Messy Play

The what, why and how of Messy Play

What is Messy Play?

Messy Play, also known as Sensory Play, is an open-ended, engaging way for children to explore the world through their senses. Being naturally curious about the world around them, many children relish the opportunity to learn through playing, while also making a controlled mess. The clean up can often put parents off providing these kinds of experiences for their children, however the benefits of messy play far outweigh the clean up.

Why should my child participate in Messy Play?

Messy Play encourages creativity and imagination, while assisting in the development of a broad range of skills. The following list is not all inclusive, and just an example of what your child may gain from Messy Play.

Social Skills

Messy Play is a great way to practice many social and communication skills, such as turn taking, holding a conversation, using manners, use and recognition of gestures and facial expressions.

Fine Motor Skills

Fine motor skills are required for many important things in life (such as handwriting, eating and using cutlery), and messy play assists in the development of these skills through actions like pouring, mixing, using tools and utensils, squashing, grabbing, pushing, pulling and scooping.

Gross Motor Skills

Body balance, hand-eye coordination, spatial awareness can all be worked on through messy play.

Language Skills

Messy Play is a great way to teach new vocabulary to your child. It is very easy to introduce new adjectives (describing words), colours and emotions, among other things, in conversations with your child during messy play activities.

Listening Skills

Older children can be encouraged to assist in the set up of some messy play activities with strict adult supervision. Children will have to use their listening and comprehension skills to be able to follow verbal instructions and make the messy play base (slime/oobleck etc) and put their tray together.


This is a big one for some children! Some of the bases we work with in Messy Play can take a little while to make. For example, chia goop, while simple enough for older children to help make, needs to sit for about 24 hours to soak up the water and form a goopy consistency. If you choose to let your child help, they will need to practice patience before they can play.

Emotional Resilience

Sometimes things can go ‘wrong’ in Messy Play, just as they can in life. For example, carrying the tray outside, you might trip and the tray gets messed up. Children may get upset initially, but over time may realise the tray was going to get messed up anyway while they played.

Cleaning Up

Some older children are able to assist with the clean up process!!

How do you do Messy Play?

As the name suggests, it can get pretty messy. With the help of our kits and videos, putting together Messy Play activities is super simple! Start with a messy ‘base’ (rice, chickpeas, oobleck, slime etc), and then add some extras to make it fun.


  • Do Messy Play outside if you can. It’s much easier to hose down the patio than clean up the mess inside.
  • If you’re worried your child is going to get mess EVERYWHERE, try having an obvious boundary for where the mess is allowed to go. We use a foam mat, and that’s where the mess stays.
  • Have a bucket of water and a towel on hand. Some children don’t like the feel of some textures, and Messy Play is a great way to introduce these with less pressure, and knowing they can wash their hands (or toys) at any time often helps with any anxiety around trying something new
  • PLAY WITH YOUR CHILDREN! They will get more out of it, have more fun, and play for longer if you’re playing with them. You never know, you might enjoy it too!
  • Wear old clothes that you don’t mind getting super messy. Put them in the Napisan or the wash as soon as you take them off to get them as clean as possible
  • Some food colouring will stain if too much is used
  • There is no right or wrong way to Messy Play!
  • ALWAYS supervise your children when they are engaging with Messy Play.