We are busy gearing up for a muddy and messy week in celebration of International Mud Day! Although messy play is already an integral part of Green Apple, things are about to get even muddier. As you pick up your even messier than usual child, you may be asking yourself “What are they getting out of this?”. Besides the fact that many children thoroughly enjoy covering their body in mud or paint, there are several cognitive and developmental benefits to messy play.
A study done by the University of Iowa found that children engaged in messy play had a 70% chance of retaining the names of a non-solid material whereas only 50% of children who did not engage in messy play were able to later identify the materials. Children obtain information through tactile experiences. They gather more data by touching, grabbing, smearing, and even tasting.
Scooping, measuring, and pouring sand in a bucket offers opportunity for measuring, evaluating space, and assessing quantity.Along with building spacial orientation, fine motor skills, sensory development, and math skills, messy play also aids problem solving strategies. Mixing colors encourages reasoning and problem solving when children are trying to achieve a specific color. Playing with foods presents a variety of textures, tastes, and smells to expand the child’s sensory experiences and the vocabulary they have to describe those experiences.
One of the most important parts of messy play is the act of self expression. Through the process of changing or manipulating a raw material the child is developing ownership of it. A piece of paper becomes “their art” when they coat it in market, paint, or another medium. Clay is just clay until they sculpt it into their own work of art. Covering their body in paint is their way to interact and communicate with the world around them.
As the weather gets warmer and we offer many new sensory and art mediums such as mud-paints, play-dough, water-table goo, and other squishy, slimy, gooey, messy mediums inevitable ending up on your child, just imagine all amazing skills they are obtaining from such messy play. After all play is their work and what gives them important social, practical, emotional, and intellectual tools for life.