Often times the “adult” in us wants to stop the Messy Play activities, tame the wild child, and it seems we try so hard to prevent the very things that help our children learn, grow and play every day. In early childhood education, we encourage curiosity and independence. This supervised freedom often leads to vibrant paint spills, yummy mud pies or the occasional damp clothing (water-play gets quite rowdy in this summer heat)!

Though the lead teachers and teacher’s aides in most Newport News Virginia Daycare Centers are trained to help minimize the mess that gets onto the child, they are also trained to allow these accidents to happen through natural, messy play incidents. One of the top benefits of such (monitored) independence at such an early age is that the children get an opportunity to see the “cause and effect” of their actions. They get a visual of what happens when you drag a colorful paint brush across a white piece of paper, they then want that same fun color on the shiny table. But why stop there? Of course they now have to see if that paint does the same thing on their hands! What a mess we have!

Rather than disciplining the child, we have the opportunity to teach the child about staying within the borders of the white paper, we also have the chance to teach the child how we must ALWAYS clean up after ourselves – which I think we can all agree is a necessary quality many lack even as adults.

In addition to the many minor benefits, studies show that “messy play” is actually fundamental to several areas of development:

Physical Development – children are given an abundance of tools, toys and props to practice their fine and gross motor skills, as well as their hand-eye coordination. Hands-on activities such as cutting, ripping or even using shaving cream to draw on different surfaces provides the children with an opportunity to compare different sizes, shapes and textures.

Personal, Emotional & Social Development – the great thing about messy play is that it is designed around the child’s curiosity. It allows for a positive approach on new and sometimes overwhelming experiences.  Because there is no right way to do “messy play”, this really builds each child’s self-esteem and boosts their self-confidence!

Mathematical Development – measuring, counting, calculating …there are plenty of opportunities for “messy play” here! The children can sort objects, create patterns, fill containers, measure liquids or combine a number of things to craft something spectacular. Numbers can be involved in many different activities to help the child understand their meaning.

Intellectual Development – children are constantly trying to gain a better understanding of the world around them. “Messy play” encourages the children to explore, create, design and investigate. They will learn to group, sort, classify and arrange things in some type of logical order. The children will also learn to predict and try out solutions as they observe and evaluate information.

Creative Development – the children are offered a variety of activities to help build their creative minds. It is very important that we aide the growth of their imaginations as much as we can. The freedom of “messy play” allows for curiosity and independence. Sensory play gives the children an opportunity to feel, smell, touch, see and hear an endless array of fun and interesting new things necessary in the development of creativity.

Communication & Language Development – “messy play” allows the children many opportunities to speak and to listen. With a combination of words and hand gestures, the children will try to ask each other questions, take turns, or explain/respond in some way. It is important that we remember to ask open ended questions, allowing even more of an opportunity for the child to build their language and communication skills.

With all of the fun being had, it is necessary to acknowledge that we are aware it may not be in the parent’s best interest for the child to be in a change of clothes when the child is picked up. Hopefully you have chosen a center that allows you to bring multiple changes of clothes for your child, as well as an optional pair of play shoes for the outdoors as we do encourage the children to run, jump, dig and pretend until their little hearts are content.

It is important our children know that it is okay to make a bit of a mess in the name of fun, freedom & education!

We encourage you to come and visit The Garden of Children in Newport News Virginia. We would love to show you all of the different ways we make our daycare center a safe and secure place for your children to Learn, Grow and Play Every Day!