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Encourage Messy Play

Posted by on in Child Development

Your toddler shreds the tissues, is covered in the dal she has been eating and spills the glass of water she has been drinking. This may look like chaos but you shouldn’t always try to control it. It’s exactly what your child needs right now. Little kids love to make big messes – and that’s a good thing. Kids learn to understand the world from what they see, touch and taste. They’re used to touching solid things, so sticky or messy stuff gives them something new to explore. New materials to discover and play with are stimulating for their brains. Here are a few ways you can encourage messy play.  

Food Fun

During the first year, everything that your child can grab will immediately go into his mouth to be explored. But around the 1-year mark, kids realize that they can make discoveries using their hands instead. From that point forward, it’s all about what they can touch and feel with their fingertips. Playing with food gets them thinking about objects in different ways. They realize that they not only can eat it, but that they can smash it all over the place too. 

Tip: Let your toddler ‘help’ with food prep before meals. Give him a bowl of soft potatoes to mash up with his washed hands. Or try giving him some dough to mould roti balls. 

Mud Play

Being outside means toddlers are allowed to do stuff that’s often restricted indoors – such as, getting covered in dirt from head to toe. Warm weather, especially, gives kids a chance to investigate with their whole body. They can use their feet to check out different sensations and textures. 

Tip: Pour some sand or clay into an empty bucket for your child to touch and explore. Show her how to mould wet clay and sand to create shapes. Allow some puddle play too. Let her stomp on them to see just how high the water flies; then let her see what happens when you give it a try. 

Water Play

Well-supervised water play can open up new learning opportunities. For example, your child is learning science and maths when he pours the contents of a small container into a bigger one and discovers that it takes several mugs to fill it up. Splash time also gives kids a chance `to observe that some things float on top of water while others sink. In addition, it provides a great opportunity to strengthen your child’s fine motor skills-when he’s learning how to control the flow of water between two cups, for instance. Fine motor skills are those that require small muscle movements and precision.  

Tip: Fill a tub and let your child experiment there. Give him measuring cups and spoons, a sponge and toys that float and those that sink. Try adding a couple of drops of food colour to the water. And don’t forget about water in its other forms, such as ice. Kids are amazed when they realize they can melt it with their own hands. 

Art Time

The great thing about finger painting, scribbling with chalk or moulding with play dough is that they build self-esteem. Toddlers can get a huge sense of accomplishment from working with something that’s malleable. Little kids see the shift before their eyes and they realize that they can create something with their own hands. 

Tip: Let your toddler to be in her diaper, dip her feet in paint and let her walk or slide over big sheets of paper. Talk about different aspects of art while your child’s working, using lots of descriptive words to discuss colours, shapes or texture. This will help build her vocabulary for when she really starts talking. This will also teach her about colour mixing – red + blue = purple. Give her different things to use as brushes-like scraps of fabric or a sponge. There is no need to expose your child to chemical-based commercial paints. Here’s a simple recipe to make it at home! 

Home-Made Paint

  • ½ cup cornstarch or 1 cup flour
  • Food colouring
  • 4 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 cups cold water
  • A pinch of salt

1. Stir ingredients together in a saucepan. Cook over low heat for about 10 minutes. Stir the mixture until it is smooth and thick; let cool.

2. Once cool, separate into containers. Add drops of food colouring and mix till you get the desired colour.


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Guest Saturday, 17 March 2018