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Messy Play in the Early Years

Children just love getting mucky and making a mess – whether that’s squishing jelly through their hands, smearing mud across their faces or crunching rice krispies between their fingers!...

But how much do we really understand about what children are learning through messy play activities?

Fine Motor Skills

Children develop fine motor skills by practicing motions such as squeezing, pinching, scooping, threading or pouring different materials as they play. These activities give children the

Gross Motor Skills

Practicing messy play on a larger scale also helps children develop gross motor skills. Splashing in water, sweeping with a broom and large scale mark making all require children to use the larger muscles in their arms, legs, feet and body to make bigger movements which support balance, coordination and strength.

Hand Eye Coordination

Certain messy play activities prompt and improve children’s concentration, such as cutting shapes out of play doh or throwing goo at a target, which helps children develop their hand-eye coordination. The hand eye coordinations skills learned here will prepare children for performing every day tasks such as tying their shoe laces and fastening their coats independently.

Some messy play activities to try at home -

If you’re mess-adverse then there are some “less messy” options in the list below, but it’s also really quite easy to keep mess contained! Try using a long low storage box to keep the play materials contained (like an under bed storage box), pop an old sheet or plastic cloth on the floor and strip the kids down to vests and nappy/pants so they can get well and truly stuck in!

Rice Play

This is definitely low mess and so much fun! Coloured with food colouring or just plain, add spoons, pots, pans, colanders….it’s sensory, GREAT for scooping and pouring and measuring. You could set this up indoors on a rainy day or even outside in the garden in better weather!

Mark Making with A Difference

Using wheeled vehicles to mark make- Sellotape large sheets of paper to the floor and provide trays of different coloured paint. Encourage the children to wheel the vehicles in the paint and push them over the paper creating different marks.

Marble Art

Using marbles is a great way to make marks using paint without having to handle the liquid with your hands. Using a low tray or box, place a piece of paper in the bottom and add a couple of small paint splodges, finally dropping some marbles in to the box. The children can hold the tray and move the marbles across the paper watching the marks appear as the balls roll through the paint.

This can also be done using a can or a Pringles tube by rolling the paper up and placing in inside the tube. You can do this type of activity on a larger scale by trying some Stomp Art! This involves using a giant piece of paper on the floor, adding some drops of vibrant coloured paint and encouraging your little ones to "stomp" around the paper and see what different patterns they can make.

For more ideas on messy play activities and how they aid your child's Early Years development please visit this useful site below -

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