Okay parents, you may not like this but I’m about to be an advocate for letting your kids make a mess! Getting messy is fun for kids, but not only that it’s beneficial! Allowing your kids to explore their messy sides and participate in free play, aides in many areas of natural development. So, you may have to resist your inner voice to keep things orderly and tidy and stuff your hands in your pockets so you can resist grabbing the wipes and paper towels when you know a mess is coming. Just take a look at the reasons below for justification of why you should wait a second before you call for the cleaning arsenal.
Some benefits are the enhancement of:
Spatial/Body Awareness and Sensory Exploration: When kids explore their environment in a variety of ways such as rolling, running, going up-side down, sliding on their tummy, etc. it helps them with learning and experiencing where their body is in comparison to their environment. Using messy play, especially with tactile input (grass, sand, tan bark, water, bubbles, etc) helps to increase this awareness when their bodies are in different positions. When your child is allowed to fall, roll around and rough-house they are increasing their balance, coordination, motor planning and overall safety, by getting to know their body and how it moves.
Creativity and Imagination: When kids get to explore things that are messy (finger paint, shaving cream, a jumble of toys, pieces of ‘junk’ they find, etc) and they can manipulate, create and interpret them the way they want to, they are building their imaginations and exercising their creativity muscles.
Health: Now you may be asking, how letting my child make a mess could possibly keep them healthy? Just pause and think about it in this way, the child that is outside making mud pies and sliding down the slide into the puddles is getting a lot more movement than the child in front of the tv or the computer. Not that those things are bad, but good old-fashioned play shouldn’t be a lost art. And, Keeping kids active and engaged in active play is one of the best ways to counteract the obesity epidemic that is prevalent in this day and age.
Self-Regulation: When kids get to run, jump in puddles, dig in the sand, etc. they are able to increase their overall self-regulation during the day. Also, the more movement they engage in during the day, the better they sleep, eat and learn. By not restricting their play and allowing them to get dirty or messy, as long as it’s safe of course, will encourage them to continue seeking out the movement that they need to keep themselves regulated as they go through their day.
Problem Solving Skills: If kids are cleaned up immediately, every time they get dirty and/or they are kept from opportunities to experience making a mess and being messy, they are missing out on chances and experiences to build upon their problem solving skills. Letting them explore in messy play builds upon problem solving and motor planning skills. They get to figure out things like: How messy can I get? What happens when I put it in my hair? Can I wipe it off with my hand? Does my friend like it when I touch them with messy hands? They begin to figure out things on their own and form their own answers to their questions. It can also aide in learning appropriate social cues as well over time.
We all remember how much fun it was to get messy as a kid and why wouldn’t we want our children to experience the same thing? So remember to put aside those remotes and keyboards every now and then and go get messy! (As an added bonus you can also teach them the ‘joys’ and value of cleaning up!)