When it comes to having fun with my kids, my motto is the messier and more daring the better.
Paint. Glitter. Dirt. Dyes. I could make it a full-time job cleaning up after my kids — if I wasn’t so busy playing with them myself.
My husband hasn’t come on board yet, but I fully embrace the art and joy of unrestrained, messy play. The kind of fun where you don’t worry if you mix too much baking soda and vinegar and the foamy mess overflows onto the floors; or the kids decide that painting each other is much more fun that painting the blank sheets of paper I laid out for them.
I’ve been known to set my kids up on the deck outside with every pot, pan and cooking utensil in the house, along with buckets of dirt, leftover cookie sprinkles, flour, water and anything else I can spare for them to concoct their most imaginative play meals.
To my husband’s chagrin, I’ve filled spray bottles with water coloring (discovering washable water color was one of my greatest mom moments ever) and then hung sheets all around the backyard as canvass for their art. Of course, they sprayed each other and the dogs more than the sheets. But then they got to turn the hose on each other, and that’s a whole other level of fun.
One of our favorites activities with my kids is “science time”, when we round up all the clear glass dishes in the kitchen, fill them with water and add a variety of water colors — and then mix them all up until every inch of the kitchen table, floor and ourselves is a rainbow of delight.
I know studies have found that letting your kids get messy is good for them. It encourages creativity, and open-minded thinking; it stimulates their senses and imagination, and it teaches cause-and-effect.
But mostly I do it because it’s fun. I enjoy it as much as my kids do. My mom did, too. She turned us loose in the garden with a running hose to make mud to our heart’s content. I remember one memorable family adventure when my parents bought dozens of cans of shaving cream and we had an epic neighborhood shaving-cream battle.
Kids love to get messy. It comes natural to them. I love seeing the joy in their faces, and hearing the unrestrained laughter. I especially love that all three of them tend to get along better when they are getting dirty.
And I love the mom-kid conspiracy of knowing that Dad would have a heart attack if he saw the mess — so we have to get it all cleaned up before he comes home.
Life’s messy. So I think we might as well have fun with it while we can.