Don’t worry about the mess!
Sensory play such as finger-painting, play dough, sand, and clay is important to a child’s development? When engaged in sensory play children use all of their senses. It promotes sensory integration which is the ability of the body to integrate and process all of the information it receives via the sensory modalities of touch, taste, smell, hearing, and vision. As children pour, dump, build, scoop, and explore they are learning about spatial concepts (full, empty). They learn pre-math concepts along with language and vocabulary.
Messy play can be calming to children. It is not just about making a mess and getting dirty; it is an essential component to learning that encourages exploration and discovery through play.