Spring is a kid’s paradise. Before the mosquitoes arrive and the mandatory-swimming heat sets in we have our blissful Spring afternoons here in Austin.
It is the perfect time to let your little ones explore the world the way they love best…as life comes squishing through their little toes, sticking to their little tiny fingers, splashing and squirting and smushing with glee.
As grown-ups it is our job to get over our mess-a-phobia and find ways for our kids to fully explore their sensory needs in a way that works for us.
These tactile adventures are more than meets the eye. We see jumping in a mud puddle or squishing clay; they experience sensory stimulation, refinement of motor skills, processing of emotion, imagination, creative thinking, cause and effect, and feeling powerful in a big world where they’re used to feeling quite small.
Here are a few ideas for messy fun…..
Painting with Water – Give your child a paint brush (the grown-up kind that paints walls) and a small bucket and fill it with water. They’ll smile big as you explain that they can paint ANYTHING they want in the yard….the house, the patio chairs, the sidewalk, their body!
They’ll delight as the wooden fence or sidewalk pavement darken when brushed with water. Simple, but SO fun!
Playdough Treasures – Try adding to your playdough/clay little beads, small animals, plastic bugs – all to bury and discover. And little construction vehicles make awesome tire tracks!
Mud Spot – I encourage parents to find a spot in their yard somewhere (can be out of sight!) where it is ok to have the grass fade and dirt live. Give a kid a hose or watering can and a spot of dirt and you’ve got a utopia.
Remember, to us it is an unsightly bald spot – to them it is fairy soup, witches brew, dinosaur pancakes, construction work, dangerous action figure quicksand, Hot Wheels car wash time, and a muddy-footprint-making kit.
It is important for our kids to know that it is ok to get dirty. They are still perfect, whether covered in mud or fresh out of the bath. Our silent, or not-so-silent, disapproval of a messy kid sends the message that their bliss is at best an inconvenience for us…and that we need to quickly restore them to their “right” selves.
Getting dirty and exploring nature through playful abandonment is not only harmless and fun…..it is essential.
So, let’s get messy!!