Learning Through Play: Why Stress About The Mess?

I was recently saddened to overhear a mum say she refused to let her son feed himself because he made too much mess and it was just too much hassle to clean up after him. Now, if you are concerned about the mess a 7 month old makes when eating then how on earth will you cope with a toddler wielding a dripping paintbrush through the house or (god forbid) a permanent marker? How will you deal with your child splashing about in puddles or making mud pies in the garden? How will you react when your little one arrives home from school looking a little less pristine then when you dropped them off?

It got me thinking about the few times where I, or my teaching colleagues, received complaints about sending children home a little bit messy. Maybe they had dried paint on their shoes (yes they wore aprons and yes, they took off their jumpers) or a pen mark on their t-shirt or some playdough stuck to their trousers. These things happen – they are children! I’m afraid I’ve seen parents tutting at the mud kitchen, turning their noses up at the sandpit, moaning because their child got a little wet after dancing gleefully in the rain (yes they wore wellies and yes, they put raincoats on).

All these activities aid healthy development and play a huge role in how children learn about the world. And yet you get the occasional parents who complain about the fact their little one is partaking in such activities when you, the teacher, have clearly failed to teach them how to read and write (hardly surprisingly considering the child is but four years old).

As apologies were dished out and explanations were given as to the importance of learning through play, I would stand there wondering what all the fuss was about. The worse case scenario was that the child would need a bath and their clothes would need to visit the Vanish fairy before taking a trip to the washer. I’m guessing it’s wise to invest in more than just one set of school uniform…? Anyway, the conversations usually ended with a muttering of ‘just you wait until you have kids…’

Well I am now a mummy too and when I recently went to pick bub up from nursery, he was looking a bit worse for wear. A member of staff came running over and began apologising profusely about the state he was in – she had obviously been on the receiving end of parental wrath at some point. So, they had been painting, it had ended up all over Oshi, they’d tried their best to clean him but he had run out of spare clothes and it was still under his fingernails but I wasn’t to worry because it would wash off.

Once I could get a word in edgeways did I rant about how busy my life was? How I resent the amount of time I spend loading and unloading and reloading the washing machine? How the nursery staff should hover over little ones during such activities or, better yet, not let them do the activity? Or how my son’s clothes are designer so how dare the nursery let them get dirty? (They are mostly TU by Sainsburies by the way). No, I simply smiled and shrugged – she looked incredibly relieved when I replied that this look is the norm in our house. It’s just life when you have a child – a mucky, chaotic, mess filled life!

So, I’m afraid I don’t understand why some parents find it difficult to just let their children be children. They are already forced into growing up too quickly with our increasingly fast paced lives and exposure to various media influences. The recent SATS debacle is just one example of the pressure being placed on children by a test driven education system; it is clearly resulting in unhappy and unhealthy individuals. Childhood pursuit of pure organic fun is being placed on the backburner and there’s little room for imaginative play, creativity and mess making in life. Surely muckiness is a rite of passage for children?

So please don’t be adverse to messy play – make time for it. Put the tablet down. Switch your phone to silent. Let your child miss one of the five weekly structured after school classes they attend. Pull on some scruffy clothes and embrace your inner child with your child.

And if you absolutely abhor mess and the sight of glitter or sequins makes you want to scratch your eyes out then I can only encourage you to take a look at this website http://plainvanillamom.com/2014/03/surviving-messy-play.html.  It shows that, with a bit of organisation and ingenuity, there are ways you can embrace messy play that leave behind a little less mess.

 

 

 

 

Diary of an imperfect mum
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32 thoughts on “Learning Through Play: Why Stress About The Mess?

  1. justsayingmum says:

    well said! wholeheartedly agree – let children be children and, as you say, let your inner child free too! Love the photos – your child is having the best childhood – well done you! #ablogginggoodtime

    Liked by 1 person

    • bubsonboard says:

      Thank you 🙂 I was worried about being a bit ranty but I think it’s an important issue. Aww, well we do have days that are a struggle and mesd is not wanted but we do try do to our best by him! TY for commenting

      Liked by 1 person

  2. motherhermit25 says:

    Yep- I totally agree- well said! I’ve heard many parents at our toddler groups say that they don’t let their little ones have any type of messy play at home because they’re terrified of the mess and how angry they are that kids are sent home from school covered in mess. I personally think that’s a pretty silly attitude to have when you have kids. Children learn through play and they need to be messy to explore! My little girl was painting balloons at nursery last week and it popped- paint everywhere- her clothes, face, hair and the key worker couldn’t apologise enough. I couldn’t help but laugh! I do 3 loads of washing per day and she goes in the bath every night- it’s nothing new to me! And I absolutely love joining in with the mess! Xx #ablogginggoodtime

    Liked by 1 person

    • bubsonboard says:

      Exactly! It is an inevitable part of having kids and one parents should be willing to accept and deal with. That’s a real shame for the little ones in you’re toddler group though, I really think schools need to do more to emphasis the importance of play based learning, as I know of parents who won’t do it and parents who don’t know how. Haha, the balloon popping made me giggle. ..I imagine it was quite a funny sight! Might have to give painting one a go with my bub! Thank you for commenting X ☺

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  3. jermbarnes says:

    I’ll admit that I am guilty of this a little bit. I’ve obviously had to let go of some of that as a parent, but those pictures make me cringe. Somehow I ended up with a kid who needs to jump in every muddy puddle that we come across. I blame Peppa Pig. #blogginggoodtime

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    • bubsonboard says:

      That’s fair enough, I’m not the tidiest person in the world and no matter how I try to keep my classroom tidy, the kids always make a mess… maybe I’ve become so accustomed to mess that it’s just easy for me to overlook?! Saying that, it only takes me 10 minutes to clean up bub and the messy area after we do these activities…when he is older he will do the clearing up himself! Ah well, at least your little one has chosen an activity where the mess can mostly stay outside!

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  4. Liz Lowe says:

    Yep! Great post. I remember my daughter’s first day at nursery and her coming back messy after I’d put nice new clothes on her. I realised immediately what an idiot I was and that she goes there to learn and play, not to look pretty! Well said. #ablogginggoodtime

    Liked by 1 person

  5. babiesbiscuitsandbooze says:

    Apologies if you get this twice I don’t know if the first one worked. I can’t imagine a parent who doesn’t expect their child to get messy – seems ridiculous! Messy play is so much fun for everyone and important for development as you say. Oh and don’t get me started on SATs, those poor kids. Love your pictures, looks like your little boy is having the best time! #ablogginggoodtime

    Liked by 1 person

    • bubsonboard says:

      It is strange, all the children I know seem to attract muck and chaos so I don’t know how parents can expect them to be otherwise! Everyone has days where it’s just too much effort to allow the mess – like today, we were quite busy so we settled for water play instead…simple but fun. TY for commenting!

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  6. An imperfect Mum (@animperfectmum) says:

    Hurray – brilliantly said! Couldn’t agree more and as a teacher i have been on the receiving end of this kind of disapproval. Bloody ridiculous as you said, let kids be kids and learning through play, fun and enjoyment it the best way, end of. I won;t get started not he SATs… TY for linking up to #ablogginggoodtime 🎉

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Rachel (Lifeofmyfamilyandme) says:

    I used to purposefully put my children in cheap clothes that they were out growing at nursery just because i knew that playtime is messy! I would much rather see them dirty and happy than clean and quiet! My 5 year old loves the mud kitchen at School – not sure my washing machine does though lol! #ablogginggoodtime

    Liked by 1 person

    • bubsonboard says:

      Ditto! My poor bub sometimes goes in wearing trousers that are a bit too short – I feel he won’t let me get away with this when he is older! TY for commenting ☺

      Like

  8. optrixxaris1 says:

    I love being creative and would love to see my little one play with paint. My worry is more concerned with what paint would be appropriate for mark making with a one year old. Thanks for the link I’ll check it out. #ablogginggoodtime

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Back With A Bump says:

    I openly admit I’m a bit OCD and very houseproud BUT kids need to make mess and explore. When my eldest was little that meant we’d cover the kitchen table in a plastic sheet so she could make as much mess with Play Doh or paint or baking. This time round with the tiny one will be no different. It’s how kids learn and explore through messy play or trying new food…and of course we have to taken photos purely to embarrass them with later! #marvmondays

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  10. Kaye says:

    Our nursery actually let us know to put them in total rubbish as there’s LOTS of messy play and I’m glad too. I’m not the best at home as I’m not particularly creative, but I really don’t mind A getting stuck in, much prefer that to sitting on the tablet or TV! Thanks for linking to #MarvMondays. Kaye xo

    Liked by 1 person

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    • bubsonboard says:

      Haha, my best days as a teacher are the ones where we all leave with glitter on our face, paint splattered on our clothes and big grins on our faces from all the fun we’ve had learning! 😊

      Like

  12. mudpiefridays says:

    Oh I couldn’t agree more!! Monkey loves playing outside in the mud kitchen at nursery and is often head to toe in the bad weathet! If somethings going to be really messy at home then we do it outside of not the kitchen floor :). We also have a set of clothes for nursery that we don’t mind being knackered. It’s brought him on leaps and bounds. #MarvMondays xx

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  13. bubsonboard says:

    I find the outside or bathtub are a great choice for messy play – I do tend to sigh and wonder what I was thinking when we play with cloud dough or some other messy substance in the house! I have to say that I’ve seen a big difference in the abilities of little ones who engage in lots of messy play and those who stick to the plastic toys but each parent to their own… ☺

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  14. Sarah | Digital Motherhood says:

    Sorry but your photos make me itch! Lol I can’t stand that amount of mess, and I just don’t think that it’s necessary to make that much mess. My daughter is now 5 and enjoyed painting, colouring, playdoh, splashing in puddles etc when she was smaller and still does – making her paint at the table that has a table cloth on it rather than painting all over the floor doesn’t make me a bad mum! Each to their own and all that.

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  15. bubsonboard says:

    Fair enough! I do think it’s easier to do relatively ‘mess free’ play once a child understands that they shouldn’t walk away from the table with mucky hands and touch the furniture and walls. At 14 months, my little one is not quite there! I don’t want to have him sitting in a highchair all the time, as I feel that defeats the whole point of exploring and experimenting with messy play. I’ve tried the paddling pool and shower curtain method but that just produces more washing up – that’s why most of the photos here are taken on the outside terrace where a bowl of water can quickly wash it all away! When he is older, and more coordinated, there will be tablecloths, aprons, big plastic containers and sheets of paper to paint on (as there is with my year one class). What I object to and find difficult to understand is parents who don’t let their little ones engage in any form of messy play and who,despite efforts made to minimise mess in school/nursery, can’t accept that accidents happen. When you have kids,mess will be inevitable at some point whether by accident or design – consequently, there’s no need to have an unreasonable attitude towards the smallest splodge of paint on clothes or some soaking wet clothes.

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