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the importance of messy play

The Importance of Messy Play

When it comes to having fun, exploring their surroundings and learning through their experiences, children are bound to get dirty. And there’s so much more to this dirt than the stains and what an effort it’s going to be to do the laundry. The stains are a result of messy play, which aids children’s development and helps them learn values.

Let’s look at some of the ways messy play is so critical to childhood development:

Physical Development

Children that are getting dirty are active children, which is great news for their physical health. Experts recommend that children should get at least one hour of physical activity every day.

When balancing on a log, climbing a tree or playing soccer – kids are developing their motor skills, coordination, balance, stability and spatial orientation. So, you can see it’s not just all about having fun and getting dirty – developing these abilities will be very important in their lives going forward. Help your little one be an active child and set them up for a healthy lifestyle.

Social Skills

Kids who engage in messy play are more likely to talk to other kids, invent new games together and bond over their shared fun. These interactions are brilliant for developing their social skills and building up their confidence around different people. 

When children are playing hide-and-seek, team sports, or any group game – they are learning about developing relationships and social awareness. Messy play is much more than mucking around – children are learning essential skills that will be critical in their future relationships and jobs.

Cognitive Development

Messy play is not simply what it looks like at face value. When a kid is playing soccer, they are imagining themselves as their favourite soccer player. When they are playing in the mud with sticks, they are knights off to slay a dragon. When they are digging in dirt, they are discovering pirate treasure. All of this helps develop their creativity and imagination.

Messy activities like painting also exercise kids’ creativity and self-expression. While games like stuck-in-the-mud and tag are not just about kids running around – they are learning real-life skills like planning and strategy.


What happens when three children are digging in dirt together and building castles when there are only two spades can be truly amazing. They slowly develop a sense of the importance of sharing and caring. They learn to take turns and recognise the feelings of others.

Messy play is essential in teaching children values. As opposed to watching TV, playing in groups teaches them teamwork and even empathy by allowing them to explore the role of both winner and loser. It also lets them fail, without feeling like a failure. And in today’s “fail fast” entrepreneurial world, learning resilience can never come too early.

How can parents encourage messy play?

Encouraging Messy Play

As parents, we want what’s best for our children. And one of the best things that we can do is aid their development with the benefits and exciting experiences of messy play. Some of the ways we can promote messy play involve creating as many opportunities for messy play as possible, encouraging our kids to get outdoors more often and cultivating a family environment where kids know that it’s okay to get their clothes dirty.

OMO has also worked with experiential play and child development experts to develop a bank of messy indoor and outdoor activities for your kids that promote both development and fun. It’s time to let our children play freely without fear of dirt and leave the stain removal to OMO.