Friday, 21 August 2015

Why Messy Play is Great for EYFS Learners.

I was really pleased to be approached by Sam Flatman, a specialist in the benefits of outdoor play for children and an Educational Consultant for Pentagon Sport. Sam is very passionate about promoting outdoor learning in the early years, and has very kindly wrote this wonderful article all about 'why messy play is great for EYFS learners.

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Why messy play is great for EYFS learners.

Children love any opportunity to get messy with water, sand, mud, goo and whatever else they can find! While some parents absolutely love getting hands on and creative with their kids, others are more reserved when it comes to making a mess. However you feel about messy play though, what’s important is that it’s really beneficial for young learners and it can be used to support all elements of the EYFS curriculum.

Personal, Social and Emotional Development (PSED)

From mud kitchen to sand pits, messy play based activities provide rich social environments that encourage children to interact with each other and practise social skills like teamwork, negotiation and cooperation.

Many learners will also enjoy pretend play during messy play time, 
pretending to be a chef in a restaurant while playing in a mud kitchen or as
builder on an excavation site in their dig pit. Role plays 
like this help children to understand emotions and learn about social 
cues and signals.

Don’t forget that at the end of all this messy play, children should be learning how to clean up the play equipment they’ve used and to clean themselves as well. Parents should encourage children to do this independently and give them just a little assistance where needed.

Communication and Language

Messy play is a real confidence booster for many children! Children feel relaxed when learning outdoors and it gives them a sense of space and freedom, making them more likely to share their thoughts and talk about what it is they’re up to.

The different messy play environments can give children lots of different vocabulary to use. For example, they’ll need to learn the names of pipes and tubes for building waterways, and the names of different kitchen utensils for playing in a mud kitchen.

Physical Development

Messy play is always hands on and that means lots of chances for strengthening muscles and developing motor skills. Squishing and squeezing play dough is a fun way for children to develop their hand muscles, which will later be used for handwriting.

Lifting buckets of water and digging holes in the sand are great for improving children’s strength. Tipping and pouring water between different jugs is a good way to boost hand-eye coordination. Activities like playing with big bubbles can get the whole body active too!


Messy play is a fun way for children to learn about letter formation. Making wiggly letters out of play dough is a favourite for many EYFS learners, for example. Messy play can also encourage children to use their imagination to tell stories about their surroundings.


Learning about measuring and capacity with water or sand can really help to support mathematical aspects of the curriculum. Children can also collect natural ‘ingredients’ and count them out for fun too.

Understand the World

Messy play helps children to explore all kinds of sensory learning. They are constantly learning about different textures and materials and can experiment by mixing things together. Adding water to sand or dry mud creates different outcomes, and offers a good chance for children to explore how substances can change.

Expressive Arts and Design

Messy play always sparks the imagination and gets learners thinking creatively. Involve as many different ideas into the design of messy play spaces as you can think of - try experimenting with adding glitter to water, using multicoloured gels or play dough, or getting lots of different shaped vessels for making sand creations.

There are lots of fun messy play ideas in Tracy’s previous blog post here that can encourage your children to get hands on and just a little bit messy during play time!

This is a guest post by Sam Flatman, a specialist in the benefits of outdoor play for children and an Educational Consultant for Pentagon Sport. Pentagon work with primary schools and nurseries to create innovative playgrounds and learning environments for EYFS learners in the UK.
Pentagon’s Twitter: @PentagonSportUK


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