If there is one thing that most people forget about when it comes to family expansion, it’s that children come with messes. They squelch and splatter and splash in everything and anything that they can get their hands on. If glitter makes its way into the house, you’ll likely see that glitter every day five years after you’ve played with it, guaranteed. Crafts with kids are fun, of course they are, but there’s a certain level of anxiety that arises when your sticky-fingered children run straight toward the brand-new rug in the lounge. It’s a difficult thing to cope with, especially if you are usually a tidy person who cannot stand mess in the house.
Here’s the thing: messy play should come with patience, presence and a lot of gritting your teeth and smiling. It doesn’t come easily to every parent, to be the mom or dad who can be okay with paint and mud and flour all over the place. It doesn’t have to come easily to you, and maybe there has been the ultimate mess that has made you draw a line under messy play as a rule. I’ll let you in on a little secret – kids make messes. It’s what they do. It’s how they learn, explore, discover. Mess for you is just one more thing to add to your very long list of parenting chores. Mess for them is their recreation of their imagination over and over again. However, if you struggle with messes in your home, you need to give yourself the easy life. This means working it out so that messes can happen under your control. Below, we’ve got some brilliant ways you can make this happen so that the kids can make their messes and you won’t have to freak out about it or spend months cleaning house!
Go Outside. Ideally, you could bring all messy play to the great outdoors. This isn’t always possible in the winter months or the times where it absolutely pours with rain. Get a baby paddling pool set up specifically for messy play in the backyard and let them go nuts with paint, glitter, playdough, stickers – whatever they want. If you have to have messy play inside, think about investing in CARRcrete InfinityFloor instead of rugs and carpeting. There’s always a better option for wiping spills and scrubbing paint than trying to get it out of the fibres of your favourite – and expensive – rugs.
Have Some Rules. Children always need boundaries, but when messy play affects the rest of your home and you, you need to lay down the law for your messy play times. Using tuff trays indoors should be a must and if they want to work at the table for painting or drawing, tablecloths or wipeable mats need to be put down first. Children need to learn how to set up the room to gain a little independence.
No Discipline. Children get carried away during messy play. It’s what they do. Making a mess is a big part of their development and helps them to learn motor skills. Don’t get exasperated if there is too much glue that has been squeezed out of the newly purchased tube, and you will find glitter in the spines of the books on the other side of the room, so don’t go nuts about that, either. It’s a good way to channel your own frustration, by teaching them how to tidy the room themselves. Make the rule of ‘you make the mess, you clean the mess’, and you’re going to have a lot more fun!
Stand By. You’re an adult, but that doesn’t mean you should take over their creative projects and do it for them. Children may need space to play, but it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t step in to help them learn how much paint or glue is enough, or how much glitter should come out of the tube at once. Be prepared with paper towels and wet wipes to help clear up spills and direct the kids on how to clean things for themselves.
All of the above are great ideas to contain messes, but if you really can’t cope with them, don’t stop the kids from making the mess. Take a moment for yourself a few steps away to control the anxiety. Take a breath and give yourself a minute. It’s okay to not be okay, but not at the expense of the children learning how to spread their very little wings.