I came across an interesting conversation today while visiting Starbucks for my favorite Venti Frappuccino for my birthday. I had my 18 month old in my arms with a “pupaccino” in her hands eating the whip cream out of this adorable little Starbucks cup (because you know the Starbucks addicts start our kids early haha) as I waited for my drink to get done. A young lady mentioned that I was a cool mom for getting my 18 month old daughter a “pupaccino” and not freaking out that she was covered in it. It honestly didn’t even occur to me that she was rubbing it all over her face, hair, and shirt until she mentioned it. I just didn’t have a problem with my child being dirty because baby wipes or baths fix everything! However, in teaching classes over the past year in a small town, I have come to realize that many parents in more affluent families do not want their children getting dirty. It has become a sort of bad word to talk about crafts or sensory play that may make Johnny or Susie’s clothes a mess. I find this to be very sad because some of the best learning is done during play, especially messy play. Do you remember going out and making mud pies and finding worms (and possibly eating said worms?)? Well, congratulations, you made it to adulthood and your children will make it too, but they need the natural stimulation of play to help them develop to the best of their ability. I myself was very intimidated by the mess my house could quickly become with sensory play or digging in the dirt, however, there are ways to make things easier to clean up. Here are a few ideas on how to get started in Sensory and outdoor play without spending hours cleaning up after it. Once you have tried a few, I am certain you will see the benefit as well as how to handle the mess without ruining you carpet.
When introducing your child to having shaving cream, paint, or other messy play start in the bathtub.
-There are so many fun things you can do in the bathtub with and without water present, one of these is shaving cream. My daughter loves to spread it around and draw pictures in it. We write her name and different numbers and shapes as well. This gives me an opportunity to explain shapes and early writing skills as well as gives her a sensory activity to do while we clean her up. It’s a win-win because she gets to play and she gets clean!!! You can do this activity with or without water, we tend to use water so we can watch the shaving cream dissipate as well. You can read more about shaving cream ideas here.
-Homemade paint is a great bathtub activity because you can use many different ingredients (which is wonderful if you or your child has an allergy) and many of these recipes are edible (so if someone wants to take a taste it is not the end of the world!). You can see activities and recipes for homemade paint here. Grab a few cheap paintbrushes and your homemade paint and let your little ones paint with or without water and when you’re all done wash it away!
Try a sensory table you can put outside.
-Many places such as Target and Walmart make water tables that you can put many different sensory items into. Try using rice and beans out on the porch for a fun sensory experience and then when you are done sweep it up and throw it away! No messy kitchen needed!
Use a bucket inside of a bucket to keep items contained.
This is great for sand! Living in Colorado where the weather changes like a woman who is PMSing I never know when I can take the littles outside, but this method keeps everything contained and off my carpet! Just place your sensory bin into a bigger bin that gives you about 2”-3” of space on all sides and set your little one in the small bin. That way if a bit of sand gets thrown out it will still be contained and easily put back where it belongs. Click here to see some great ideas for sand play!
Put paint into a bag
Sometimes getting in any mess is not something that needs to happen like when you have a really little one who sticks EVERYTHING in their mouth. Get a gallon sized Ziplock bag, squirt a few colors that will not turn brown or black into the bag, zip AND tape it shut, and then tape it to your floor or highchair for baby to mush around. The reason I say colors that will not turn brown is because it turns brown fast! Use primary colors such as blue and yellow and then you have a teaching moment to talk about how the colors made green. Look at some other ideas here.
Put a drop cloth or painters plastic down.
Finally, you can always use a drop cloth or painters plastic to cover up the space you need kept clean. My one advise on this, however, is if you have a toddler make sure they are somewhat contained or you are in arms reach because if you have a runner like me, your not so messy, messy project will be all over your house. This will make for a lot of clean up, but you will also see a lot of smiles and giggles as you chase your child around the house. So mess for memories.
Do you have any great photos of a #messformemories with your child? I would love to see them and here your story because life is messy and sometimes you just have to #YOLO
P.S. Want a great Sensory activity you can do right now with no mess (or while you clean the mess)? Check out our Finding Nemo inspired Sensory Bin for those moments when a mess is just too much!