There is no right or wrong way to do messy play; children of all abilities can use materials in their own way and still be part of the group. Children learning English as a second language can join in too as messy play does not rely on words. Messy play offers many opportunities for learning:

Physical development

  • Activities such as stacking, pouring and spooning develop hand-eye coordination.
  • Practising cutting, writing in shaving cream and using tongs develops fine motor skills.
  • Hands-on activities allow children to compare textures i.e. smooth, rough, hard and soft.
  • Children gain an understanding of their own body space.

Communication and language development

  • Using words and gestures to share resources; explain actions and take turns.
  • The teacher/care giver asking open ended questions encourages thinking skills and the narrative skills for storytelling.
  • The use of letters in activities promotes an understanding of written language.

Personal, emotional and social development

  • Building self-confidence and self-esteem.
  • Developing concentration, problem solving and planning.
  • Fostering self-respect and respect for others.
  • Presenting opportunities for making friendships.
  • Offering an outlet for feelings, experiences and thoughts.

Intellectual development

  • Children will investigate, explore, design and create, leading to a better understanding of the world around them.
  • Children will learn to group, classify and arrange items in a logical order. They can identify, match and understand cause and effect.
  • They can predict and try out solutions; observing the results and evaluating information gaining a greater understanding of the scientific method.

Mathematical development

  • Counting, calculating and measurement.
  • Sorting objects, filling containers and creating patterns.
  • Using numbers helps children understand their meaning.

Creative development

  • An opportunity for imagination and creativity.
  • Through sensory experiences children are able to respond to what they see, hear, feel, touch and smell
  • Children can express their feelings and thoughts through colour, texture and shapes.