Little kids make all kinds of mess — liquid spills, food scraps, toys scattered all over the floor, pen and crayon marks and even stickers on floor or cabinets. As much as we wanted the house to be sparkling clean, living with a toddler makes it impossible. After arranging the toys and books properly on the shelf, thirty seconds later, the room becomes chaotic again.
My daughter is part of the kid-nation of mess makers. She will open her toy bin and gleefully strew them all over the bed and floor. Then, she will get a book, go through the pages, and will grab another one, until all of them are taken out of the shelf. After that, she will ask for a pen and paper where she will practice her doodles, then out of interest, will write on her hand and on her shirt.
But, I don’t really make a fuss about it.
Toddlers are just being themselves. It is really not their intention to make a mess. For them, seeing their stuff all over the floor makes them feel at ease in their own little world. I can see that my daughter is happier when she makes a mess, so why restrain her from doing so ?
To quote from a book, “They like being surrounded by their possessions, so that they can touch them, feel them and commune with them. It makes them feel more secure.” Moreover, a study has found that being messy makes them a better learner. When doodling, it will help them practice hand motor skill and creativity; by throwing toys or food on the floor, it will make them understand cause and effect; if they mix and match toys that do not complement, it will help them hone their imagination.
How do I handle the mess ? Just by being patient.
I do not preempt her when she is about to launch her toys to cluttered pieces on the floor, nor scold her when she converts our room in a crazy disarray. I just let her play to her heart’s content.
For her doodling and coloring projects, I bought washable crayons and make her use big sheets of paper. Those back part of a big old calendar can make a great canvas. If she insisted on writing with pencil or ballpoint pen, I sit by her side, to make sure she does not harm herself.
Later on, I will ask her if she could help mama clean up and put things back in order. If she refused and wanted to leave her toys as is, I don’t force her. She eventually offers help by the time she knows she is finished playing with them.
Playtime opens a lot of room for learning and being messy is just a normal part of it. Let’s not stress over it. We should adopt the “if-you-can’t-beat-them-join-them” attitude. I’m sure it would be more fun for us to spend a messy time with our kids while we can.
So, let there be mess! 🙂