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Play Therapy

Sensory play / Messy play / Play

What is it?

Play – is important for children given them endless ways to devlop and learn. All types of play are essential for childrens development and early learning. Play supports the development of basic skills, exploration, imagintation and investigation in a variety of enviornments with a range of resources.

Messy play – the use of messy play helps children to develop and improve their gross and fine motor skills, coordination and concentration.

According to Piaget's theory of development, children from the age of zero to eight are in two different stages of development: the sensorimotor stage from ages zero to two and the preoperational state from age two to around seven or eight. In both of these stages, play through experimenting and exploring their environment is critical for development.

The sensorimotor stage from birth to two is all about using the senses to explore this brand new world. How things feel, taste, sound, look like, and how your [child] moves in order to explore these things aids in their cognitive learning. They quickly learn how much strength they need to pick up a block or if something feels soft or hard.

  • Sensorimotor play involves the use of sand, dough, water, finger paints  objects that can be felt, squeezed, shaken, smelled.
  • Relational play incorporates use of musical instruments, banging objects together, pilling objects up. The exploring objects and their properties.
  • Functional Play – where specific toys are used as designed, for a specified purpose. These might be cars, dollies, tea sets etc. Notice that although the child’s relationship with the toy is functional, pretence may still come into play as the cars are raced or crashed, and the dollies are fed or need changing.
  • Symbolic Play – where pretence comes into play in terms of the object, which comes to stand for something else, such as a stick becoming a sword or crooking both arms (as in the sign for ‘dolly’) becomes a mother holding her baby or running with both arms held out wide becomes a plane.
  •  Socio-dramatic Play – which now involves acting situations out with roles. Even here however, it should be noted that other play participants, either children or adults, are not necessarily required. It is perfectly feasible to have a multi-cast five act play-led with just one actor taking all the roles.

What are the aims?

  • Messy play – the aims of messy play include to foster curiosity, imagination and exploration, it encourages communication and language development. Messy play provides opportunities to practice concentration whilst nurturing future skills. Through messy play physical development is promoted while students are supported in the ability to play independently.
  • Sensory play - The aims of play are for students to have an opportunity to develop basic skills, for example tipping, pouring.

How is it used / delivered/ who is responsible?

  • Messy play can be integrated into child led sessions such as ‘busy bees’ amongst other activities or taught as a standalone session. Messy play activities and sessions are delivered by all staff and planned by teachers or HLTAs.
  • Play is planned into the learning environment. It is differentiated to support students to be able to access it at their level.

The curriculum leads for play are Amy and Tean.

Can I use it at home?

Yes – see resources section for ways to use play at home and out and about.

Pinterest has any ideas for different types of play

Further reading

Ideas for home use: