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Getting Messy… An Important Part of Development

How do I wash “mud puddle” out of my kid’s white socks?

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Getting messy is part of being a child and figuring out how to navigate through life.

Stained clothing, messy hair, ripped jeans, and one shoe missing… If you saw this child, you may think that something awful happened at first glance, but the gigantic smile on his face tells a different story. Most kids love to be messy and a willingness to be messy is a critical part of daily exploration – it is a parent’s job to encourage and enhance natural curiosity within their child, even if it means allowing your child’s favorite t-shirt to be swallowed up by the biggest mud puddle you have ever seen!

Life is messy! So how can we deal with it?

Some kiddos are hands-on learners that are always elbow deep in their learning and play environment, but others prefer a more distant approach to learning. There is nothing wrong with observational learning, but there is truly no substitute for just giving something a try. For example, if your child is interested in play dough, but doesn’t want to touch it and only likes when others play with it… ask yourself why? What about play dough is interesting your child, but also deterring them from playing with it at the same time? Attempt to introduce the play dough slowly at small intervals of time. Start out by allowing your child to watch you play with the play dough – have fun, make it clear that the toy is creating an enjoyable experience for you. Next time you play, place a small amount of play dough in front of your child and just leave it there. Use this second step as an opportunity to see if your child will spontaneously reach for the play dough. If not, don’t be discouraged – just add another step of encouragement! Try lightly pressing the play dough into your child’s hand, watch their response, is it positive or negative? Do they recoil or just stay still – if they stay still we are making progress! The goal is for the child to desire to play with the item they are interested in, in this case the play dough. Continue trying to introduce and encourage the play dough in varied ways until the child starts to be physically involved in the activity – remember, there is no right or wrong way to do this, the only way to fail is to do nothing… so, you reading this blog is already a step towards doing something – small steps matter, don’t discount them.

There are many potential ways to enhance your child’s curiosity – try anything and everything you can to open the world up to your child. Just keep encouraging your child to explore their world and the things that seem to be interesting to them – encourage the concept of “you never know until you try.”

Life is messy, kids can be messy and that is okay. The next time you see your child covered in a gloppy mess, take a deep breath, smile, and make a game out of clean up time, because getting messy doesn’t have to be the only fun part!

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