This post is authored by Anna Reyner, a registered art therapist and licensed marriage and family therapist. Anna is a nationally recognized arts advocate that has conducted over 500 hands-on art workshops for learners of all abilities. Follow Anna’s blog at Art and Creativity in Early Childhood Education.
Special Needs Application:
Children explore sensory and tactile play while learning important lessons of imaginative and symbolic thinking, enhancing motor skills, safely expressing emotions and communicating in a non-verbal format.
Messy Art is fun and provides a delightful way to learn about the world and it’s physical properties. Most children love to get their hands into paint and other gooey materials that “tickle their senses.” Messy art lets children discover the emotional pleasures of sensory and tactile play while they learn important lessons of cause and effect and the material properties of matter. What’s more, messy art develops important cognitive, social-emotional and multi-sensory skills. Self directed learning with fluid, sensory and tactile art materials is especially important in early childhood and continues to have benefits for older children as well.
What exactly is “messy art” – is it simply fingerpainting? A lot more, actually. Messy Art is a friendly description for art experiences that involve paint and other fluid materials that change with ease as you manipulate them. These fluid “sensory art” experiences provide children with exciting physical contacts that motivate exploration. The fluid nature of paint provides for dynamic and rapidly changing explorations of color, shape and textures on paper. Children often feel very powerful when painting, because the cause and effect of their actions becomes apparent very quickly. Painting allows children to make decisions rapidly, and to operate more independently than they are usually accustomed to. Paints continuously move and blend, creating new combinations and secondary colors. With just a few swift brushstrokes, an entire painting can change and transform into a new creation. Painting is indeed, a powerful process!
Messy Art activities are one of the best ways to promote early childhood learning. Preschool and Kindergarten provide an especially important opportunity for hands-on, self-directed learning. As children grow and advance through elementary school, art continues to provide opportunities for mastery and learning. Art teaches critical thinking, self-expression, problem solving, individuality, creativity and self-esteem.
Messy Art experiences, those that rely on fluid and tactile art materials, provide children with great reward for their efforts. Not only do children often find it exciting to have the freedom to “get messy,” but child development theory teaches us time and time again that tactile and sensory experiences are one of the best ways children learn. So designate an area of your room to messy art, cover tables and floors with newspaper if necessary, and find time to tickle your senses!