Try This at Home Tuesday: Let baby get messy!!
Two things were very important in my son’s first year of life, tatas and his Mimi (grandmother). In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October and our Mimi, a breast cancer survivor, we decided to get down and dirty carving our pumpkin to show our support. With our fourteen month old right by our sides, the pumpkin fun began.
Offering your little one opportunities to get messy develops lots of skills including sensory integration, problem solving, attention and my favorite LANGUAGE!
Why you should let your baby get head to toe messy:
- Sensory Play- When getting messy babies discover new textures, temperatures, sizes, colors and shapes. They use all of their senses to explore and learn what they like and don’t. The stimulation from experiencing messy textures provides important information to the brain, which children then process and respond to. When multiple senses are stimulated, learning takes place and the brain is more likely to remember this information.
- Tactile Defensiveness- Babies can be sensitive to textures that they are not familiar with. This is why providing them lots of different textural input early on will help them develop positive relationships with new and different textures. This will increase their curiosity and they will be more willing to venture out and engage with more textures in their environments. For example, I’ve drizzled water over my baby’s head from his very first bath, because I wanted him to create a positive association with water play. I’ve also ran my baby’s soft-bristled hair brush down his face and cheeks while brushing his hair just to add some extra sensory input. Some children have difficulties processing sensory input, consistently demonstrating an overly strong dislike for sensory experiences. If you are concerned about your child, please consult your pediatritian.
- Educational- Babies learn during messy play, because they use their senses. Our senses help us to understand our world. Babies develop concepts like counting, sorting, similarities and differences and object discrimination. They also develop visuospatial skills by taking things apart and putting them back together.
- Imagination- Getting down and dirty gets littles wheels spinning and thinking “what would happen if?!”Allowing babies to freely explore, discover and be spontaneous within their environment feeds their natural curiosity. When littles use their imaginations, they naturally problem solve.
- Language- Tons of language stimulation can be integrated into messy play. It’s very easy to incorporate both expressive (producing) and receptive (understanding) language. Babies can imitate the names of items and actions. They can also imitate sound effects. Receptively you can ask them to follow simple directions such as “give the seed to daddy” or “go get the spoon.” You can also ask baby to find things. For example, “Where’s the pumpkin?” or “Time to clean up, where’s the towel.”
- Bonding- Get dirty with your little one and I guarantee you will receive smiles, silliness and laughter, which helps build a special bond with your baby. Messy = Fun!
- Independence- Fun, messy activities support development of the sensory, motor and cognitive skills needed for babies to learn to do things on their own.
- Be Positive-You will likely have to coax baby to venture into new and different messes and textures. At least I did with our pumpkin carving. I had to model playing with the pumpkin insides and picking out the seeds. I made sure to create a very relaxed and positive vibe during this activity, because it was all new to my son. You want to provide lots of smiles, “yays,” claps, songs and demonstrations to develop a positive association with new activities. This results in a happy baby, yes please!
Consider giving baby a bath after messy play, babies typically enjoy baths so this is a good note to end on! Of course, messy play should be closely monitored by caregivers for babies safety!
I just love how our pumpkin turned out and the fact that my son got to experience carving a pumpkin for the first time makes it even more special. Babies typically seek out sensory experiences, this is how they learn and get into trouble. Make sure to offer them lots of safe opportunities to get messy and play with their natural curiosity. Be it carving a pumpkin, finger paints, mud, sand or food, I challenge you to let baby get messy AND perform self breast exams. This is how my mother-in-law detected hers and I’m proud to say that she beat breast cancer. While tatas are no longer a factor in my baby boy’s life, his Mimi sure is and we thank the Lord for her everyday! We LOVE you Mimi!