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On a recent sunny afternoon, I was feeling overwhelmed with the energy from the kids. So I grabbed one of their boxes of chalks and selected a spot on the parking lot to doddle. My kids went all out and scribbled all sorts of things on the lot while I just sat at the corner and watched. Needless to to say, the following morning the caretaker was not too happy with us and had a few stun words for me.
“What was I thinking letting the kids leave such a mess on the parking lot?”
On my part, I did not see anything wrong with it, considering how much joy it brought them but I understand that he didn’t want to look like he was slacking. In that moment, he reminded me of many fussy parents and caregivers who won’t let children explore and get their hands dirty.
Messy play means letting the kids be creative, letting them explore within their surroundings. When they do this in groups, they learn how to share, how to work in turns. It goes a long way in teaching them responsibility because from it they learn to tidy up afterwards.
I remember when my older daughter was about 2 years old, she loved to help me do the dishes. I say help lightly, because it involved her getting on one of the kitchen stools and in her bid to help, making more of a mess. At first this annoyed me very much. All the tidying up that had to be done later on, not to mention the fact that the dishes would not be done on time so that I could move on to other chores. But, She loved it.
The feeling of the bubbles, the soapy water, the dishes, the sound of the cutlery, she just loved it. Through this all experience, watching the excitement, watching her reaction to different things, hearing her questions, I also got to learn how much my daughter gained and got to be responsible. Gradually I became more patient with her and her messy play. When I sent my mum a picture of the little girl doing dishes, she was in disbelief thinking I was forcing her. Of course not!
With a lot of families living in the cities these days, children are left with very few options of outdoor activities. Something that children enjoy more than anything. If you are living in apartments and have to explore within the house. Set clear rules for it.
If it’s painting, be clear on the painting spot. Restrict the areas. The balcony, the bathroom or the kitchen floor are the messy spots in our house. No moving around with it. If you are worried about a particular spot, try covering it up with old newspapers or polythene that you can dispose of afterwards.
All in all, the location does not matter, it is the way you adapt that location to you and your child’s benefit. Involve your child in house chores. You might get flour all over the floor as you bake or have a them all wet as they help clean the car but so what? Is the child happy? Enjoying it? Then you are halfway there.
Researchers are all about messy play because through it your child improves physical and emotional development, increases independence and problem-solving skills. Sometimes, people are not patient but they can learn to be. Not one keen on letting the learning experiences of my kids be taken away from them, I have had to be diplomatic in unnecessary circumstances.
Back at our apartment and the chalk scenario, we managed to reach a compromise. The caretaker gave us a corner, that we are allowed to mess up as much as we want; only if we tidy up afterwards. When I say we, read the kids; and they are usually very happy to do it. Fun with a lesson on responsibility. Win! win!
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