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Letter from the Director!

Dear Families,

I want to share with you one aspect that is a big part of Delaware Child Development’s philosophy around learning. When I say “messy play”, I’m talking about when we provide children with an opportunity to explore materials to touch, to feel, to move, to pour, to push, and to squeeze. Last week we celebrated our own holiday “Dough Day!” That day inspired me to write this newsletter piece. That day all the children had the opportunity to explore anything and everything DOUGH! Often, it’s the materials used that make the learning experience “messy”, but I like to think of it more as a hands-on learning experience. It does not necessarily mean getting messy, although it does sometimes get messy, and we can prepare for that. But it's worth it because these engagements are so important for your child’s early learning development. It gives them an opportunity to explore with their senses and to build fine motor skills, exploration, concentration, and focus. Research shows that the best way to learn about how to navigate the world and how to manipulate objects in the world is to do it. That is what these engagements are about. When the teachers do it alongside the children in their class, we can help them build persistence and all sorts of other skills that are very important to their development. We want to make sure that messy play activities are organized and strategic. That makes it inviting for the children. We can turn a messy activity into a social activity as well. It is absolutely a wonderful thing to see the children invite their friends over to the activity.

I encourage teachers and parents to take children outside whenever they can. Even on bad weather days, it is important to bring the outdoors in or dress appropriately for the weather. Some ideas of what can be brought indoors are sticks, stones, leaves, and shells. Children will love exploring these materials just as much indoors, and you can make your own little sensory bin, something where children can explore sand. Again, you do not need fancy tools. Just a spoon will work, and a child can make different patterns and they can lift and pour. If you limit the tools from one day to the next, then the next day when the sifting tool is available, this same material has a whole different quality of engagement. So, the same materials can be used again and again by rotating different tools. In the classroom we provide a sensory table and a science table. I think it is wonderful to have a consistent place where children can go to have these kinds of material engagements.

Some outdoor messy play is also wet messy play, for example, working with mud. But there are a lot of other kinds of wet engagements that you could share with children, from Play-doh and clay to goop and gloop. You can find recipes for those online. Oobleck – just cornstarch and water, is a fascinating and surprising material, and children love exploring it. Water is a wonderful material to engage with - pouring it, stirring it, splashing in it, and putting it in some ice for a different kind of engagement. And remember, just feeling the slickness, the wetness, the sliminess of those things is a wonderful activity for children. Put in a little color, and it becomes a different kind of engagement.

Messy play can be dry materials, which a lot of people like because they are, well, the least messy of the messy play. Even for very young children who are still crawling across the floor, they will enjoy feeling different textures, and you can provide that experience for them simply by putting different textures down, whether it's a woven rug or the canvas from an apron or putting different items in front of them from your house. Different textures, different shapes, different feels.

Again, it's all about exploring these different materials and seeing how they work together, and it doesn't have to be fancy. It's all about the exploration. It’s a wonderful activity. So, I hope those are some good ideas for you, and I hope that you will include messy play at home like we do here at the center.

Thank you,

Tina McClintic


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