Someone asked me recently how I found time for so much messy play and it made me think. The messy play we do at home is not a chore for me. It’s often a sanity saver.
The preschooler can be very demanding. He often demands FULL attention from the adult in charge and can get quite upset if I try to turn my focus elsewhere. When the baby first arrived, this behaviour was at a peak. Nappy changes resulted in full blown melt-downs and although he is SO much better with her now, there are still times when he gets upset and clingy. And so does the baby. If the preschooler demands a cuddle, the baby wants one too. If the baby cries the preschooler cries. You get the picture.
I’ve realised that the preschooler needs routine and structure in his day. He likes to know what he is doing, when he is doing it and who he is doing it with. He also needs a full day. If we have an hour or two with nothing planned he becomes restless, demands television and starts to get irritable and fussy. This is why I plan his play.
It might seem strange. I’m not saying that I don’t allow the little ones any freedom to choose how they play during the day. If they wander into the playroom and start to play with the water tray, I don’t whisk them away in favour of what I had in mind instead. We are totally child led round here. But I do need a back up plan if things go awry. It’s no big deal either, nowhere near as involved as the planning I did for school. It’s more a ‘I think we’ll make paint pops today’ (we did!) than a timetable.
And why? What benefit does this have? The kids are engaged, they are focused and they are happy. Many tantrums have been avoided simply by bringing out the Tuff Spot and squirting some paint into the middle of it. Focused activities like messy play, painting and sensory play immediately changes negative situations as quickly as they arise.
And that is how I have the time for messy play every day. Both the preschooler and the baby love the Tuff Spot so much that their tantrums and tears disappear almost as soon as it is laid on the floor and filled with whatever we have planned for that day. And while they are engaged, I am afforded a little peace. That’s why messy play is as much for mums as it is for kids.