Messy Play – Why Is Messy Play Important For Kids?

Messy play, also known as sensory play is of valuable importance as a way children learn to develop cognitive skills, social skills, and fine motor skills.

Though seemingly unimportant and considered to be just a bit of fun… Simple messy play can have incredible benefits for children of all ages. So, why is messy play so important for kids?

Naturally, children explore and interact with the world through their senses. From early childhood, they learn to balance and move, interacting with things around them.

Hence, children taking part in messy play works to advance their development and encourages children to explore what’s around them. 

Whilst we’re familiar with the commonly known senses of smell, taste, sight, sound, and touch, many lose sight of critical internal senses such as fine motor skills which are established through activities such as messy play. 

Interacting with their senses in a fun and playful way helps to open children up to new concepts, ideas, and possibilities.

To give you an insight into the importance of messy play for kids, we’ll share the benefits of messy play and how you can incorporate it into your life. 

Messy Play – Why Is Messy Play Important For Kids

Improved Fine Motor Skills

Fine motor skills are characterized as the ability to move small muscles in the hands and wrists and practicing coordinated movements. It also involves synchronization and enhancing complex abilities such as developing levels of manual dexterity. 

A couple of examples of fine motor skills include tying shoelaces, buttoning clothing, and brushing teeth. 

Children who partake in messy play use their sense of touch to pick up objects, move them around and feel the texture of the material. All these seemingly small interactions work to develop fine motor skills.

Messy play enables children to explore objects and manipulate them and showcase why messy play is important for kids of all ages.

This is especially true for playing with materials such as clay or play dough as it requires children to mold shapes from the material.

This type of messy play is great for improving physical development such as developing hand-eye coordination and practicing grasp strength. 

Developed Spatial Awareness And Coordination

Hand-eye coordination is characterized as the coordinated control of hand movement in line with eye movement.

Developing spatial awareness and coordination enables children to improve skills such as problem-solving and decoding as children begin to understand the position of an object in relation to another object.

This skill can be significantly enhanced in early childhood through messy play. Messy play enables children to learn to grasp, reach and manipulate objects which enables them to practice experimenting with object positioning. 

In doing so, they practice significant movements that ultimately advance their ability to guide and direct. As children become older, this can be practiced and further developed by executing tasks such as throwing an object as dexterity improves. 

Enhanced Creativity

Creativity is an essential part of growing up as it develops imagination and curiosity. Messy play is an effective activity for enhancing a child’s creativity. Incorporating messy play activities such as painting and playdough are great ways to encourage children to experiment. 

Playing with objects of different colors, shapes and textures not only enables children to engage in a sensory experience but also develops language development as children begin to learn descriptive words in connection with their senses. 

Words such as slimy, gooey, sticky, and soft can all be used to describe objects in messy play. Messy play is important for kids to encourage language development and improve their creativity in other areas of development such as storytelling, reading, and writing. 

Developed Social Skills

Messy play is important for kids as it can be both an individual activity and a sociable activity. Messy play with siblings and friends is beneficial for developing social skills. Messy play with others teaches critical interactive skills of sharing, listening, and practicing patience.

Sharing can be a difficult task for many children, however, a messy play setting enables children to relax, explore conversation and build trust.

With a fun and playful environment, messy play enables children to laugh, explore their creativity together, and question, as playing in a hands-on way works to develop cognitive skills and encourages discovery. 


For many children, messy play promotes calm and relaxation. Providing a sensory experience with material such as sand or scented playdough has been shown to promote calm through distraction.

Messy play is beneficial for children who are frequently agitated as it enables them to immerse themselves in a bubble of texture and smell which ultimately develops emotional regulation. 

Frequently Asked Questions On Why Messy Play Is Important For Kids

Messy Play – Why Is Messy Play Important For Kids And How Can You Do It?

Messy play can be easily incorporated into daily life. A backyard is a great place for messy play inspiration. Sourcing natural materials of twigs, stones, and leaves are perfect for use for messy play.

Digging up mud, making a mug pie or painting leaves are all fantastic activities for messy play. Other messy play ideas include: 

  • Implementing messy play with bath time by using bath crayons or colorful bubble bath
  • Having a sandbox or sand table to promote relaxation
  • Playdough, clay, and slime are all great for independent messy play as they develop multiple skills such as improving fine motor skills and enhancing creativity. These materials are also easy to store and clean. 
  • Using materials around the home such as rice or pasta are great resources for messy play. These can be used to make jewelry or painted to create a collage. 

What If My Child Doesn’t Like A Mess? 

For some children, messy play is not considered fun, instead, it can cause a sensory overload. If your child shows signs of discomfort or a reluctance to take part in messy play, it’s important not to push them.

Rather, encourage other methods that they are already comfortable with such as using bathtime as a time for play. 


Messy play stands to be more than simply playing, it involves activities that develop critical skills and enhance cognitive development.

Messy play need not be difficult, it can be easily incorporated into everyday life and used for independent and group play. 

In this article, we have looked at what messy play is, and why messy plat is important for kids.

Whether you use messy play for bath time or to keep your child entertained, now you know the benefits of it, you’ll be able to create new ways of incorporating it. Feel free to get stuck in!

Joyce Bailey
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