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The Benefits of Messy Play – for Under-Fives

The Benefits of Messy Play – for Under-Fives

Messy play is enjoyed universally amongst children, especially the very young. In fact, there is probably not a child in the UK that doesn’t enjoy it! Messy play is enjoyed universally amongst children, especially the very youngBeing let loose with coloured paints, art materials and creative opportunities is sure to bring a smile to their faces and a sense of enormous fun, creativity and discovery. No doubt too; they’ll be proud to show others their creations!

Is messy play all about having fun and being creative, though? Well, that’s important and it is partly about that. However, messy play also has a whole host of other benefits and purposes. In this article, we’ll take a look …

Learning Instinctively About the World

There’s something inherently natural about messy play — it instinctively appeals to children, giving them spontaneous ways to discover new aspects of the world and the properties of the things in it. Getting ‘hands-on’ with malleable media and colourful pigments surely is one of the most natural, fun ways for children to learn through play and discovery. Who doesn’t remember playing with wet sand on a beach, or being drawn to the joys of wet paint, mud or clay as a child? It simply is great fun and a way for children to let loose and get really messy — something they’re usually discouraged from doing.

Advancing Creativity & Self-Expression

Messy play allows children to express themselves in unbounded creative waysAs well as being enormous fun, messy play allows children to express themselves in unbounded creative ways. That’s important. Self-expression and creativity will help children to gain a sense of achievement and, through this subtle way, a greater sense of self-worth and confidence.

Building Blocks for Development

By learning about everything that messy play can teach them, children will also start to create building blocks upon which to develop intellectually and educationally. As well as learning about pigments, colours, form and the properties of different media, messy play will allow children to learn higher concepts. Just one example is planning. Here, they will learn how to decide on the order and structure of their activities before they actually begin them.

Improving Physical Skills & Strengths

Messy play is also a great opportunity for toddlers and preschoolers to build strength in their hands, to hone fine motor skills, and to improve coordination and even balance. Squeezing, pushing and pulling things like clay, or mixing and spreading pigments or glues all help children to improve their manual skills and build muscle in fingers, hands, arms and shoulders. Messy play helps children build strength in their hands, hone motor skills, and improve coordinationHand-eye coordination will also benefit, of course.

Gross motor skills can also be improved through messy play activities undertaken on a larger scale — for example playing in sandpits, creating large-scale art/sculptures and suchlike. What’s more, it’s all so much fun that children are completely unaware that they’re improving themselves as they engross themselves in the creative and playful aspects of the task. It’s all totally natural and, as such, messy play is a perfect example of learning and development through play.

Discovering New Senses

Messy play will also give children the opportunity to discover and recognise senses. Sight, touch, smell, sound and, if safe and appropriate, even taste senses can be stimulated through messy play. Through stimulation, children will get to learn more about themselves and the world around them. In terms of things in that world, it’ll also allow children to build up a picture of their own personal likes and dislikes. It also introduces children to spacial and material concepts, allowing them to recognise hardness, softness, solids, liquids, textures, form, colours and so on. Such concepts are important as foundations upon which to grow — as people and educationally.

Encouraging Independent & Team Working

As well as using messy play to practise independent working, it can also be done in small groups. In this way, children will begin to understand the power and importance of team work and co-operation, also learning things about leadership, communication, negotiation and problem-solving. That’s all incredibly important as they grow older, ultimately helping them at career level. Also, of course, it’s a great way for them to bond with peers.

Messy Play at Little Cedars Nursery, Streatham

We understand the many benefits of messy play at Little Cedars NurseryWe fully understand the many benefits of messy play at Little Cedars Nursery, of course. Indeed, it’s part of the curriculum. Under-fives are encouraged to learn through messy play using an enormous wealth of resources, equipment and materials at the setting. That’s both indoors and in our outside play areas. From paint and paper indoors to sandpits and water play outside, toddlers and preschoolers have a wonderful time with messy play at Little Cedars, all in a safe, structured, fun and educational environment.

Nursery Places in Streatham, Near Furzedown, Balham & Tooting

Little Cedars Nursery is in Streatham, near Tooting, Furzedown & BalhamLittle Cedars is one of the best nurseries in Streatham, near Streatham Hill, Streatham Common, Streatham Park, Furzedown, Balham and Tooting.  If you’d like to explore the opportunity of your baby, toddler or under-five child attending the setting, please get in touch and we’ll be happy to tell you more or even show you all around. Please select an option:

The Benefits of Teaching Children to Grow Food

The Benefits of Teaching Children to Grow Food

Keeping children busy, entertained and learning is essential, including during the lock-down, whether or not they’re attending nursery or pre-school. It can be amazing fun too, if activities are carefully chosen. One really cool activity to tick all the boxes is to encourage children to grow food at home. Growing vegetables and herbs is a great place to start — and it’s relatively easy. One of the best things about the activity is that children don’t need a seed or seedling to get started. Essentially they can grow produce for free by ‘re-growing‘ offcuts from shop-bought vegetables and herbs. The resulting food could save the family money as well as teaching the children a huge amount, on many different levels.

“Why try to explain miracles to your kids when you can just have them plant a garden.” (Robert Brault)

Children love growing vegetables and herbs

Home-grown herbs and vegetables make great saladsIt may surprise some to learn that you can buy some vegetables and herbs just once and never have to buy them again. The secret is knowing which, and how to re-grow them. It turns out that it’s pretty easy, so we encourage parents to help youngsters get started. Once they see growing shoots or roots and, later, vegetables or herbs that the family can actually eat, they’ll be so pleased that they made this little miracle possible. What’s more, it will have taught them something about where food comes from, how to grow it sustainably and how to look after the living plants. If you’re really lucky, it may even encourage them to take things a step further and get involved in food preparation and cooking later on. It’s amazing, actually, where such a simple, fun, activity can lead!

“In every gardener is a child who loves to play in the dirt. In every child is a gardener ready to grow.” (LeAura Alderson)

No garden? No problem!

Container planting is great when outdoor space is limitedIt’s possible, and indeed fairly easy, to grow your own produce even without a garden. So long as you look after your plants and give them water, soil and light as a bare minimum, they will grow. If you don’t have a garden, perhaps you have a small courtyard or patio where you can grow in containers. If you don’t have any outside areas at all, you can grow in flower pots and other containers on window sills, balconies, under skylights and so on. This makes growing produce possible almost anywhere, including in urban London in high-rise flats. After all, it’s in a plant’s nature to want to grow.

Vegetables & herbs kids can grow for free

Once you and your children have tried this, you may totally re-think how you deal with vegetable and herb ‘waste’. We hope so. The secret to re-growing free herbs and vegetables is to save some of those parts that often you’d usually cut off and discard. Some of them can be used to ‘seed’ a whole new plant and, ultimately, new produce that you can all eat.

  • A cutting or root section left in water for 1-3 weeks will grow roots Children could start with green onions or spring onions. These are particularly easy to ‘re-grow’. Later, perhaps, the children can apply the same approach to celery, lemon grass, Cos lettuce and Pak Choy (a type of Chinese cabbage). Simply save an inch or so thick section of your shop-bought root vegetables (perhaps the last you will ever need to buy), which includes the bottom part at the root end. All your children need to do is to place that section, root end downwards, in a glass of water. Leave them in the water and, after somewhere between 1 and 3 weeks, roots will start growing. Children will love monitoring this process each day and they will enjoy looking after and caring for a living thing. Once the roots are substantial enough, children can take them out of the glass and re-pot them in soil, ideally with a bit of compost if you have any. This can be in containers, appropriately sized flower pots or in the garden if you have access to one. Before long, your plants will give your children more, free herbs and vegetables that you can all enjoy.
  • Other vegetables that can be grown in similar ways, for next to nothing, include Swiss chard, lettuce (which tolerates shade fairly well) and beetroot.
  • Garlic, potatoes, coriander, spring greens & onions can all be re-grown Garlic cloves are also incredibly easy to regrow in a similar way. Perhaps at some point you’ve unintentionally allowed your shop-bought garlic cloves to ‘sprout’. Well, that’s how to start off. Rather than discarding them, your children can put them in water and allow roots to grow. Then, they should plant them out in soil and eventually they’ll end up with more, free, garlic cloves. What’s more, they will tend to taste more mild and delicate than shop-bought garlic — children will probably appreciate that. It’s the same with ginger roots, but allow months rather than weeks in their case.
  • If you ever buy carrots from the supermarket, look for the ones with green leaves (‘carrot greens’) sprouting from the top. Once you’ve prepared the carrots to eat, you’ll usually discard the top sections where the carrot greens sprout. Instead of throwing those away, show your child how planting them in a dish of water and sitting them on a well-lit windowsill will allow the sprouts to grow. You or your child can use the resulting carrot greens to garnish salads and similar.
  • Herbs & vegetables can be grown in pots & containers Herbs like Coriander, Rosemary and Basil can also be re-grown. Children can simply take scraps or clippings (4 inches long in the case of basil, 2-3 inches in the case of Rosemary) and place them in glasses of water in a well-lit spot on the windowsill. Once they have sprouted roots of about 2 or so inches long, these young ‘plants’ can be transplanted into soil or compost in pots. Your child will then be able to watch the plants flourish and grow into new herbs that can be harvested for food later on. The children will also soon discover that each of these herbs has a wonderful and distinctive taste and smell.
  • Potatoes are pretty easy for children to re-grow too. The only limitation is the space they need (ideally they would grow in the ground although you could also try ‘grow bags’ or deep pots if you don’t have access to a garden). Either way, old potatoes that have started sprouting are actually ready to plant. Cut each potato into two or three pieces (each with a growing section) and get your child to plant those in soil. Some vegetables and fruit can be grown from the seeds found inside themLater, when growing sprouts reach the surface, the child should keep those covered with soil (this is called ‘hilling’). Get your child to keep the soil moist but not over-saturated over the subsequent weeks. If planted in the spring, your children should be able to harvest potatoes in the summer.
  • Meanwhile, tomatoes and peppers can be grown from the seeds you’ll find inside shop-bought equivalents. Once sprouted they can be planted out into grow bags. A garden is not strictly necessary if you have a small outdoor space of some kind, for example a balcony. Vegetables like courgettes, marrows, squashes and pumpkins can also be grown from seeds found inside their shop-bought counterparts, but only if you have the significant room they’d need to grow in a garden or other outdoor space.
  • Beans and sugar snaps are easy to grow Then, of course, your children can also experiment with nursery bought, or mail order seeds. Although not free, they’re reasonably inexpensive and also fun for children to grow if you follow the instructions and timing suggested on the seed packets. Beans of various kinds and sugar snaps are particularly easy to grow and usually result in an excellent crop. They will benefit from being in a garden or outdoor patio area, ideally, due to the space they require. They will need more vertical space than horizontal space, however, so even balcony planting may be possible if you have suitable grow bags.

By the process of directly working in harmony with nature, we do the one thing most essential to change the world — we change ourselves.” (Jules Dervaes)

Children learn so much by growing food

There are so many lessons that children will learn if they grow their own food. Here are a just a few:
Growing food is great fun

  • Children will have fun and stay entertained, even during lock-down;
  • They will have learnt new skills;
  • They will understand nature and the natural world a little better;
  • They will learn where some food comes from;
  • They will learn that they can make things happen with effort, care and patience;
  • They will have a sense of responsibility, having cared for a living thing;
  • They are more likely to eat food that they have grown;
  • They will see how easy it is to save money;
  • They will learn that they don’t need to rely on electronic games and gadgets in order to have fun and to learn;
  • They will learn the art of trial and error, also learning from mistakes along the way;
  • They will have enjoyed working with you, their parent or guardian. Working closely together on a common interest may improve the bond between you;
  • They will also learn about eating healthy, fresh food.

If it all goes well, you may even find that your home-grown vegetables taste better than shop-bought produce. Peas, carrots and tomatoes often taste more sweet than those bought in shops, for example. Kids can taste the difference.

If you’re really lucky, you and your children will end up with more home-grown produce than you can eat. If so, it’s easy to freeze it, give the excess to friends, family and neighbours or to swap produce with others who have grown something different. The important thing is not to let your children’s hard work go to waste.

Contact Little Cedars Nursery, Streatham, London SE16

This article was brought to you by Little Cedars Day Nursery and pre-school in Aldrington Road, Streatham, in London SW16. For more information about our setting and the childcare services we provide for children from 3 months to 5 years of age, click any of the bold links, call 020 8677 9675, contact us here or email our manager by clicking this link.