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walking out the door...
Take a Deep Breath, and Get Ready to Embrace Messy Play
Deep down, I think we all know that children need to be allowed to make messes. The littlest among us deserve the ability to experiment, dive, squish, squirm, jump, and every other messy adjective you can think of! Hosts of research suggests that children learn best when engaging in free play and when exploring with all of their senses.
If you observe a child for any period of time, it’s easy to see they are hungry for sensory experiences! Infants love toys with different textures, noises, colors... toddlers search for any excuse to explore something new with their hands, feet, noses, mouth...
Our children naturally gravitate towards sensory play, wherever they can find it! And if we’re being honest with ourselves - sensory play often leads to messes.
If you’re anything like me though, a part of you cringes when the toy room floor is covered, when you see that splatter under the high chair, when the play dough is squished into the crevices of the play table... it’s hard! As a child, I was NOT known for my cleanliness (sorry, Mom...) but as an adult, responsible for cleaning up my own messes and now those of my extra little humans, I struggle to embrace the mess.
Let me tell you though, I have an EASY solution to encouraging brain- building messy play daily, WITHOUT submitting yourself to horrible mess clean-up duty for the rest of your little’s childhood.
Are you ready to hear it?
Not really groundbreaking, I know. But that’s the secret! Nature was made for messes, and the best part is - you don’t have to clean it up!
Children will usually guide themselves outdoors to whatever sensory experiences their craving, but if you’re looking for ways to help ignite the flame, we’ve included here activity sheets and tips for such wonderful play as Log Rolling and Rock Lifting, Creating a Backyard Mud Kitchen, Mud Painting and more.
For your own sanity, I recommend creating easy cleaning rituals as you leave the outdoors and enter your home that your child will come to know and love (well, maybe not love, but at least respect). For the warmer weather, set up a little hose or washbin station outside your patio door to strip down and hose down before entering the home, then plan on a trip to the bathroom for any additional cleanup necessary.
Even in the cooler months, set aside a rug or mat you don’t care about and can easily throw in the wash. Deem this the cleanup spot, make up a silly cleanup spot song to remind and engage your toddler (also to distract them from the reality that they’ll be leaving their new favorite play space outside)!
I urge all families to find or create patterns and places for removing all messy clothes and spot cleaning whatever is left. I promise you, when you know that coming inside will be stress free, it will make walking out the door an easy decision every time.
I hope you and your toddler LOVE the free activities included here, and are inspired to come back to Wild & Free Playschool’s online hub again and again for your easy access to quality outdoor ideas and resources.
Happy Mess Making,