Today I’m welcoming Arlee from Small Potatoes who is sharing her tips to survive messy play.
Arlee is a pasta loving, cookbook hoarding Mum of six, and a preschool teacher who runs her own in home child care. If you have not yet visited Small Potatoes you are missing out on awesome bento box ideas, kid friendly recipes and loads of great activities for kids – all shared with the most gorgeous photos!
“The chief enemy of creativity is good sense.” ~Pablo Picasso
If messy play makes you shudder, just keep on reading. Do not avert your eyes and run for cover. I promise you’ll be ok! There is hope for you and I’m here to give it to you. Just stick with me until the end, ok?
So many parents have said to me over the years,
“HOW can you handle the mess? It would drive me crazy!”
Well, I’ll tell you how I handle it, with 5 simple tips. But before we get to that, I’d like you to remember one very important thing when it comes to messy play…
Do not attempt a new messy play activity when you are already in an impatient, cranky, or frustrated state of mind. Making a big mess will do you no good if your mind is already messy.
You may also wonder what the big deal is…why is it important to for children to play messy? Well, Albert Einstein once said,
“I never made one of my discoveries through the process of rational thinking.”
Children need to let go of good sense and conventional boundaries in order to make new discoveries. They will learn how things feel, how materials react when put together, their language skills are enhanced as they verbalize their sensory experiences. Have you ever tried to be creative when someone has you cornered with their rules and thought processes?
“Colour this part red, cut on this dotted line, put the glue here…”
None of these rules will ever lead to a new idea. Everyone will end up with the same thing in the end, and that’s a bit boring if you ask me.
So let’s get to overcoming your reluctance to let the mess in with these 5 simple survival tips…
1. Have a PLACE OF CONTAINMENT for your messy play activity…
If the activity is set up in a contained area, you are less likely to feel anxiety over the kids ruining something important to you. Your containment device may be the great outdoors, a plastic tub, your ACTUAL bathtub, a plastic bin or bowl, or in this case, a cardboard box.
2. Use very few and very SIMPLE MATERIALS…
The fewer materials or ingredients you have to your activity, the easier it will be for you to clean up. In this activity, I used 4 colours of tempera paint made with baby shampoo, 4 brushes, 4 pots, and a cardboard box. The paint is mixed with baby shampoo for easy clean-up, and to prevent any stinging eyes if the paint gets rubbed off on their faces. A giant cardboard box is not necessary…if you have a smaller one with taller sides, a child can reach in to paint, or sit right in the box and have just as much fun.
3. Establish some SIMPLE GROUND RULES…
Allowing your children to be messy and creative does NOT mean you let them run amok and destroy your house. Before every activity, I explain a few rules for play. Some rules may be keeping hands over the sensory bin while playing, or not leaving the activity before wash-up, or keeping our hands to ourselves as to not get a mess on our friends, or no wild splashing at the water table. In this cardboard painting activity, we had 3 rules…
1. You can paint on the box or on yourself.
2. You can paint your legs up to your knees, your arms up to your elbows, and you may not paint on your face or anyone else’s.
3. You need to wash in the washtub upon leaving the box.
And that was it. If any of the rules were disregarded, the child would get a warning. If the same rule was once again broken, the child would have to leave the activity. They loved the activity and stayed within the boundaries I had provided and no one had to miss out on the fun.
4. Have a convenient WASH-UP STATION close by…
If you are playing inside, provide a big bowl of water and a towel close by on a plastic sheet. This way, the children can easily move from the activity to clean up without dripping their way down the hall to the bathroom. I keep a washtub on a pallet in my backyard that is big enough for the smalls to stand in. There are also towels hanging on my fence. I rarely have to get involved in the clean-up of their little selves. They do it all themselves.
5. See the JOY!
It’s really quite satisfying to watch my children enjoying themselves in the creative process of messy play. Colours swirling together, conversations oozing with adjectives and exclamations, eyes widening with discovery, and the giggling…oh the giggling.
Messy play shouldn’t be a big chore or an anxiety booster. If you are prepared and keep to your simple rules, it will open your mind to a whole world of creativity you never knew was there.
Messy play is good medicine.
I’m so pleased to have had Arlee sharing with us today, please leave her a comment and share what you love and hate about messy play. You can find Arlee on her blog Small Potatoes, on Facebook, twitter, instagram and pinterest.