Look Past The Mess And See The Learning: Messy Play For Kids

Let’s have some real talk for a minute. 

Kids are messy. And that can be incredibly stressful. 

Messes mean things are out of control and someone has to clean it up (and it’s probably going to be YOU.)

Messy activities can be unpredictable and scary. 

But there’s a method to the madness when kids are building endless forts, dumping out all of the legos, and spreading paint in every corner. 

If you look past the mess, that’s where the learning lies. 

Take a second to look at the blocks scattered to every corner to notice the tiny houses built high, and the toy cars driving between them. Realize that this means they are practicing and learning about their own sense of community, using their fine motor skills AND gross motor skills as they move blocks and cars while also crawling around from home to home. 

When the paint is dripping from the paper take a second to remember that your child just learned important spatial awareness skills, got in some practice holding a paintbrush (which can later translate into holding a pencil), took in information on colors and the reaction they’ll get when colors are mixed, and more. 

In all of the messy play, there is learning buried deep under it, essential learning they will need for the rest of their life. 

Sometimes the learning includes boundaries, such as keeping the blocks in a certain room and not throwing them. Sometimes the learning means how to be responsible with the paint and not get it all over the walls and doors. Read more about setting up kids for success here. 

And part of messy play is the aspect of learning to be clean. Kids cannot learn the responsibility of being clean until they are given the chance to be messy. Kids are smart! When you have an ice bin full of paints and paintbrushes and the activity comes to a close, they are going to learn that the paint tray needs to be put in the sink and rinsed out. That their paintbrushes need to be washed, and the ice needs to be properly disposed of, with the bin wiped clean, before any more play can happen. 

If clean up also includes changing their clothes because they got them wet or covered in paint, that adds time. If they also need to wipe up the floor because they spilled so much, that adds time. 

They want to be able to go from painting an ice bin to playing on the slide as fast as possible, to they will learn how to be responsible playing with messy activities. And they will learn how to clean up and handle a mess when it inevitably happens. It takes time and practice, but it comes eventually.

You’ll see this translate to real-life applicable skills when your child spills their water and instinctively grabs a rag to clean up the mess, without you asking! Because they know what it means to clean up after themselves, and they learned how they learn best- through play! 

Did you catch how many times I mentioned the words “mess” and “learn” in this article? About the same amount of times! Because those two go hand in hand! Let the kids be messy, they are learning.

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