Examples of sensory play or messy play ideas for toddlers can include playing with cooked and cooled spaghetti to investigate new textures.  Children can play with plasticine or or set jelly in their fingers.  Baked beans in a water trough are also great fun!

Another idea is to cook spaghetti and set it in jelly overnight. The toddlers can then have a great deal of fun pulling out and separating the strands!

A very popular and artistic messy play activity is for toddlers to put their hands and feet in different coloured paints to make prints.  This great tile handprint was made by my nephew Josh at two years old.

For babies, a sensory activity such as placing the baby on a textured crawl with different fabrics and mats may be more appropriate.

Messy Play Ideas - Hand Printing
Credit: Hayley May Prince
Fun with Messy Play: Ideas and Activities for Children With Special Needs
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Benefits of Messy Play

It Encourages Autonomy

For 2-3 year olds, the key question is "Can I do things for myself, or must I always rely on others?"   Parents and caregivers should encourage autonomy.  However, if they demand too much too soon or refuse to let children perform tasks of which they are capable, children may instead develop shame and doubt about their ability to handle problems (Moony, 2002). Messy play will encourage self-sufficient behaviour, without demanding too highly.

Child Development: Early Years

The early years of a child’s life are crucial for physical, cognitive, social, emotional and language development.  The physical development concerns the physical growth and the development of a child's gross and fine motor movement of the body.  Cognitive development is about how the child thinks and reacts. Social and Emotional Development concerns a child's ability to feel and express an increasing range of emotions and ability to relate to others appropriately and become independent. Language development involves the use of visual and sound stimuli, especially in the acquisition of language, also in the exchange of thoughts and feelings.

Let you child give you a Face Mask!

Josh gives his mum a Face Mask!
Credit: Hayley May Prince

Why is Messy Play Important?

Messy play is important in all of these aspects of child development.  Physically, it helps develop movement and control and helps children to use their senses.   It helps them to become more independent and builds confidence because the child is in control.  This kind of play encourages children to make choices and helps to develop concentration and problem solving skills.   It extends their knowledge and understanding of the world.  Messy play helps to develop language and communication. It encourages creativity and imagination.  It also provides children with the ability to express their feelings and emotions, for example, feeling something new.  It helps to encourage social skills through play, whether it is parallel play (playing next to someone else simultaneously) or social play.

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Playing with plasticine is great fun. It will encourage children to be creative and make their own decisions.