“Messy play”: The very sound of those words is enough to send parents into a panic. After all, we’ve been trained to believe that good parenthood means keeping children clean and neat, and teaching them to do the same on their own. However, there are significant developmental benefits to “messy play” that are hard to replicate in other situations, which may be why children tend to seek it out on their own. If your little one is constantly jumping in mud puddles and sticking fingers in your half-made cake batter, here are a few reasons why.
First of all, the phrase “messy play” doesn’t mean being disorganized or having low hygiene standards, but rather allowing your child to physically explore substances, like finger paints, sand, clay, mud and play-dough, that have the potential to get, well, messy. According to Natural Child Magazine, “Children learn primarily through play, so combining their need to play and their need to explore often results in a mess. This can’t be avoided and we would do well to remember that a degree of mess is part of life as a child.”
Children’s brains are stimulated by the intense textural experiences that come with messy play, as they’re able to get their whole bodies involved in the process without worrying about getting “too dirty.” It helps them learn the difference between descriptive concepts that can be applied to physical objects, like warmth, roughness and smoothness, sliminess and viscosity.
So if your child wants to get messy this summer, let them. Some great messy play activities include making mud pies, playing with finger paints and play-dough and even helping with real baking.
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