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According to a new study, toddlers who engage in messy play may be better learners and more adept at retaining the words that they hear. The study, completed at the University of Iowa, tested a group of 16 month-old toddlers, offering each tot a number of items and then seeing if they could learn a said item’s made-up name. The researchers found that the messier a tot was in terms of grasping, picking up or bringing objects to his mouth, the more honed were his learning skills. Lynn Perry, co-author of the paper, noted that messy tots had a 70% success rate at retaining the names of objects while tidy tots had just a 50% success rate. The researchers also found that kids who eat in highchairs were more likely to get messy than kids eating at the table, perhaps because they felt more comfortable making a mess in a highchair. Overall, playing with their food helped children learn to recognize items better and thus remember their names. A real silver lining if you’ve ever been frustrated with your food-throwing tot. Dr Larissa Samuelson, another lead researcher on the team states, “It may look like your child is throwing things on the ground… but they are getting information out of that action.” This isn’t the first time messy tots have been praised. Past research shows that dirt and germs equal healthy, happy kiddos. This all said, try not to be crazed when your little one makes a mess — consider it a learning experience!

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