Easy Ways to Accept (and Encourage!) Kids' Messes

Even parents of the most rambunctious children feel self-imposed pressure to keep their homes tidy. But experts say that a bit of mess can lead to leaps of creativity in children. Here are simple ways to embrace -- and even encourage -- kids' creative messes.

Why Messes Matter

Yellow and Green Paint

We all want to raise creative, out-of-the-box thinkers. But in order to get started, we sometimes need to let kids dump those boxes on the floor -- and strew the contents throughout the house. And that, of course, can be hard on moms and dads who are trying (often through gritted teeth) to keep some semblance of order to their homes.

What Messes Mean

But experts tell us that those fistfuls of noodles against the wall and upended containers of glitter are actually crucial discovery times for children.

We've all seen toddlers in high chairs throw their cup on the ground and expect Mom or Dad to pick it up. And when they get the cup back, it's only seconds before they throw it back down -- and this time, the lid to the cup falls off, and juice is everywhere.

While games like these may exasperate Mom, this really is a learning time for kids -- they're beginning to understand cause and effect, and that they can attract attention to make themselves part of situations -- it's a way for them to assert this feeling of "I matter!"

Many times, dumped toy boxes and rolls of toilet paper that are now unrolled on your bathroom floor are kids' own tests of how strong or smart or creative they are. And sure, these actions are sometime ways to test Mom and Dad's patience, too, but that's also an important time of self-awareness. Some kids learn and begin to accept limits best once they've pushed (or, crossed) them. Unfortunately, sometimes it takes a few mud pies in the living room to learn that.

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