There’s something about kids and getting dirty. It’s almost like they want to do it only because us parents say ‘No!’ These young brats love getting dirty. Hand a toddler a marker, and s/he will painstakingly colour their entire hand blue. Then will insist on washing her hands for 30 minutes! That’s the beauty of childhood, I guess.
And somewhere as the world has continued to transcend, so have the lives of kids. Not because they chose it but because the new parenting breed (read you and me here) are so flipped out about the zillions of newly discovered health threats that we have begun to cocoon our kids into deprivation!
Sure, infectious diseases are a legitimate cause of concern but somewhere I want to ensure that I don’t go overboard when shielding my kids for the cause of ‘what-might-happen.’ I’m the kind of mom who sticks to routines, likes to maintain order and loves clean kids. But I’m also the kind of mom who would let her kids go and play in that huge mountain of sand in the neighbourhood or let them climb the trees and get all soaked in dust or splash in a puddle of water. Messy play time for kids is an instant mood booster and comes packed with benefits that my paediatrician says can be replaced by none another!
So what are the benefits of playing messy?
Have you ever joined your kids in splashing big messy puddles at the farm? If not, then you probably have no idea what I’m talking about! Playing with muck and sand is almost like a primeval instinct with the kids. The kids laugh, yell, and squeal with such pleasure as they get themselves dirty, it’s almost their favourite thing!
Developing the immune system
Many experts believe playing in dirt - especially as a baby - helps protect a young child against autoimmune disorders, allergies, and asthma. Their developing immune systems are exposed to a greater variety of bacteria than those of their cleaner counterparts, so they can cope better when germs are encountered later in life.
Inspiring creativity and imagination
A child’s creativity knows no barriers. I have seen my son use mud to create elaborate imaginative play scenes - like pretending he’s at a construction site or creating a mud-cake for the pixies and gnomes. This stimulates creativity and also creates opportunities that incorporate positive social interactions.
Young children need a lot of sensory input. This is why playing with water, swimming, dirt, and mud can entertain children for hours. When I sit down to play with them, I get sucked in too! I try to encourage as much outside play as possible. Often I sit with the kids and draw in the sand. It’s amazing how many minutes go by while in a sand daze.
Teaching cause and effect
As adults, we know that adding water to dirt creates muck. But for toddlers, this is something that they would see and experience thereby making relevant connection. Messy play creates wonderful opportunities for science learning. So dear moms, let go and allow your child a little self-discovery!
Working on motor skills
Kids take this kind of play and outdoor activities very seriously! Whether children are forming, building, rolling or filling up and dumping dirt out of their toys, they are working on grip and hand strength all this time. This is a workout for all their fine motors and gross motor skills.
They’re also squatting, bending, and lifting as they dig. I cannot think of a better way in which they get to exercise their minds and bodies!
It’s a great way to ditch screen time!
Messy play is an all-time favourite and the kids never say no to it. So on days of extended holidays when the screen time is getting overwhelming, it’s a great idea to haul them outside for some messy activities!
The mess is not permanent
I think one of the reasons people don’t let their children get messy is because of the fear of ruining clothes. Solution: Don’t buy expensive clothes or keep a good laundry system in your house. Stains, rips, or tares don’t matter to me. On account of clothes and shoes, I have never felt compelled to keep my kids away from messy play nor will I feel compelled to chase them asking them to stop!
In fact, let’s take this as an inspiration to stock up on some old, not-so-precious clothes and go get dirty and messy!
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