As I said earlier this week, some of the more meaningful moments from my girls’ childhood so far have been the messes. As a parent, I can’t help but love seeing how their little faces light up when they are so deeply in the moment of intense, creative play. I have found no greater way to stay in the present moment than witnessing a seriously messy activity.
Messy moments require the utmost presence.
Messy moments require the utmost patience.
Messy moments require the utmost smiles.
Perhaps you’ve always wanted to be that parent that allows your children to make huge messes. Perhaps one gigantic mess was the last straw for you and you’ve forbidden messes to happen ever since.
For some parents, letting children make a mess is simply against the rules.
Kids make messes. That’s what they do. And, if we’re being honest, the messes lead to creativity, imagination and exploring that can only help a child’s growth. I have never had an issue with messes. I’ll be honest, the day that my daughters, toddlers at the time, went to town and emptied two bottles of glitter without my knowing was the only time I was silently cursing while cleaning.
For the neat-freaks out there, here’s how to cope with your child’s messes.
TAKE IT OUTSIDE — If you really cannot tolerate a mess in the house, at least let the kids go wild outside. Use a baby pool, newspaper, cardboard or some other tarp-like material to catch the debris. Give them the messy materials and let them have at it.
SET THE RULES — At our house, there is only one rule when it comes to creating art and making messes. You must use a tray if you’re using Sharpies. Because, well. Sharpies are the real deal and they stain things. Good things. And while our dining table is already a lost cause due to many art projects, I can still save what is left by making sure it’s not stained any further. What are your absolute rules? Remember not to get too attached to THINGS. Things mean nothing. People mean everything.
NEVER PUNISH FOR MESSES — Mess-making is a part of learning and developing motor skills and coordination. Learning to properly squirt out the right amount of glue is something that comes with time — and practice. Every mess leads to a more creative child. It is also a great way to teach a child to clean up. Instead of yelling and making them scrub say, “Let’s clean this up before we move on to another fun activity.”
PREPARE TO HELP — Young children need adults standing by to help them go easy on the glue, to make sure they don’t shake the glitter bottle too hard and to see that the paint brush stays near the paper when their little eyes wander around the room. Have paper towels ready, wash cloths wet and standing by so you can easily contain the messes.
DEVELOP CREATING SPACES — At our house, the dining room table doubles as our art room. It works nicely because it’s probably the most used room in the house for art projects and the least used for meals. We use blackboard paint-covered baking sheets as our art trays but this only began in the last two years. I wish I had started that when they were tiny. Nonetheless, they rock at keeping the messes contained to one location. Well, mostly.
MEDITATE/PRAY — If you really struggle with messes. Walk away. Close your eyes. Say a few prayers. Breathe and count to 10 or 20 or 50. Do something other than micromanage the mess. Let it go. Let it go. Let it go.
LET THEM MAKE MESSES ANYWAY — Even if you hate messes let them do it anyway. I’m guessing you have to clean at some point or another anyway. Do all of the above and just let the kids do it anyway. Messes are a great way to break that TV habit.
USE A MANTRA — Repeat after me. It’s just paint. It’s just washable marker. It’s just dirt. It’s just rice. It can be vaccummed, wiped, swept and washed up in a flash. We will survive. Walk away. Walk away. Walk away.
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