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Why Messy Art Play Matters

Since we can't go out much these days, try messy art play at home this week

I started The Doodlery back in 2018 for a few reasons. I wanted to create a space where 1. kids could freely create and play however they choose and 2. where parents didn't need to clean up after their kids.

I've met so many parents throughout the last few years who hate messes, but understand the value in it for kids. Getting messy can be super annoying since us parents are usually the ones stuck cleaning it up. However frustrating this can be, messy art play is not only fun for kids, but there are great developmental benefits of it. It can definitely become less of a hassle if it's well planned and thought through.

There is a video of Neil Degrasse Tyson talking about the importance of letting kids experiment and explore. He talks about how something as simple as cracking an egg can be an awesome science experiment for a kid, but adults often get in the way of this because we want to keep the house in order. How often do we tell our kids to stop making a mess because we don't want to clean up? I am definitely guilty of this. Sometimes I just don't want to clean up for the 238234th time!

As frustrating as clean up can be, messes are an important part of childhood. Messy play doesn't necessarily equate to getting out of control and wasting supplies. Your environment can controlled for the activity to be messy. Each lesson we create at the art studio is carefully planned and prepped so clean up isn't too much of a hassle.

Ways to Contain The Mess

1. Canvas drop cloths and towels
2. Low clear storage bins (IKEA SAMLA bin is my favorite)
3. IKEA Flisat table

I want you to think about your own relationship to messes. Think back to your childhood: were messes discouraged or encouraged in your home? Messes can trigger an instant reaction for many people. If your kid is getting into paint and it gets all over their clothes, hands & face, what is your immediate reaction? Run to the sink? Let them continue? Messes are something we can control, especially during a period of our lives where we can't control much. Whatever your feelings are towards messes, they are valid and important.

I am a definitely messy person. My parents never were too bothered with mess making. We were always doing some art project and our house was a happy mess. Yes I do love a tidy home, but I'm not one to continually pick up after my family. It's a never ending job that is stresses me out so I've learned to just let it be and pick up when I can. I am the queen of shoving things into closets and drawers never to be found again!

I challenge you to set up a time and place this week for designated messy play

It could be in the kitchen where the floors are easy to clean up or outside, weather permitting. You don't need fancy sensory tables or toys. Just grab some scrub brushes, plastic animals or dolls, cups, shaving cream and toss into a plastic bin. Kids will know what to do. If you want to get real crazy, throw some water in there or better yet, do it in the bath tub!

What does the research say about messy play? Check out this awesome resource for more details. (Source: National Centers on Early Childhood Development Teaching and Learning )

  • Children who explore with their senses learn physical principles more quickly. This is especially important for infants and toddlers, who must learn foundational skills upon which more complex learning is built. Research demonstrates that early visual and motor skills are related to later math and language skills. Simple activities, like playing with playdough or shredding paper, build fine and gross motor skills. But they also support learning related to cause and effect, number sense, and other important cognitive skills.

  • Open-ended activities like pouring sand or water, smearing foam, and making patterns with loose parts provide children with opportunities to experiment at their own developmental level and pace. Allowing children to direct their own exploration this way leads to superior learning. Research also shows that responsive adults improve children’s learning through exploration.

  • Messy play harnesses children’s spontaneous exploration to help them learn. Children develop curiosity, initiative, focus and persistence through messy play. These are foundational skills in the ‘Approaches to Learning’ domain of ELOF (early learning outcomes framework), which identifies learning strategies. Messy play activities develop children’s autonomy and provide safe environments in which to practice these crucial learning skills.

Next time you prepare a messy activity, observe how you and your child reacts to the mess. Sit with your immediate reaction, breathe through it, then focus on the joyful moment of childhood wonder. No matter how many times I do a messy activity, I'm always amazed by how much fun kids have.

If you need some fun messy art play ideas, check out our new Doodlers Art Club for monthly sensory and process art lessons for ages 18 months-7yrs. The activities are easy to follow, great for home and classroom use & come with book recommendations and National Core Standards. It's all of our favorite activities from the art studio bundled together for any family to use.

Have a great week!



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