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Is Messy Play Too Messy? Answering Your Concerns!

By: Tarryn Pretorius

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Is Messy Play Too Messy? 
 
Well, the answer is yes! Messy play can lead your children to come home with wet, soggy, or mucky clothes. Messy play is often associated with negative connotations, therefore we ask parents to help us facilitate this form of learning and play, by providing us with spare clothes for your child. 

The main feature of messy play is providing children with the opportunity and freedom to explore and investigate with materials that we have at nursery, that you may not have at home. We encourage children to put on aprons and discuss the positives of wearing an apron, however, some children do not wish to wear an apron and therefore as practitioners, we are listening to the children's voices. 

Messy play allows children to explore materials such as sand, soil and paint in an unrestricted manner, helping to foster their curiosity and develop their senses!

A practitioner is always stationed at the water and sand tray area for the safety of your children, where we assess the environment at all times and minimise any hazardous risks from occurring. In addition, Early Years practitioners encourage children to pull their sleeves up to try to avoid soggy sleeves.

We hold messy play sessions both indoors and outdoors, to offer diversity and range in our activities. According to the EYFS statutory guidelines, we must provide outdoor learning unless circumstances such as unsafe weather occur. And as highlighted by Birth to 5’s Matters, “Play, both indoors and outdoors, makes a powerful contribution to children’s wellbeing, development and learning”. 

Benefits of messy play: Did you know that messy play enhances children's development in all areas of the Early Years Foundation Stage?

●  When participating in messy play, children learn about different textures through using all of their senses (smell, touch, sight, taste and sound). Practitioners usually ask the children, “what textures do you feel? Is it lumpy, liquidy, is it hard or soft?” This broadens their communication and language skills as well as vocabulary. It also helps children to make the connections between words and items within their environment. 

●  Messy play enhances children's physical development, through using their fine and gross motor skills. It also enhances hand and eye coordination!

●  Messy play encourages children to understand the world, as they form curiosity of the ingredients within the messy play activity. For example, practitioners will ask the children what else they could add to the substance and this encourages children to assess their environment and utilise the resources around them. As Birth to 5’s Matters highlights, “Children can become deeply involved as they take things they already know and combine them in new ways so that their understanding deepens.”

●  Messy play helps children to become creative and enhances their expressive arts and design skills as they add paint or food colouring in. Sometimes children want to explore the water with different materials such as glitter or even food such as a variety of fruit.

●  It encourages children to make friendships and encourages turn-taking, negotiation and increased conversation skills as children play with others.

●  Messy play can aid understanding of mathematical and literacy concepts as children are encouraged to create marks in the cornflour play or using jugs, filling and emptying the water which can help their understanding of measuring and counting.

Overall, the list of opportunities for learning is endless and it is important that children are given equal opportunity, and that they all hold the same play experiences as some of their peers. This will further help them build strong relationships and friendships.

Messy play develops all areas of learning and development whether it’s sharing the experience with their peers, or using trial and error through testing out their own ideas. By telling children "you cannot participate in this activity unless you wear an apron", you are discouraging children from exploring and developing their learning, and as the children’s first educators, we should provide them with every opportunity there is to learn about the world around them.

To conclude, we wanted to raise another point from Birth to 5’s Matters, “Play is essential for children’s development, building their confidence as they learn to explore, relate to others, set their own goals and solve problems. Children learn by leading their own play, and by taking part in play which is guided by adults.”

How can you help us support your child in messy play?

●  Dress your child for nursery in outfits that you don’t mind getting messy or stained and please provide the nursery with spare clothes.

●  Avoid directing your child’s play, but get involved by playing beside your child and occasionally asking open-ended questions, such as "what else could you add?" or "what would happen if?"

●  Understand that the likelihood of your little one falling ill from messy play is minimal, as coming into contact with mud can in fact  help to build children’s immune systems. 

 
We hope that this gave you greater insight into the nature and benefits of messy play! We love to engage in a plethora of exciting and dynamic activities at our nurseries, which we would love to share with you. To learn more about what we get up to, see here:
 
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