“It looks like a tornado came through here! You clean this mess up right now!” Have you ever said those words before? I think all parents are absolutely mesmerized by the incredible capacity our children have for making messes. What if we could use that? What if instead of being frightened, frustrated and overwhelmed by their messes, we created something astonishing from it; something that builds relationships and teaches skills without driving us crazy?
What if the rubble became a symbol of growth?
What if clutter could bring order?
What if getting a little dirty could encourage greater cleanliness and sparkling smiles?
I’ve found when we get involved and are more deliberate about the mess making, we can bond and teach our kids things that otherwise are met with opposition. Here are just a few “messes” worth making, as well as how to make them more than just disarray, and why you should even try. This could be one of those things that makes their day, or week, or month. Who knows, maybe it will make yours too.
Messes that build and strengthen.
2. Building Legos
3. Holiday crafts (Gingerbread houses, valentines cards, pie making, etc.)
4. Dress ups/ stage play
5. Forts (cushions, scrap wood or boxes outside, etc.)
6. Water fights
7. Outside, dirty play (Roll down the grass, play mud football, dig in the dirt, etc.)
How to do messes with your child, in a great way.
1. Brainstorm activities with your child. Help them think of fun, creative ideas but let them choose.
2. Pick something creative, enjoyable and interactive. Participate but don’t lead the activity. Follow their lead.
3. Make a plan for prep, play and cleanup. Simply present the outline for the activity. First, prepare everything we need. Second, play and go crazy. Third, clean up. Let them come up with ideas and directions for how each of those things get done.
4. Don’t whine and complain about the mess before, during or after the mess, just follow the plan. For some, just having things out of place or “messy” will require all your will power not to stop everything and get the mop out or bark cleaning orders.
5. Go all in! Get on your hands and knees. Do as your child does. Don’t sit on the sidelines. Show them you can be every bit as messy as them.
6. Make cleanup part of the fun rather than “after the fun.” It’s important to have planned how the cleanup will happen beforehand and do it together.
Why making messes together is awesome!
1. Allows for “out of bounds” creativity in an environment of boundaries. It allows a child to see the before, during and after of the process of making messes. They see messes from start to finish. It communicates that creativity and fun are encouraged and valued but that responsibility also accompanies fun.
2. Gives perspective. It gives perspective for both the parent and the child.
3. Brings order to chaos. The mess itself may seem like it is chaotic but it offers a systemized way to teach kids to clean up and take responsibility for what they do.
4. It’s fun! Enough said.
When we follow the activity from start to finish and not only deliver the commands but participate in preparing, doing and cleaning up, we grow together and share the fun, the overwhelm, and the satisfaction of both creation and cleanup. We share and teach what life is all about.
Question: What messes will you make with your kids today?
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