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Letting Kids Get Messy Boosts Their Development, Expert Says

Emily McWilliams 10 Jan 2020

The phrase "sensory play" has risen in popularity among parenting resources over the last few years, and there's a good reason for that.

Sensory play encourages children to use sight, sound, touch, smell, and sometimes, taste, to interact with the world around them.

It also encourages children to make a mess, but thankfully, it also gives them an important developmental boost.

Kids and messes basically go hand-in-hand.

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Once those little hands learn how to grasp and develop fine motor skills, all bets are off. The next 18 years of your life are going to be filled with cleaning up a lot of spills and splatters.

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Since your kid is going to make a mess anyways, at least parents can take comfort in knowing that there's a silver lining to this.

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Researchers have identified a number of benefits of letting children make a mess, especially when it comes to babies and toddlers.

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When babies make a mess — either with their toys or their food — they are practicing sensory exploration.

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When babies encounter a new object, they use all their senses to learn about it. That's why these objects will be examined, shaken, tossed, and even tasted, which in turn, often leads to a mess.

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Exposing your baby to new and messy environments can give their development a huge boost.

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Neuroscientist Audrey van der Meer, a professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, has studied the effects that sensory play can have on a baby's brain.

She says the evidence points to babies benefitting from messy, sensory play as it encourages the development of crucial motor skills.

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So go ahead and let your kid get messy!

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Yes, it will likely result in more cleaning for you, but on the bright side, you'll help your child develop some important new skills.

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