to attempt to explain and motivate you to plan time for messy play in your child’s day.

Helps in Physical development

Messy play helps both in gross motor skill and Fine motor skill development.

Play that involves lifting, pouring develops the large muscle group of the kid’s boy (gross motor skill) improve poise, body control, balance and coordination.

Activities like clay moulding, playing with sand, pouring, scooping, and grasping small objects such as grains, helps not only in smaller muscles in their hands and fingers (fine motor skills) to develop but also to improve finer, precise movement, finger dexterity and increases hand eye coordination. This also forms the basis of handwriting in the future.

These types of hands-on play also offer many physical benefits, allowing your children to develop an awareness of their body, personal space and Spatial awareness.

messy play

Improves Communication and Language

When you or teachers or other children play along with you child Messy play it can lead a lot of conversations and discussions with your child. Since language skill if not fully developed young children try to communicate what they experience by way of simple gesturing.

With simple probing from the parent by way of asking close ended questions like is it large or small, soft or hard, smooth or rough? or open-ended questions like what is that you are making? You slowly nudge and encourage listening, speech while developing their vocabulary and in turn their language skills. This relation and explanation will also help devolve their cognitive skills.

Improves concentration and Independent play

To understand, think, imagine and play with just raw material that is provided takes a lot of brain power and they can do only by focusing on what is given to them and this in turn increases concentration and helps the kid to hold interest and amuse themselves for long periods of time. This becomes fundamental for learning as they grow up.

When children learn to make their own entertainment, which is self-motivated and self-lead they open their mind to plan, explore and problem-solve there by building a self-confidence and self-esteem and this independence by choice will develop them as independent people.

Increases Creativity

When children can explore and experiment with different objects and raw materials without any end goals or restriction this array of media or material fosters their imagination.

In messy play a child is not given a full toy where the child can play but there is little left to imagination by way of creation. However, in messy play the child is only given material like clay, sand, water, slime, grains or paste and they are left free to use their imagination and engage themselves. This not only stimulates their creativity it also piques their curiosity while they develop their knowledge.

It is not surprising to see how quickly the little one takes to the play and do not be surprised when a simple shaving cream becomes clouds and your glitters become the bright sun.

Mathematical Ability

By way of messy play children experiment to learn basic life skills like sequencing and patterns. They learn things like counting, measuring and sorting. They develop basic concepts of shapes and size.

Increases Awareness of the World

Messy play also Though messy play children become more aware of the world around them, they start to understand concepts like gravity, cause and effect, textures and temperatures.

It also enables risk taking and experimenting in safe environment. It also stirs the child to engage in representational and storytelling play such as. I am butterfly?  When they put ribbons on their arms and pretend to fly…

Fosters personal, social and Emotional Development

Messy play is a social activity it not only improves communication it also nurtures collaboration, sharing, listening and understanding others views and idea and express their own. It helps in cooperating in group play or one-on-one play. and being sensitive to one another needs. Messy play also calms and makes your child concentrate on a task. It encourages positive attitude to new experience and help in problem solving in unstructured play.

Messy Play Ideas

Each child is unique and develops in his/ her own pace. Below is only an indicative of messy play age-wise to open your mind to possible ideas. Full time supervision is required for some of the activities mentioned below.

Messy Play for 2 to 3-year-old

Messy Play Toddler
  • Water play where kids can play in water freely make it interesting by adding plastic bottles, containers, funnels, sieves, jugs etc.
  • Spaghetti play. Add food coloring to cooked spaghetti and allow it to cool. Put in a bowl and allow kids to play.
  • Cut sponge into different sizes and have kids paint on a chart paper
  • Make mud puddles or have a pile of leaves for kid to splash, jump and play.

Messy Play for 3 to 4-year-old

Messy Play for Kids
  • Play treasure hunt by having shaving foam filled in a jar with few small items like button, bead, small toy placed inside.
  • Make Gloop by adding corn flour, water and food color. Mix water in corn flour till it becomes semi firm. Let kids play in Gloop in a basin.
  • Make washable finger paints by using 1 cup flour, 4 cup water and food coloring. Mix 1 cup flour and 1 cup water and make a smooth paste and add balance 3 cup water while cooking over medium flame till mixture thickens and bubbles by stirring constantly.

Messy Play for 4 to 6-year-old

Messy Play for Kids
Sand Castle
  • Sand pit play like digging, building sandcastles, tunneling, mud pies/ molds etc.
  • Make Potato stamps and vegetable imprints
  • Make Sand Sculpture Clay by adding 2 cups of fine sand, 1 cup of corn starch and 1 cup of water in a vessel over stove and stir till it thickens. Play by shaping into molds after it cools
messy play
  • Play dough make homemade play dough by adding 2 cups of plain flour, 2 cups of water, 1 cup of salt and 2 tablespoons of cream of tartar and food coloring. Mix all together and bring it to a boil. Cook further for 2 more mins till it forms a solid lump. Leave the lump to cool and store it in an airtight container. Play as and when needed. Improvise by adding glitter to make it a fairy dough.
  • Young chemist: Food coloring added in water and filled in different shape transparent containers and given to kids to play.

Note to Parents

While yes I do understand that messy play if not monitored carefully with love can get a bit too messy and we can trust our kids to make it happen and this can put off many parents due to the clean-up that follows. Still spending few mins with your kids in messy play will be one of the good foundations for your child’s development.

Tip: With messy play, preparation by way of planning, covering up surfaces (Plastic sheets or newspapers) and remember to dress for mess (e.g. old T shirt) for yourself and your little, have a fixed corner pref with easily washable surfaces and furniture and to reduce mess will be better if the raw materials to play are given to children in a shallow wide box to diminish the clean-up load.

Tips for Parents

We, here at The Yellow Playschool we encourage messy play for our pre-schoolers not only because we believe in its immense benefits but also because our giggle meter touches the clouds with all the fun and laughter.

Well Yes! It gets a bit Messy but this messy and sensory benefits is worth the time and effort. Plus. our little ones are always eager to lend in a helping hand to clean up all the mess! It is vital we just let them play.

Let us know which is your kids favorite messy play?

Thabitha David

Thabitha David

Mother, Wife, Daughter, Sister, Aunt, Friend. She is a MBA Graduate specialized in Human Resources. She is a very proud mother of 3 Kids. (2 Teens & 1 Tween). She is a keen Observer of Life and is a blogger. She writes these articles based on her experience (Success and Failures). She does this with hope to help and ease the pain of at-least one parent as they face the challenges of parenting. Read more from the About Us Page

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1 Response

  1. September 2, 2020

    […] Messy play is one of my favorite form of play and it immensely benefits child development. If you like to know more you can check out our article MESSY PLAY – Powerful benefits for your child. […]

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