How To Get Parents On Board With Messy Play At Home

How To Get Parents On Board With Messy Play At Home 3168 2334 Nursery Story

Every parent wants their child to thrive and become the best possible version of themselves. And play is the perfect way to do this as it allows them to explore, experiment, predict what might happen and test this out.

Today we want to discuss the concept of messy play and give Early Years practitioners a quick guide on how to get parents on board with messy play at home.

Q1. What is messy play?

Messy play involves unstructured activities that get children to use all of their senses to explore the world around them. These activities strongly focus on the sense of touch and give children a chance to play and manipulate materials freely, without necessarily getting them to build or make something.

The basic idea is that messy play makes the learning process more enjoyable and stimulates the natural curiosity that all children have. The main difference between this and other types of play is the degree of freedom involved because these sessions use raw materials that can be used in many ways.

Messy play is self-directed exploratory learning, as opposed to the type of learning that takes place in classroom or nursery environments. As such, it can preserve children’s ability to be surprised by discoveries and reshape their understanding of reality.

Last but not least, messy play is not only a learning opportunity for children but also for parents. Parents can learn a great deal about their child’s personality and innate talents by observing and documenting messy play – and have a lot of fun while doing it!

Q2. Why Messy Play Benefits Children

This sensory experience plays a key role in the healthy development of children. Some of the benefits of messy play are that it:

  • Promotes fine motor skills like hand-eye coordination because it requires physical movements such as grasping, holding, or catching.
  • Introduces children to both abstract concepts like space and specific concepts like size and shape.
  • Encourages the natural development of language and communication skills, including body language.
  • Facilitates problem-solving.
  • Encourages children to be independent learners.
  • Helps children make the connection between learning and having fun.
  • Fosters creativity and imagination.
  • Nurtures a sense of connection and appreciation for the natural environment and for what nature provides.

Q3. What age is best for messy play?

Educators can encourage parents to introduce messy play as soon as possible. However, messy play is particularly important when children are 2-5 years old, as they’re developing a sense of autonomy and initiative.

Some parents and educators are under the impression that messy play has nothing to offer to children who are over 3, but that’s not the case. Messy play is an option as long as the child enjoys the activity and helps them make progress.

Q4. What different types of play are messy?

Here are some ideas you can discuss with parents to get them started on messy play.

  • Play with clay, soil, or mud
  • Play with water (move water between containers, explore puddles, etc.)
  • Mix materials like water and sand or water and leaves
  • Explore the shape and texture of different foods being aware of allergies and that some foods may be a choking hazard
  • Make your own playdough and explore how it feels and moves
  • Mix cornflour with water to explore how it moves
  • Body and finger painting sessions 
  • Use bath time to let children explore how different toys or materials behave in water

Q5. How to keep it clean?

Some parents dread the aftermath of a messy play session, and understandably so. It will be messy, after all! But advance planning can help parents keep messy play as clean as possible.

  • Move furniture away, or better still go outside if you can
  • Cover floors using plastic sheets, old bed linens or tablecloths
  • Protect the child’s clothes with overalls or aprons (if the child is not keen, their clothes can always be washed after the activity)
  • Keep play sessions limited to a particular area, for example, use the bathtub to play with water, sponges, or objects that float
  • Limit the number of materials available

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