When you're visiting prospective kindergartens and taking a look at their facilities and learning activities, one very important thing you should focus on is opportunities for messy play. Messy play encompasses various types of tactile, sensory activity that involve messy substances—from hand and feet painting to playing with foam. A good kindergarten should have messy play tables or trays available and plenty of messy play sessions on its schedule because messy play is highly beneficial to childhood development. Not sure how? Take a look at just three of the big benefits.
Messy Play Develops Motor Skills
Alongside cognitive thinking, emotional growth and speech, motor skills are one of the core areas of childhood development. Motor development can be split into two categories: fine motor skills (which use the hands and fingers) and gross motor skills (which use the rest of the body). Messy play is one of the best and most fun ways for your child to build these skills. When they use their hands to finger paint or squeeze different substances in their hands, they're making the small movements that help refine their fine motor skills. When they engage in large-scale messy play, such as painting with feet or jumping in water, their gross motor skills develop. This is crucial in helping your child become an active, healthy adult in later life.
Messy Play Improves Spatial Awareness
Another key benefit of messy play is that it helps develop your child's awareness of the space around them in a multitude of ways. First, there's general spatial awareness: when playing in mud with their peers, for example, your child will learn how to identify and respect others' personal space, thereby developing key social skills. Next, there's hand-eye coordination. Activities, like throwing jelly or using dough cutters, help your child understand how their hands move in the space around them and teach them how to judge distance and dimension. Finally, in outdoor messy play activities, your child will develop their balance and coordination, helping them stay stable and upright despite what obstacles are in the space around them.
It Encourages Imagination and Open Thinking
Toys like mini kitchens, cars and dolls are an essential part of childhood development, but they do have one downside: they're restrictive. There are limited ways for children to play with toys that were made for one intended purpose. Messy play, on the other hand, has no end goals that restrict a child's thinking. Children are free to play with sand, bubbles, dough, paint and other messy objects however they like, imagining their own scenarios as they go. This is crucial in developing your child's imagination and ability to come up with their own ideas.