Messy Play and the Benefits on Child Development

By Josie Donato

I know… I know… as soon as most parents hear the words “Messy” and “Play” together side by side it causes instant panic. But did you know messy play impacts children’s growth and development in a positive way?  Here are some of the many ways a child’s development can be positively impacted through messy play and why parents should say yes to the mess more often!

Messy play is beneficial for children’s physical development in terms of fine motor skills. Activities such as sensory play, paint, sand, and water tables can be activities used to promote a child’s physical development. Messy play also promotes language development in children because parents can ask children questions pertaining to different textures and objects that they are engaging with during messy play. Having children describe differences in the textures of materials or objects is an opportunity for children to gain a deeper, more complex understanding of language and how it can be used.  Language can also be developed through peer interaction. A child asking a peer a question such as are you all done playing with the blocks? Or may I please use the green marker after you are done with it? Peer interactions such as these not only encourage language development in children but also the concept of sharing and turn-taking. 

Messy play can also encourage the development of a child’s imagination and allows them to engage in exploration on their own terms. They can try out new things or explore their own ways of doing things. The concept of messy play is process-oriented as opposed to progress-oriented. This essentially means that it does not matter how children choose to play or create in these situations. The only concern for parents is that they are encouraging their children and allowing them to freely express themselves in whatever way the child prefers. This helps children become more confident and build their self-esteem.

In terms of social development, messy play can assist children to engage in cooperative play with others, as well as the ability to engage in tasks that require concentration skills. It can also help to increase children’s problem-solving skills. 

Lastly, messy play can promote mathematical development in children. Some examples of how such development can be achieved would be using a sand or water table and providing tools such as measuring cups and spoons to begin inquiry and investigation into mathematical concepts pertaining to weight and amount.

In conclusion messy play promotes a child’s overall brain development regardless of age, so don’t be afraid to engage your child’s senses and help them create new neural pathways in their brain that assist children in making connections to the world around them!


Hartling, M. (n.d.). The Benefits of Messy Play. Retrieved from

Inspiring Classroom Mini Posters: Learning quotes, Play quotes, Preschool quotes. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Kostelyk, S. (2020, February 19). The Importance of Sensory Play for Children. Retrieved from

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