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Why Kids Need Messy Play

kids need messy play

Ugh, that is SO messy. Kids need messy play.

That may be the thought that is running through our minds when children ask to do something like paint, make mud pies, splash in puddles, have a shaving cream fight, or even play with play-dough. However, we need to remember all of the benefits of messy play. Kids need messy play.

Kids these days spend less than half the time that their parents did playing outside.

This has translated into experts quoting statistics stating that children spend 5-8 hours per day in front of a screen. The effects of these levels of screen time are not yet known, however, we do know the benefits of outside play.

Messy play is a great way to get the kids outdoors once again. Also, messy play has so many benefits for the brain and the body. It supports development in many ways, leading to improved behavior and academics.

Sensory Stimulation

Messy play involves the senses and helps with sensory input and integration. The brain gets information from the sensory and motor systems, and these both affect behavior. Messy play is a great way to get the sensory system turned “on”. This allows the brain to learn about the touch, smell, and taste of what is going on in your child’s world. Building a stronger sensory system helps your child avoid the sensory overload which is often connected to meltdowns and impulsive behavior.

Physical development

There are so many physical benefits to messy play as well. Typically, messy activities involve a lot of hand and finger movement. This allows the brain to get information from the motor system and helps to build connections for communication, handwriting, and other academic skills. Also, messy play involves coordination and control which both support the learning process. In short, letting your child make a mess and play in it helps to build their brain.

Support Mental Health

When you think of messy play you may be focused on the required clean up. However, think of the things your child can create within a mess-they are almost always incredibly creative and imaginative. Messy play can include things like building creatures out of clay, making a mud pie kitchen, splashing in puddles playing pretend, painting with many different materials, and exploring things in different ways. All of these activities support imagination and creativity. These are skills that support mental health by helping children express feelings, explore new ideas, and solve problems.

Messy play is easy to integrate into your routine. You can begin by letting your child explore your backyard with a garden hose or start off in the bathtub! Don’t forget about messy play in the kitchen as well. There are many activities that do not require a lot of materials for your child to explore getting dirty. The key to minimizing clean-up is preparation, so have a plan on how you will clean materials before you begin. It is also a good idea to find a place where you are comfortable with a mess being made-like outside or even in the shower.

Let us know how you incorporate messy play to build your child’s brain! Visit to learn more about building better brains.

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