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What a Mess!

It's just another manic messy Monday around here. Inside and out. Inside we have cabin fever and it looks like someone took a leaf blower to the toy bins, and outside we have Debby (tropical storm that is) Downer. Or should I say downpour? There are a few facts of life when you live in this area of the country. You're going to hunker down through some long lasting storms, and nine times out of 10 we need the rain so we try to remain grateful.

The question at hand is what do you do with a couple of toddlers when you can't seem to explain to them that the brand new swing set outside is getting pelted by rain? You distract them of course with something even more enticing! My niece was over for the afternoon and she and my son often get the "are you twins?" question asked. She is actually six months older than him, but they are precious together! I told myself that the next time she came over to play that we were going to get MESSY!

I've been reading up on the benefits of messy play for children. As a teacher I am always perplexed by the amount of children who don't want to get dirty, sticky, or just plan messy. I thought that's what kids loved to be...messy. I have to admit that I've been a priss pot my whole life, but when I became a teacher I knew that to really get creative, you've sometimes got to get a little yucky. These anti-mess attitudes are also present at our monthly Lil Sprouts events. I've learned to start the lesson with a disclaimer to parents that goes something like this:

Me: Okay, the little ones are going to get paint on their hands during this activity. It's going to be okay though. We will wipe them off in the end. They can bathe later, and a few days from now they will be looking like new!

Parents: Blank stare.

After seeing their children get busy creating, the parents take a deep breath and chill. That's the beauty of messy play. Children are free of the fear of being scolded, and they know that this is an appropriate time to get messy. It takes some getting used to, especially for us neat freaks. However, the benefits to a child's creativity so outweigh the cleanup time. Early childhood experts have written plenty of articles to back up the case that messy play for children stimulates their senses, allows them to experience textures, and develops their fine motor skills.

My hope was to let the toddlers paint out in the yard and get as messy as they would like. But the art studio had to be moved to the porch, which caused my mom (a 37 year teaching veteran) and I to shake in our rain boots. We were going to put messy play to the test here, and see if two grown women could let these little ones' creativity soar. I taped a tablecloth to the floor, and then brown craft paper on top of that. I filled a couple of disposable baking dishes with a tempra paint and water mixture. We encouraged them to put their hands in it, feet in it, and whatever else they could think up. THEY LOVED IT! We went through several sheets of paper and had a grand ole time!

In the end I realized that this mess is nothing that a garden hose and a warm sudsy bath can't clean up. So take a deep breath and do something messy with your kids today. These are going to be the moments that they remember!

Some other messy ideas are: finger painting with yogurt or pudding with food coloring if your child is too young to not put paint in their mouth, water and sand tables, spaghetti with food coloring for play, sensory bins, gardening, water gun fight with colored water, and anything else that you can think of that let's kids be kids!

Our book club pick this week will take us to the bathtub to get messy! Join us on Wednesday!

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