5 benefits of messy play - plus, the best toys to encourage their creativity

Experts reveal the benefits messy play can have on your child's development and we share some great toy ideas for this kind of activity

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With Create Week (1-7 July 2024) encouraging kids to engage with their creative side, we share some great messy play ideas and dig a little deeper into how it can aid your child's development.

Toys that allow your child to tap into their creative side are nothing new, but they are still hugely popular with kids of all ages - there's even a couple of the best kids toys of 2024 that fit the bill. Arts and crafts cover a broad spectrum of toys too - from a piece of paper and some crayons or simple colouring books to messier versions including slime toys, clay modelling, and mud kitchens.

When it comes to constructive play, crafting is a great idea, and the messier it gets, the more you can take advantage of the benefits of sensory play at the same time. Messy play is the perfect time for your child to explore and interact with a variety of materials and boost their development at the same time.

What are the benefits of messy play?

Engaging in messy play can have serious benefits when it comes to your child's development. It not only stimulates their senses and imaginations, but can also help them develop their processing and fine motor skills and aid with their language development too.

  • Messy play stimulates imagination and creativity. Toy experts at The Entertainer, say:Parents could see numerous advantages by letting their children engage in messy play. These activities can help children improve various skills and are a great way of stimulating their imaginations and creativity."
  • Messy play engages your child's senses. "Messy play is also a great way of developing sensory processing skills. The activity involves several senses including touch, sight and smell - allowing children to learn more about materials and textures while expressing themselves artistically."
  • It's good for boosting fine motor skills. “Actions such as squeezing, scooping and pouring materials can improve hand-eye coordination while also being a form of entertainment. Fine motor skills are crucial for writing and drawing - highlighting how beneficial and educational messy play can be for children’s development."
  • Messy play aids language development. As your child encounters new sensations and materials, it's a perfect opportunity for them to expand their vocabulary as they try to articulate themselves. You can encourage this by talking to your child as they play, commenting on sticky, rough or gloopy textures, any scents they might be picking up on, and any sounds that they might be making. All of this can help foster a better understanding of the world around them and boost their cognitive development at the same time.
  • It can help ease feelings of anxiety. Messy play encourages kids to focus on their five senses, which can promote mindfulness and act as a grounding activity to help reduce anxious feelings.

But while messy play may offer loads of benefits, it's still, well, messy, which can be mega-stressful for parents. If you are looking for messy play toy ideas that keep the actual mess to a minimum, we've found some brilliant options below:

With any kind of messy play, make sure your kids are supervised at all times.

For more expert advice on how to make the most out of your child's play time, child development expert and GoodtoKnow panellist Dr Amanda Gummer explains the three stages of play all parents should know, and shares the idea of the balanced play diet.

Consumer Writer & Money Editor, GoodtoKnow

Sarah is GoodtoKnow’s Consumer Writer & Money Editor - which means she writes about everything from this year's top toys and the newest toy releases, to discounts on days out and childcare costs. Sarah is passionate about helping mums save money wherever they can - whether that's spending wisely on the right toys and kidswear or keeping on top of the latest news around child benefit, the motherhood penalty. A writer, journalist and editor with more than 15 years' experience, Sarah is all about the latest toy trends and is always on the look out for toys for her nephew or Goddaughters so that she remains one of their favourite grown ups. When not writing about money or best buys, Sarah can be found hanging out with her rockstar dog Pepsi, getting opinionated about a movie or learning British Sign Language.