"Children need messes. Not just when they are babies and toddlers trying to make sense of their world, but well into their childhood... If a child doesn't learn to make a mess, he may not learn to use his mind in an open-ended way" Ginger Carlson Child of Wonder: Nurturing Creativity and Naturally Curious Children
Thank you so much to everyone who shared their strategies for dealing with messes. They were all so good! I think the common theme was to kind of pre-pare for the chaos, Either resign to the mess (decide beforehand I'm OK with it), or make preparations to minimize (I'm trying this sheet idea out tomorrow), or say no, this isn't something I can deal with right now, we'll plan for it another time (this is guilt-free-necessary at times).
But what about ambush- messes? Yesterday we made owl cookies, a yearly tradition that's fun because even little boys can really participate in squishing the eyes together and placing in the m&ms and cashews. And it's pretty simple, not too messy, or so I thought. Nope. Afterwards nuts were scattered ALL over the floor, m&ms were EVERYWHERE, some of the cookie dough fell on the ground and got smashed into the carpet... and since it was nearing the 5pm hour my kids were going haywire. I constantly had to stop and start as I cleaned to break up fights, working hard to stay patient. I was prepared to resign myself to the mess, I just had no idea it would be this bad!
The funny thing is that after dinner as the whole family polished off the cookies, we wound up having a really good time together. We acted silly and eventually pulled out Lobel's Owl at Home to read around the table. I completely and utterly forgot about the nuisancey mess. That mess was a price to pay for a magical moment, in this case being surrounded by smiling, laughing kid faces, hearing Jack say "ow-ah coo-kees" and just having a really great time together.
Ginger Carlson has a whole chapter dedicated to the importance of encouraging kids to get messy, even going so far as to mention sensory delays for kids that are "too clean." "Although it may be difficult at times to accept the messes our children (need to make), know that you can. But don't just accept the mess, rejoice in it, knowing that you are supporting your child's creative growth even further." I don't know if I can go that far, but I can probably appreciate it a little more.
5 weeks ago