I really enjoyed reading this guest post on messy play by Djeco crafts – I always knew it was a real winner with my two and that the joy and utter absorption it brings outweighs the cleaning up afterwards. Now I really see why! If you are less convinced, the post has some great tips for keeping it manageable.
Spend time in any nursery or play group and you will see children dipping their fingers in paints, drawing on pieces of paper, or squeezing play dough through their hands.
As a parent you can’t help but notice how much children love this type of play, but it can be tempting to leave it to organised groups. It’s fun partly because it is messy, but while that’s great for kids, it may not be so brilliant for your cream carpet.
It would be a mistake, though, to limit your child’s opportunity to explore arts and crafts because of concerns about making a mess.
As long as you are prepared and create an area where it is okay to squeeze paint, then both you and your child should enjoy these types of activities, but more of that later.
Firstly, it’s vital to understand why this kind of play is important for your child’s development.
Getting kids to investigate things through their senses about which they have no prior knowledge helps build their cognitive, social, physical, creative and linguistic skills.
Deciding how to create the shape of an animal out of play dough, for instance, requires problem-solving skills. They will also learn about size, how some objects are bigger than others, and form.
Creating something requires cooperation, whether that’s with you as an adult, or other children, and that helps bolster their social and emotional development. What’s more, with sensory play, they are also in control of their environment, which in turn builds confidence.
Being able to describe how something feels helps children to use expressive and descriptive language, so they are unwittingly improving their linguistic skills as they play.
Pouring, squeezing and manipulating objects also boosts fine motor skills, which are essential when your child comes to learn to write.
It also encourages your child to use creative solutions to solve problems, a skill which they can take with them in later life.
So, how should you go about creating opportunities for sensory play at home?
Firstly, designate an area – preferably without carpets – that you are happy for them to play on. It helps to keep this the same every time so they learn that there should be no painting in the living room, for instance.
Put down enough paper to cover the entire area, and make sure your little one has taken off their shoes and is wearing an apron or old clothes that you are not bothered about getting dirty. The same goes for you too, after all, you don’t want to be worried about ruining your favourite jumper.
Then you should fill a bucket with soapy water so they can wash their hands afterwards, which may even become part of their play.
Djeco has a wide range of art supplies to get you started. If you are worried about mess, then something like their scratch art sets are ideal. Children simply use a wooden scraper tool and follow the lines to reveal beautiful pictures.
Alternatively, stencil and rubber stamp sets help guide your child, but also provides them with opportunities to explore their creative side.