Just the thought of this will probably make some of you cringe, but hear me out! Messy play not only fosters curiosity, imagination and exploration, it also supports the ability to play independently and is a fantastic way to develop fine motor skills, problem-solving skills and language.
There is actually such a thing as ‘controlled mess’. Trust me, I have figured it out!!! And no, it’s not just because my child is well behaved and does what she is told (this is true for my first, but quite the opposite for my second). The secret to controlling the mess is to set very clear but simple boundaries and put strategies in place from the start. The following simple steps will keep your kids happy and you sane!
1. Have a designated place where you paint/get messy: If you have a yard, great, but if you are like us and your outdoor space is limited, then find a place inside where you can be away from walls, carpets, lounges etc. Make this ‘the’ place you do all your messy play: art and craft, playdough, painting, sensory bins, etc.
2. Use a drop sheet: I use a big old sheet and my girls now know that they can only paint with the sheet down and everything, including themselves must stay on the mat. This makes tidying up super easy too, because you can just fold the mat/sheet in on itself and store it away.
3. Keep everything together: Get everything ready including what they will paint on (paper, card, boxes, leaves, etc.) and what they will paint with (brushes, sponges, sticks, cotton tips, etc.), before you put the paint near your child, so you don’t have to walk away again. My girls are both now very good at staying on the mat (to keep the mess contained), but it definitely reduces the risk of any mess going anywhere else if you don’t have to turn your back on them, especially in that initial set up phase. Once you have given them some paint in their painting trays, pots or pallets, put the actual paint bottles up high, out of reach. You don’t want them coming along and helping themselves when they think they need more paint.
4. Have a cloth ready: Having a wet cloth ready to go, to wipe their hands, feet, face, etc. once they are finished, is a must. This simple bit of pre-planning definitely makes things run more smoothly when it’s time to pack up.
5. Wash down: If your child is like my youngest, they will not only paint the paper, but themselves too. There are a few options here when it comes to cleaning up: a hose down outside, a shower or a bath. If it’s warm we hose off outside, which always turns into more fun playtime, but if it’s rainy or cold I carry her straight up to the shower.
6. Organised tidy up: Put the brushes and pallets straight into the sink, you can wash these up later. Put the paintings up high to dry, fold up your sheet and you’re done!
There are so many benefits to letting your child get messy. It not only stimulates their senses, but it also involves them in a learning journey that encourages creativity and open-ended thinking. Messy play also teaches cause and effect and helps develop fine motor skills.
So, I challenge you, let your kids get messy!!! 🙂