Designing Messy Play for Infants & Toddlers

A young child with a scarf on their head, protecting their hair, is splattered with paint and closing their eyes in response to water being sprayed on their face.Designing Messy Play for Infants and Toddlers comes to us from the National Center on Early Childhood Development, Teaching, and Learning and the Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework (ELOF). This detailed resource describes the benefits of messy play in terms of development, fun, and engagement. The author explores the research base for messy play and outlines strategies for organizing, prepping, and carrying out this frequently popular activity. A caution is included that not all kids like being messy which is paired with ideas to support all children to their comfort level. The author suggests playing with patterns, ice, sponges, and rolling and pouring materials down ramps. The possibilities are endless!

The ICC-Recommended Early Start Personnel Manual (ESPM) describes core knowledge and role-specific competencies needed for early intervention service provision, incorporating current research and evidence in the field of early intervention. To access the ESPM, click here.

This resource is related to the following ESPM knowledge-level competencies:

  • Core Knowledge (CK):
    • CK5: The importance of play as context, method, and outcome of learning.
  • Individualized Family Service Plan Development and Review (IFSP-DR):
    • IFSP-DR5 (EIS): Understands the rationale for the identification and selection of intervention strategies used in everyday routines, relationships, activities, places, and partnerships for early intervention activities.
  • Individualized Family Service Plan Development and Review (IFSP-i):
    • IFSP-i2 (EIS): Understands the individual nature of child learning styles and the importance of adapting intervention strategies.
    • IFSP-i3 (EIS): Knows generic and specific evidence-based early intervention strategies to support all areas of development.
    • IFSP-i6 (EIS): Understands the need for developmentally appropriate strategies, adaptations, assistive technologies, and other supports that maximize the child’s learning opportunities.
    • IFSP-i11 (EIS): Knows strategies that support parents in adapting the natural environment to meet infant/toddler developmental needs.
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