The Importance of Messy Play

So what’s the deal with messy play?

You may hear your child’s Occupational Therapist talk about the importance of messy play, but why? Messy play is crucial to your child’s cognitive and creative development, helping their learning process and promoting engagement with the senses! 


Messy play helps develop the following skills:

  1. Physical Development: Development of fine motor, bilateral coordination, sensory processing, cognitive, and hand eye coordination skills. Allows children to develop their sense of touch and compare the differences between different textures and temperatures. 
  2. Creative Development: Messy play provides opportunities to be creative and imaginative, as well as begin to develop problem solving and critical thinking skills through experiencing new textures and materials. 
  3. Language Development: Development of vocabulary, using words to describe what your child is playing with and how it feels (hot, cold, soft, sticky). 
  4. Social Development: Promote social interaction through interaction and play with other children. Encourage sharing through cooperative play with peers, as well as development of age appropriate attention and problem solving skills. 
  5. Emotional Development: During messy play, give your child positive feedback and encouragement. Give the freedom to express their independence, building self esteem and confidence. 
  6. Mathematical Development: Messy play promotes development of early mathematical concepts of ‘full, light, heavy, and empty’, as well as counting and shapes. 


Now that we know why messy play is important, here are some messy play ideas at home!

  • Outside play: Walk barefoot in grass or mud, garden, outdoor sandbox, and sensory boxes
  • Sensory bins: check out some ideas here!
  • Help in the kitchen: Knead different types of dough, make cookies, touch different food textures
  • Easy to make slime: See our blog post on how to make a simple slime
  • Finger paint: Use your fingers, toes, or other items to encourage creativity and sensory play!


It is important to make messy play natural and allow your child to have a variety of different sensory experiences. If there is a spill or splatter, tell your child “it’s okay to be messy sometimes!”, and join in on the fun! 


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