Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Get Your Hands Messy

I'm not scared of messes. Being a daycare provider I really can't be. I'm not here to worry about messes, I'm here to provide kids with good memories and fun learning experiences in a safe environment. One of my favorite ways to do this is through sensory activities. I've had flour buried into my carpet and I'm still finding beans all over my house a month after taking away that sensory bin. After speaking with hundreds of people at a recent vendor show we were a part of, one thing sticks out in my mind: many parents could stand to loosen up a little.
Read any pediatric journal, parenting magazine, or site and you will find TONS of research and opinions on the recent crisis we are finding our kids in. Not only are we dealing with obesity in children more than ever, we are dealing with behavior and social issues. Everyone has their theories as to why this is happening to our children. I have long thought that this was a result of too much screen time and too many scheduled activities and not enough time just playing. Kids are no longer left to their own devices (not the technical kind). Gone are the days of finding out and experimenting on their own. Kids are no longer allowed to fail and pick themselves back up. In a culture where failure is looked down upon, parents are scared to let their kids fail at even the simplest things.
This is why I love (safe) sensory activities. Kids are allowed to play with it however they see fit. They can eat it and spit it back out when they realize it tastes horrible. They can throw it up in the air and find out what happens when it comes back down (an excellent lesson on gravity). They learn that they can make the biggest mess but must help clean it up. They learn what it feels like in between their hands, toes, or in their hair. They can experiment, they can have good experiences and bad experiences in safe and (semi-controlled) activities. Yet, when this is proposed to parents, I was met with a shocked look and a "but that will make my house messy!"
Loosen it up parents. I'm not saying live in a pig sty (which sometimes I feel my house turns into at the end of the day with 6 kids running around) or to let your children run wild. I'm saying let your kids get their hands messy, get your house messy too (they can help clean it), let them play. Just play. With no interventions or no hearing "eeewww, that's gross. Don't get too messy!" And good lord parents, don't worry if your child's hands have marker on them from coloring or if they get their shirt dirty. Stop worrying about muddy shoes or wet pants from jumping in puddles. A shirt can be cleaned, but memories are only made once. Kids are only kids once. Let them live it, learn from it, and love it. 
Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go vacuum up about a pound of flour "sand."