What is Messy Play?

Messy play includes types of play that incorporate many textural experiences, such as touch, sound, and smell. During messy play, children explore using their senses. Language development is active throughout messy play with peer-to-peer interactions and conversations as well as caregivers talking about the materials and asking children questions.

Why is messy play important?

Messy play helps children learn through their senses. It also allows for unstructured time to explore and experiment with different materials. There is no specific ‘goal’ to the play, such as building a tower. Through messy play, children make their own discoveries, while using their senses, curiosity and knowledge. In messy play, there is no right or wrong. Whatever a child’s abilities are they can participate in exploring and experimenting with messy play in their own way.

Some ways you might see messy play at Concordia:

  • Sensory tables or individual sensory bins with water, sand, oats, etc.
  • Sensory bags—sealed Ziploc bags, usually taped to the table or a window filled with paint, sensory beads, slime or other things for children to explore. This allows for a “cleaner” sensory experience and is great for young children or infants who stick everything in their mouths!
  • Slime
  • Play-dough
  • Edible paint
  • Outdoor play with squirt bottles, planting, gardening, painting
  • Smoothie making

Messy play opportunities and ideas for at home:

  • Bath time: This is a great place for water exploration! Give your child time to play using spoons, cups, etc. Add bubbles or colors too!
  • Sand and water: Escape to the beach! Give your child a bucket and spoon to explore by mixing sand and water!
  • Paint: This is great material for children to explore through finger painting. This could be good to do outside if it seems too messy for the house! Children can paint on traditional paper, or you can try things like bubble wrap, aluminum foil, sandpaper, and more!
  • Bubbles: Blowing bubbles, water and bubbles in a bin or in the bathtub.
  • Play-dough and slime: Explore the texture—squeeze, roll, stretch the play dough or slime.

Areas of Development: Sensory exploration, hand-muscle development, language development, early math and science experiences through counting, talking about texture, size, full or empty, and more!