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Study shows toddlers learn words for non-solids better when getting messy!

Study shows toddlers learn words for non-solids better when getting messy!

Messy children make better learners

So we know that messy play is great for children, it helps with brain development, social development and physical development. However I was just reading today about how it can also help children learn new words, wow!

Researchers at the University of Iowa studied how 16-month-old children learn words for non-solid objects, from porridge to glue. Previous research has shown that toddlers learn more readily about solid objects because they can easily identify them due to their unchanging size and shape. But oozy, gooey, runny stuff? Not so much.

However when children were given different textures and were able to play freely with them, the researchers were able to show that it help them recognise the substances and link words to them. Click here for more information

When you are doing messy play with the children in your care, consider using words they might not know and talk to them as they play.

Below are few messy play suggestions which would be great fun on a highchair (or anywhere else really), alongside some words they might not already know.

  1. Ice; large ice cubes can be great, I use plastic bowls as molds so they can’t swallow and choke on the ice. Put in a drop of food colouring or peppermint or vanilla essence so they also have a smell. You could talk about words such as cold, hard, slippery whilst they are playing. Here are some other ideas with ice; Frozen jelly Sensory Frozen Flowers
  2. Cream; messy but so much fun. Squirty cream is a great alternative to shaving foam and they only need a really small amount on the highchair to play with. How about words like smooth or soft or creamy, all concepts they might not know or understand beforehand. You could even make a Cream rainbow
  3. Porridge; wet or dry this is so much fun for little fingers to explore. Maybe consider introducing words such as sticky, warm, dusty?

What ever you try, have fun and happy messing! Esther


Written by Esther Andrews, founder of Messy Hands Ltd.

Messy Hands