Why messy play is important for children

Discover the wonders of messy play and its crucial role in child development, fostering creativity, coordination, and social skills through unstructured, imaginative play.



What is messy play? I have been so excited about curating messy play for children these days at Mindful Space. It is not a new term, it’s simply unstructured play.

Kids in the 90s kids grow up and play with whatever materials they can find around the home. We get as creative as we can because computer games did not exist.

While we truly understand why parents might shy away from this idea – I mean, we already have enough stress in our daily lives, the last thing we want is extra cleanup.

But did you know messy play is beyond just your child making a mess? This unstructured play has a plethora of benefits (and does not make a hole in the pocket).


1. Allowing children to explore the materials in front of them however they want to, at their own pace and time, allows them to have the power to make choices.You might notice your child being very focus and in their “flow” and “zone”. It cultivates your child’s creativity and imagination. Such a simple experiments through play yet it stimulates their curiosity. What a valuable skill to see how things work, explore cause and effect and problem-solving.  For example, how to stabilise a tower of different size cardboxes and work as a team.

2. Activities like pouring water from one container into another, shovelling sand, drawing, or painting are great for practicing controlled movements which helps develop their hand-eye coordination. It also allows them to explore using their senses including touch, sight, sound, and smell.

3. Using their hands and fingers to explore the materials helps to strengthen finger dexterity, hand and shoulder strength, and all the skills that are necessary for handwriting in the future.


4.With siblings or friends, they are building on their social-emotional skills and social intelligence. They learn how to understand others’ ideas and views, and how to express their own. Your child have many windows to be exposed to values such as empathy, sharing, taking turns, negotiating and compromise. Yes, there might be meltdown and tantrums, yet every challenging moment is a teaching opportunity too. In fact, children who have more unstructured play actually self-regulate better.


Have we intrigued you yet? If you are interested in having a go at trying a messy play setup at home, you can try these simple activities below

  1. Messy Bath Playtime – Bath time is the perfect environment to make a mess, you can simply wash it off.
    Use everyday items you can find around the house like cups, spray bottles, straws. Try asking them to transfer water from cup to cup. Depending on their age, try using a straw to suction the water on the edge of the tub and see the water flow back down. You can even try to get bathtub crayons and have a colorful time.
    Tip: I took Elvanna’s expired baby powder and let her blow on a tray to create pattern, she also doodle with her finger. All is done in the toilet so it’s easy to just wash everything away.
  2. Sensory bin – another great activity for your child to learn new skills through exploration and independent play.
    Take a large container and fill it ¼ way with sand, beans, pasta, flour, or dry rice. You can even bury some ‘treasure’ or bury their toys and play a rescue mission to dig them out. You can even make the bin holiday themed.
    Tip: Shaving foam seems to always be a hit with the kids at Mindful Space!
  3. Messy Cooking / Baking  – Not going to sugarcoat but messy cooking is probably one of the messiest types of play. Having said that, it is going to be worth it. You get to teach your child life skills, have fun, and bond with them too.
    Tip: You can take this opportunity to introduce different  types of food and teach them on kitchen safety. At the age of two, my daughter can be in the kitchen herself as she is aware what are the places that are dangerous (eg: knife and fire zone). Children learn best through fun play. Her language teacher actually teaches Mandarin through cooking and baking, and Elvanna absolutely loves it. She picks up the language much faster too!

    Perhaps try simple recipes like cookies or help to cook dinner on the weekend. It may even help your pick eaters be less picky as they are involved in the food making process and are aware of what’s in the dish!

Although these activities are so fun to do at home with your little ones if you are looking for a space to let your child explore/experience messy play without needing to clean up the mess at home, look no further!

Check out our curated messy play events. Rain or shine we will be there!
In fact, the children loves it when it rains because it’s such a rare opportunity for them to play in the rain.

Love from a parent to another,

Vernessa Chuah

Some Messy Play Activities by Mindful Space

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