If you’ve seen the look of pure bliss on the face of a 6-year-old splashing in a puddle, you know that a little mess can bring a lot of joy to a kid. The truth is that getting wet or sticky is also a component of healthy development for children.
“Think of messy play as turning on your child’s brain,” says Meghan Fitzgerald, a former elementary-school principal who founded Tinkergarten, an outdoor education program with locations in every state. “When they’re covered in mud, they’re seeing, feeling, hearing, and smelling the mud. All of their senses are activated, and their neurons are lighting up.”
However, if kids are deprived of a chance to get messy, they can have trouble tolerating certain textures, which may contribute to issues like picky eating, says Pittsburgh-based occupational therapist Alisha Grogan. “If a kid isn’t comfortable touching something unfamiliar, they may not want to put it in their mouth either.”
These days, providing kids with the opportunity to get dirty is more important than ever, given that many of them have been sitting in front of screens over the past couple of years explains Jeffrey Hutchinson, M.D., an Austin-based pediatrician and coauthor of the most recent guidelines on play from the American Academy of Pediatrics. “Online play is structured and limited. The brain isn’t picking up those different types of input.”
To get the grandkids started, we offer two full-sensory ways they can make a glorious mess:
With this project, it pays to present the supplies, give a quick how-to, and after that, step aside, and let the kids take the lead because they’ll be pretty excited!
Painter’s drop cloth or a large, flattened cardboard box
Paper (8×11 in. or larger)
Washable tempera paints, preferably in squirt bottles
Cotton cosmetic rounds
Wooden spoons or mallets
-Lay down the drop cloth or cardboard, preferably outdoors, and rest paper on top of it.
-Let the kids squirt a small blob of paint onto a cotton round. Set it on the paper, paint side down.
-Hand them a wooden spoon and have them smash the round, splattering the paint on the paper to create a design that’s splashy, swirly, or just utterly bonkers.
-Experiment with layering colors, changing up the method (squirt the paint on the paper, then put the round on top), and varying the amount of paint and rounds. Kids can pick up the rounds after smashing or leave them as part of the artwork.
Cleanup Tips: Place a bucket filled with water and a sponge nearby. Kids will inevitably splash around, washing their hands, sponging down their arms, and rinsing the spoons.
Press Paper Pulp
Not only will your grandchildren have fun making paper by hand, they’ll learn a bit of botany with these seed-studded wildflower cards. As an added experiment, use different seeds in different papers and see which grows faster.
Packet of wildflower seeds
An old or inexpensive window screen
Cookie cutters (any shape or size)
-Let the grandkids go to town tearing a bunch of the papers into bits. Once you get about 4 cups, add paper pieces to a large bowl; cover with water and soak for an hour.
-Dump wet paper into blender with a little extra water, and blend, adding more water as needed to form a damp, not runny, sludge. Important: an adult needs to handle this step!
-Pour back into the bowl and stir in most of the seeds, setting a few aside for decorating.
-Lay screen on the ground (if indoors, layer a tarp beneath). Place a few cookie cutters on top. —Let your kids grab a handful of paper slop and press it into each cutter until it’s about 1/4 in. thick.
-Have the kids sprinkle reserved seeds and the petals on top of each shape. Let dry on screen, then pop out dried pulp from each cutter; shapes will be paper flowers that can sprout real flowers—just plant each paper in soil, and water.
Cleanup Tips: Washing the blender is another opportunity for learning. (This is a task for an adult only; the kids watch.) To teach kids about a chemical reaction, add 1 cup white vinegar and ¼ cup baking soda to the blender and put on the lid. The explosion of carbon dioxide bubbles will help lift out the gunk. (Just watch out for overflow!)
*Portions of article sourced from: www.parents.com