A bit of theory!
As a qualified primary school teacher who has had a more recent focus in the early years, I have seen the benefits of messy play and loose parts first hand. It is something that I am passionate about, and would love to share my knowledge with others in a practical, hands-on way.
What are the benefits of messy play?
There are many!
It is an essential way for children to explore the world around them using their senses. It's sociable nature lends itself to the encouragement of communication and language development.
Curiosity, imagination and exploration are fostered throughout this type of play and contribute towards future problem solving. Children require high levels of concentration when engaging in messy play therefore enhancing this skill.
Early emergent writing can be seen - those marks in the sand and symbols in the shaving foam are all early writing skills!
In today's culture, many children are losing the ability to amuse themselves in play. Messy play can help to overcome this problem, with children using their own minds to plan, explore and problem-solve. This in itself will help to build their self-esteem and self-confidence.
Messy play also promotes physical development. A wide range of activities can develop both the fine and gross motor skills of a child. The development of these is essential for pre-writing!
And what is loose parts play?
The theory of “loose parts” was first proposed by architect Simon Nicholson in the 1970's. He believed that it is the 'loose parts' in our environment that encourages creativity.
Loose parts are materials that can be moved, carried, combined, lined-up, taken apart and put back together in many ways. Loose parts can be natural or synthetic.
A few examples of loose parts materials are:
stones, twigs, plumbing tubing, beads, corks, nuts and bolts and Lego.
Children playing with loose parts are using more creativity and imagination and developing more skill and competence than they would playing with most modern plastic toys.