How to Embrace the Mess

This week we’re talking about ways that we can inspire creativity, imagination and innovation in our kids, but we know that for some parents, the biggest stumbling block is the potential mess that creativity brings.

One of our taglines  is “parenting with the end end result in mind,” and building creativity is one of the things that requires us keep our eyes on the results and not worry so much about the process. The end result of fostering creativity is worth it. You are raising imaginative kids who will one day be problem solvers. They need this time to develop the brain function that it will take to become that, but often, the process is messy.

Don’t tell yourself the lie that your kids can get all the creative training they need in school. They don’t have the freedom in school to spend unlimited time and explore and make mistakes and let their imagination run wild.

Instead, let your kids indulge in manageable messes.

  • Let them break eggs once in a while to see what’s inside and to play with it.
  • Let them draw all over the sidewalk and driveway with colored chalk.
  • Let them make mud pies.
  • Let them line your window sills with sprouting plants.
  • Let them cut up old clothes and make new fashions.

Let them do just about anything that’s not dangerous and is not going to destroy something important. Just make sure you include them in the cleanup process.

Designate Creative Spaces

Give each kid their own cookie sheet. They can do art on the cookie sheet, leave the work to dry, and then clean it in between uses.

Keep newspaper near art supplies, and make the rule that no art happens without a covered surface.

Designate good clothes and messy clothes, and let them do just about anything in the messy clothes.

Designate a nail brush solely for messy cleanup and teach your kids to scrub their nails when they’re doing being creative.

Have a folding table with sheets and towels designated specifically for protecting surfaces during messy play.

Set a large tote filled with soapy water just outside the door with rag towels nearby so kids can wash off outside before coming in. If you anticipate that their clothes will be dirty, put another tote out with clean clothes so kids can take off dirty clothes, wash up, put the new ones on and leave the dirty clothes in the bin. That way they won’t track the mess into the house.

My dear friend Chastity lives in the northeast where it snows. After snow play, she puts a tote by the front door and has kids strip in the entryway and put their wet stuff in the tote, so they don’t track the snow into the house.

The bottom line is that we have to give our kids freedom to play, get dirty, make messes, experiment, explore and make mistakes, but there are ways we can do it without harm to the kids or to the house.

Sometimes it’s actually the kid who has the mess aversion. In that case it’s usually a tactile defensiveness. A Sensory Diet can help.

But whether it is you or the kid who avoids the mess, find ways to push through. When it comes to creativity, the ends often justify the means.

 

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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