Messy Play

Messy play is a huge component of our program at Red River ELC; but what does messy play mean and why is it important for young children?

To mess about is to play with something and it is through play – which is part of the creative process (Duffy 1998) – that children learn and develop. Children are being creative when they use materials in new ways, combine previously unconnected materials and make discoveries that are new to them, and messy play enables children to do all these things.

All About … Messy Play

Two young children fully exploring water and paint during outdoor play.

In an early learning and care environment messy play can take lots of different forms, from exploring vinegar and baking soda to diving head first in to process art experiences.

The most amazing thing about messy play is that because there is no set goal it is fully inclusive. Everyone can participate, explore and share with the group no matter what their skill level or age, and playing with children of varied capabilities can be hugely beneficial for children;

As children engage in various forms of social play and are supported to recognize the varied capabilities and characteristics of other children, they learn to get along with others; to negotiate, collaborate, and communicate; and to care for others. Studies show that when educators modelled and helped children express feelings, recognize others’ feelings, and help others, children developed positive social skills such as perspective taking, empathy,and emotion regulation and were less likely to engage in problematic behaviours.

How Does Learning Happen?


When children are given the space and freedom for messy play in an environment with supportive adults there are so many rich opportunities for learning.

A child catching water to create mud. Water play provides many opportunities for STEAM learning.

Messy play nurtures creativity, problem solving, and most importantly teaches children that learning can be a joyful experience.

There are so many wonderful benefits to messy play!

So, when your child comes home with dirt on their cheeks and paint in their hair, thank you for seeing the learning and the joy instead of just the mess ❤