Messy play! Oh, who doesn’t love messy play? I know for sure my kids do. In fact, if given a room full of activities, I can guarantee it will be my boys (well, my youngest at least whilst my eldest follows in his footsteps) who are bombarding and bouncing off the other kids in an attempt to get to the painting table first.
The great thing about them both truly enjoying being creative is that I am constantly inundated with brilliant pieces to display on our walls. Not to mention that it’s completely free! I love it! I would love to have a beautiful beach scene or a funky city landscape but all too often these professional pieces are just far too expensive for me. I’d much rather an ad-hoc yet passionate splash of mixed colours, often creating a big blob of grey/brown glorious looking poop masterpiece. Absolutely!
Err, who am I kidding? Most of them are blooming awful and I have a whole stack of them waiting for me to do something with them. Maybe I should be checking the ‘Timeline For Disposing Your Child’s Art Work‘ and ordering them into categories to be disposed of at suitable times. Non the less, my kids love seeing them displayed (the best ones anyway), so I guess embracing the messy play is a win win all round. Or is it?
I spoke with a friend recently who had been told by a family member that she had inadvertently caused her toddler to be fussy and squeamish about getting dirty. This came about because, and completely understandably, she didn’t let her kid join in with messy play. Why not? Because it’s really bloody messy! But I wonder how much of this is true?
In an attempt to be an innovative and fun mum, I started making homemade playdough with the boys. I think, if I’m being honest, it’s actually more to make up for the fact I can’t do nice things like baking cakes or biscuits with them due to the allergies we have to be careful of. Though even doing something fun and messy like that turns into a complete disaster in my house!
More often than not, when it comes to messy play, my boys are absolutely covered in paint, shaving foam, flour and anything else they can get their hands on. They’ve got into an adorable yet slightly annoying habit of painting each other’s faces and acting like roaring tigers, which I have to admit, I love! It’s brilliant watching them play together and interact in imaginary play, and what better stimulus than a bit of messy play to get their minds racing.
Having said that, I find the clean up so frustrating that I often find myself wondering whether it was really worth it. My kids thoroughly enjoy getting messy, but it takes forever to clean them up after. Then of course, there’s the mess that’s now all over the floor, the table, the chairs…In fact mess just everywhere! It takes twice as long to clean up the messy play than it does to create it and I’m always left grizzly and exhausted after wiping, sweeping and mopping it all away.
So is it really worth it? Should I continue with the joy that is messy play and endure the dreaded clean up or should I be more like my friend? Which of course could mean that my boys become hypercritical of the black mark on their thumb or the sand in between their toes. But at least with that option I should be able to squeeze in extra time for a cup of tea…and maybe even finish it whilst it’s still hot! So I started to do a bit of research.
I stumbled across an article by Liz Parnell in Natural Child Magazine? It was indeed a very interesting read and since then I’ve been swayed more towards embracing the messy play and allowing my kids to explore and learn, through utilising all their senses. It suggests that, ‘rich textural experiences allows children to express their emotions through manipulating the materials’. I can’t quite fully understand this and it sounds a little suspect to me, but I’m no expert on the subject, so I guess it’s probably right.
On the other hand, this article states that, ‘If mess is always discouraged, a stressful relationship can develop between parent and child’ (Woah, that doesn’t sound too good!) It also, believe it or not, confirms what was told to my friend: that it ‘leads to a future avoidance of messy play (even when it is offered)’. However, I was a little more than surprised when I continued to read that this ‘can lead to a diminished sense of touch and potentially limit cognitive development’! Definitely not a good thing!
All in all, it sounds as though sacrificing that hot cup of tea, and chill out on the sofa, in order for my kids to go wild might be the right way to go!
How about you? How do you cope with the utter chaos that is messy play? Do you even bother doing it?