Little Learners is a multi award winning messy play and mark making company with over 30 franchises across the country. We are always looking for the best, most exciting products to use in our classes, which look great and are versatile for the children to make marks in. Mark making is at the heart of our mission and what we focus all of our messy play classes and activities on!
We are passionate about messy play for many reasons: it is fun, educational, good for physical development and is a fantastic bonding activity for parents and children too! Read on to discover why we are so passionate about messy play at Little Learners UK and why our ‘go to’ website for our stock is YPO! To find out more about how we do Messy Play and what makes us the best around, be sure to visit our website and find classes in your area too: www.littlelearnersuk.com
One of the many brilliant benefits of messy play for both parents and practitioners is that Messy Play is very much child led. We might set up the trays for them but then it is totally up to the children how they play and explore. This takes some pressure off us but also allows them to develop their imagination and gives us an insight into their preferences and how their little minds tick as they play. Some babies love to just slide around in the mess, some like to use their toes, some love to use tools to make marks. The little girl on the above picture is using the fab letter formation boards from YPO that we all use in our Little Learners classes. They are brilliant to have at home for little ones to practice on as they are wipe clean and very sturdy.
It doesn’t all have to be wet and messy though! A lot of the dry trays are perfect for exploring early writing and maths opportunities. I love the chunky felts from YPO – they are so easy for little hands to hold on to. In addition to these skills they're developing all the usual skills that go along with messy play, such as learning perseverance, developing hand eye coordination and building core strength, fine and gross motor skills!
Mark making is a huge part of your child’s learning journey and one of the outcomes of a prime area of learning – Physical Development – in Early Years Foundation Stage Guidance (birth to 60 months). When your child starts to make scribbles, patterns and shapes, this is ‘mark making’. It is the first step towards writing! Your child explores, experiments and expresses themselves through the marks they make. They begin to assign meaning to their marks, which leads to creativity and exploration.
Exploring different textures, materials and grabbing various apparatus will help your child get ready for writing. Encouraging your child to use their hands, fingers, feet and toes to make marks will strengthen their core muscles and develop their gross and fine motor skills. These skills are vital for holding and controlling a pencil and letter and number formation. All of this can be done during messy play in a fun, exciting and stimulating way! Our Little Learners classes all set up a variety of trays and activities to help children develop all of these skills! Play dough is a fantastic material to use to build up fine motor skill strength. I love the range of dough tools available now such as the little rollers and cutters. Children are captivated by chopping, squeezing and moulding play dough!
Children can mark make in many different ways: pen and paper, painting, ‘messy play’ or even drawing in the sand on the beach. All of these provide opportunities to explore a wide range of tools such as paintbrushes, chalks, pencils and of course, their bodies. The benefits of mark making are clear. Your child’s fine motor skills will develop and strengthen in preparation for writing. It is so important to provide them with a good range of child sized and friendly resources – easy to grip pens, small chunky paintbrush rollers, chunky chalk and crayon eggs.
It is our view at Little Learners that the more that children have fun mark making and developing their motor skills, the more prepared and confident they will be when it comes to writing at school. In our mark making programme, our four Mark Maker characters represent the four main marks that help to make up all letters, numbers, shapes and patterns: a straight line, curve, circle and a zig-zag. They often pop up in our classes, especially in our trays!
Repetition is important in mark making and the more the mark is practiced, the more recognisable the mark will become to the child. The mark making opportunities are appropriate for every type of learner. The way we learn best can be auditory, visual, or kinaesthetic. Little Learners classes, like all good messy play classes, provide resources that are colourful, engaging and eye-catching. We provide a good selection of different textures and surfaces, which are interesting for children to touch and feel. For example, to assist the auditory learner we make sure there is music playing – mark making to the beat!
Messy Play develops and appeals to all of the senses. We love it because it is inclusive and accessible to all children. As it is child led and there is such a wide selection of wet and dry trays children can choose a ‘messy’ level they are comfortable with. Some children leave us needing a head to toe bath and some simply require a quick baby wipe to the hands. It is all a personal choice and can be enjoyed in many ways. Why not try some messy play at home? Or if you’d rather leave the tidying up to us, check out a Little Learners class in your area: www.littlelearnersuk.com