You’ve probably noticed there is really not a lot of messy play on this blog. The truth is I hate messy play. I mean I loathe it. The idea of my two year old wielding a glitter shaker makes me cringe. Finger paint…physically tense. I completely have to psych myself up for messy play every time. Knowing that my children, or my floors, will be covered from head to toe in whatever substance and require being hosed down, wiped down, or otherwise bathed after an activity can send me into sheer panic.
That said, I completely see the benefit of it, the need for it, and the fun in it so I do my best as a mom of boys to be flexible and work some messy play (or messy by my standards anyway) into our days.
I know I can’t be the only Mom out there that feels this way so today I thought I would share with you some tips that help me survive messy play in hopes that maybe they can help you too.
Take it outside. This is rule #1. If we can take it outside that solves 99.9% of my stress and the rest of these tips need not apply. So, whenever possible I set up our messy play outside. Obviously during New England winters this is not so easy to do so I abide by all these other tips for myself when taking it outdoors is not an option.
Know thy limits. This is a big one! I can tolerate rice or beans all over the kitchen floor much better than I can tolerate finger paint smeared all over a chair for example. Vacuuming… I got that… scrubbing furniture down, not so much. Picking play dough up off the floor I am totally ok with. Chasing water beads as they bounce around the house threatening the lives of our dog and cat? That I have to be in the mood for. I know my limits and I plan accordingly.
Define a space for messy play. There are a couple of ways I do this.
- I tend to limit our messy play to our kitchen. There are no carpets in there and it just feels like an easier place to clean to me.
- Shower curtain liners from the dollar store save my sanity! I have an abundance of them and I will throw one down on the floor or cover the table with one whenever we are doing anything “messy”. Not only does it catch spillage but it defines a “space” for my kids to play and they rarely move from it. It’s easy to roll the shower curtains up after playing and shake out any bits of material, like rice or sand. When we paint I just hang the shower curtain liners up to dry with little more than a small wipe down and then toss them after a few uses when they get too covered.
Allow time for /Schedule your messy activities. I am really not a spontaneous kind of person. Surprise date night has been known to induce stress. I always schedule our messy activities when I know I will… A). Have time to adequately clean up and…B). Have some quiet time to myself sooner rather than later after our activity to decompress.
Messy play in small doses. I’m talking both quantity and frequency. I can handle a small container full of oobleck much better than a large one. I can also handle a big messy activity once every couple weeks as opposed to multiple times a week. Three bottles of paint at the hands of my 2 year old is far less unnerving than having 7 or 8 bottles of paint out and accessible at one time. (This sort of ties back in to know thy limits and don’t push them).
Now granted most of these guidelines really help me most when setting up messy play for my toddlers. My older kids can handle paint, glitter, glue, and what-have-you with the best of them. They can create (and clean up) without limits. Until then, this is how I survive.
Do you embrace messy play or are you a mess averse Mom? I’d love to hear your tips for surviving mess play.