This morning the pre school art explorers were invited to use vehicles to paint with which proved a very popular activity- some explorers choosing to do this for the whole 45 minute session! It did involve a lot of mess, involved a lot of washing up afterwards (for me) and on the surface may seem like an activity that didn't produce anything but mess, however there are many benefits of messy play like this.
As well as the obvious pure enjoyment many children find in playing in this way, messy play encourages creativity. By actively exploring materials in an open ended way, children make new discoveries, encouraging curiosity and a positive approach to new experiences. As adults we tend to focus on producing something with a set outcome but for children the very lack of focus is beneficial. I think this quote from a leading an expert in creativity in the early years Bernadette Duffy puts it well..
"This sort of play is important because its lack of a focus on making or producing something leaves the child free to explore all sorts of possibilities. It taps into children's innate curiosity about the world around them and their strong desire to explore and find out more."
Messy play can also develop concentration. Today as the children explored the different marks that could be made and different colours created they were involved and concentrating not just making a mess! Messy play is also great for developing hand eye coordination ,essential later when needing control to hold a pencil and write letters. It's also provides many opportunities for talking about mathematical concepts such as shapes (for example the circular wheels that were used to make straight lines), measurements and counting. It's also great for developing language -talking to your child about the how the materials feel and look and discussing their experience with them. So yes driving cars through trays of paint is messy but its much more than just a mess!