Messy Play

April 5, 2024

Tactile play offers endless learning opportunities and messy play is a crucial component of early education.  There are many benefits of messy play.

What are the benefits of messy play?

Messy play offers benefits to children of all ages and abilities. It allows children to become engaged and get to know other children. Children who are in the process of learning to speak can join in and use materials with their peers because messy play does not rely on words. Since there is no “right way” to do messy play, children with special needs can use these open-ended materials in their way and still be a part of the group.

Specific developmental benefits  of messy play include:

  • Physical development; fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination, understanding of one’s body in space,
  • Communication; opportunities to use words and gestures while playing with various textures,
  • Personal and emotional development; encourages curiosity and builds self-confidence and self-esteem, offers an outlet for feelings, experiences, and thoughts.


Messy play recipes

Here are some messy play recipes you can try at home.

Clean Mud

  • 3 rolls of toilet tissue
  • 1 bar Ivory soap, grated
  • 3/4 cup borax
  • water

Encourage the children to help unroll tissue. Put all unrolled tissue in a large container or sensory table. Saturate with water. Add Ivory soap and borax. Mix well.


  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup white glue
  • 2 tablespoons liquid tempera paint or 7-10 drops food coloring
  • 1 1/3 cups warm water
  • 4 teaspoons borax

Mix water, glue, and paint in a medium bowl. In a second bowl, mix the warm water and borax until borax is completely dissolved. Slowly pour the water, glue, and paint mixture into the water borax mixture (do not mix). Roll or swish water, glue and paint around in the water and borax mixture 4-5 times. Lift the water, glue, and paint solution out and knead. Store in an airtight container or plastic zip bag.

Silly Putty

  • 1 tablespoon liquid starch
  • 2-3 drops food coloring
  • 2 tablespoons white glue
  • zip bag

Mix white glue and food coloring together in a small bowl. Pour liquid starch into a second small bowl. Pour the glue mixture on top of the liquid starch. Allow to stand for 5 minutes until glue absorbs the liquid starch. Remove from bowl and knead. The more you knead the better consistency the putty will be. Store in a plastic bag.


  • 1 1/2 cups cornstarch
  • 1 cup water
  • 2-3 drops food coloring (optional)

Mix the ingredients and allow children to play with the mixture. When “pushed” together, the mixture will appear dry and solid; as children let go of the mixture, it flows like a smooth liquid.


If your child struggles with messy play and you would like to speak to one of our occupational therapists about your concerns, contact us and make an appointment.

Make an Appointment

We know your time is valuable! Complete the appropriate form below and a member of our office staff will speak with you within 24 hours, Monday-Friday, to set up an appointment.

We look forward to serving you!

The key to effective treatment is an early response.
return to top