Five Top Benefits of Messy Play

One thing we all know as parents: our children like to get messy.  But do we like it too? 

Harrow Early Years Teachers, experts in primary education, advocate that children learn best when they actively engage with their environment; see it, feel it and experience it. Using their little hands, feet, and all of their senses is the best way for them to understand their world throughout their early childhood. 

But those little hands and feet can often make a big mess. For us parents, the thought of a mess in our house can be overwhelming. Let’s explore together whether it is really worth the mess.

To learn more about Messy Play the Harrow Way, book your private tour of our campus today.

A child in early years school spreading painting with his hands


What is Messy Play?

Messy Play, also known as sensory play or open-ended play, is an engaging and motivating way for children to explore the world by using different materials that are typically considered “messy”. Think sand, slime, water, ice, mud etc...  

While toys are fun they can often be restrictive as they have just one intended use or function. This can be severely limiting for this age group as young children between the ages of 2-5 are the most receptive to discovering new things, encountering sensations for the first time and building an understanding of the diverse and fascinating world around them. 

Unlike toys, Messy Play does not have a single, predetermined use and is therefore open-ended; the possibilities for fun and development for young children are limitless.

In Messy Play there are no fixed rules nor instructions; children use their senses to freely squeeze, squish, pour, splash, mix, scoop and much more. This not only fosters their curiosity, but develops many important physical and socio-emotional skills valuable for success in life. 

Young children taking part in sensory activities using their hands.

Alongside teachers, many globally renowned heath institutions recognise the huge importance of sensory play. Top US hospital Cleveland Clinic cites many benefits of sensory play, notably the way it enables children to become more adaptable, a key skill in our rapidly changing society. 

“By engaging their senses and developing these skills, the world becomes much less scary because they have developed the right tools to handle whatever comes their way.”1

Harrow Bangkok’s top five educational  benefits of Messy Play

  1. Boost creativity, problem-solving and imagination
    There is no right way to Messy Play. Rather, it is about spontaneous exploration and child-led experience. This boosts curiosity, creativity and imagination, giving children the freedom to play, plan and discover in their own way. 

    Messy Play stimulates flexible thinking and invites your child to experiment in an effort to solve problems in new and different ways. Because we are focusing on the process rather than the end result, there is no pressure to perform. 
  2. Grow independence and focus 
    Being in control of their play means that children can amuse themselves, create entertainment and explore their environment exactly how they choose to. This will boost their self-confidence, helping them develop into creative and independent little people. 
    With unlimited possibilities and no fixed instructions to follow, Messy Play increases their attention span and stimulates children to concentrate while enjoying “making a mess” for hours.
  3. Develop Motor Skills
    Hands-on play offers many physical benefits. When little hands and feet pinch, pour, scoop, stomp, mix and grab they are developing fine-motor skills, hand-eye coordination, muscle strength and much more.

    These fundamental skills lay the foundation for gripping a pencil, writing and using a spoon. They also allow your child to develop an awareness of their body and personal space. 
  4. Foster social development, language skills and relationships
    Messy Play is a great way to connect with siblings or other children of different ages as it encourages learning through cooperation and shared exploration. Together, children learn how to take turns, hold a conversation or use gestures and facial expressions to communicate. During these sensory experiences, children learn to trust each other.  
    As a parent, it is very easy to introduce new words, colours or emotions during Messy Play simply by describing what your children are doing, encouraging cognitive growth.  
  5. Introduce Maths & Science Concepts to young children
    Measuring, mixing, categorising and matching nurtures early maths skills while an understanding of science principles is developed through activities such as ice melting, mixing materials or making predictions and observations. And it is all achieved in a hands-on, engaging and fun way!  
Young children taking part in sensory activities using their hands

Perhaps the biggest benefit of Messy Play is that by making children the architects of their own learning, you don’t need to worry about “doing it right”. In fact, sometimes things do go wrong -  just as they can in life! 

Exploring new ideas and refining different ways to play is all part of the fun.

And remember to keep calm: everything can be cleaned!