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Why Making A Mess Is A Kid’s Job

“It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it.”  Words have never been truer than when in relation to children and what they do – make a mess. 

As a parent, it is difficult for me NOT to get mad when the kids make a mess.  It isn’t the mess I dislike as much as it is the not-picking-up part.  Part of me would just as soon not have the messy toys in my house – no play dough or paint, no little cups and pots, no construction toys like Zoob, no scissors, markers or glue.  If they aren’t here, the kids can’t make a mess with them, right?

But, the fact is, kids WILL make a mess.  That’s what they do.  They explore their environment to its fullest, and they use creativity in ways we seem to forget as we grow older.  Children dive head-first into delightful things, such as packing peanuts and glitter.  It is fun; it is learning.

So, while I might not want to sweep up the shredded paper ONE MORE TIME or clean the marker up off the kitchen table – AGAIN, I know that my kids are learning to express themselves and discover more about the world around them with each exciting activity they do, no matter how messy it is.  And that is our job as caregivers – to expose children to as many different situations, stimuli, activities and experiences as possible in a safe (and hopefully fun) way.  Of course, the other side of that is to also teach our children to be responsible and clean up after themselves.  I’m still working on this one.

Someone remind me of this when my youngest manages to spill the fish food all over the carpet again tonight, okay?

The Joy Of Playdough

Playdough – mention the word and most parents and caregivers acknowledge the word with a slight cringe or eye-roll.  We all know what “playdough” means – matted red goo in the carpet, purple stuck in the crevaces of the soles of shoes, an unexpected snack as kids sneak a bit into their mouths, and dried little pills of it everywhere for days to come.  However, playdough is an important tool in child development.  So, before you hide or throw out that malleable substance, take a look at what a wonderful product it really is.

Playdough is an excellent tool with young children for the development of fine motor skills which is crucial for activities such as writing and cutting.  Just the basic kneading of the dough strengthens finger and hand muscles, which is important when building tone for those fine motor skills later on.  A step beyond this is clay, which is a less malleable substance and really gives those muscles a workout!

Children also develop a keener coordination between their eyes and hands while using playdough.  Estimation skills are used when determining how much playdough is needed for a specific task; using cookie cutters and rolling pins aids in planning and creating.  Rolling a “snake” (my two year old’s favorite task) helps kids understand cause and effect and motion as well.

Let’s not forget the creative part of open-ended playdough play!  The only thing kids CAN’T create with playdough are those things they haven’t thought of yet.  How about a purple dinosaur?  Or a green kitty?  Maybe a blue and orange sea monster or a space ship with six engines?  Or, perhaps your child wants to make a whole city?  A race car that can fly and float?  Why not? 

And, if you are really into playdough, making your own is terrific for basic math, language and science skills.  It is quite simple to make.  Here’s a terrific and easy recipe to get you started.  There are plenty of them out there.  Find one that works for you and use it often.  And remember all the good you are doing for your child.  It will make the time you spend cleaning playdough off of shoes more worthwhile!

HOMEMADE PLAYDOUGH:

In a saucepan, combine:
4 cups water
4 cups flour
1 cup salt
1/2 T cream of tartar (can also subsitute with 1/4 T baking powder and 1/4 T baking soda)
4 tablespoons oil

Mix until no longer sticky over low/medium heat.  Turn out on plate or board to cool and store in ziplock bag.  Food coloring may be added for variation, and Kool Aid powder also works well for coloring (and smells great, too!).

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