Holy Cross Ministries Salt Lake City Utah

Childhood development experts say ‘messy play’ is important for babies and toddlers

SOUTH JORDAN, Utah — It is no secret, little kids get messy! While a parent’s instinct may be to clean up the chaos, experts say letting them get dirty as they play and explore the world is key to their development.

Alicia Varner has seen the benefits of letting her older daughters explore though touch. She said they are more independent and are not afraid to try new things.

“I think they learn just so much by exploring and getting to feel and experience different textures,” she said. “They are a little less timid, they are more willing to try new foods because they are not scared of what it will feel like.”

Varner is making it a point to raise her 18-month-old with the same principles.

“We just learn new things through what we are touching, especially at this age,” she said.

Holy Cross Ministries “Teacher as Parents” program coordinator, Miriam Garcia, said from birth to about 5 years old playing through touch enhances a child’s sensory development. She encourages parents to let their little ones use their hands during everyday activities, like eating.

 

“Let’s say it’s grabbing a banana. I just grab the texture. I feel the texture and then I put it into my mouth. I’m just making this connection like ‘okay, this is my food, this is goes into my mouth,’” she said.

Garcia said through these different experiences, important connections are created in a child’s brain. She said studies have shown these simple activities in the early years can have a profound impact later on in life.

“You can see these kids are more independent and more driven to just go and explore because they feel safe and they have all this background behind them,” Garcia said.

Varner admits, at times cleaning up after little ones can be overwhelming but she never lets that get in the way of their growth.

“Sometimes I have to learn to let go of the cleanliness, the organization and just let them play and have fun,” Varner said.

Her advice to parents who may be weary of letting their children get messy during playtime: let their kids take the lead.

“I think if they’re showing some interest, you have got to run with it,” Varner said. “Let them take the lead! Let them experience all the fun things, even if you don’t feel like they are ready for it.”

For more ideas and resources on how to help your child explore through ‘messy play’, visit https://5b45kids.com.

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