The Dough Boys

Yesterday I happened across a photo in my feed that caught my attention. It was a picture of a toddler outfit, stained and sopping wet, hanging over the side of a bathtub.
Our scene is often similar, and sometimes even extends all the way to the banister on our front porch depending on the day's activities like a celebratory flag letting our neighbors know life has happened in our home today. 
So it wasn't the photo that caught me so much, but actually the caption. It declared a sincere frustration that the nanny had allowed the child to spoil another outfit in "filthy" play. Wait. What?

Is there any other way for children to fully engage in their world? What is learning if not the soaking in of lessons about the world around us with our minds and bodies fully engaged? And finally--and please, parents out there, correct me if I'm wrong here--aren't toddlers the only people on the PLANET that can find a way to completely obliterate the most seemingly benign of snacks or articles? Everything is messy for them. How else can I explain the transformation of the tiny snack cup of Cheerios into the new taupe color dusted across the entire house? Or the way that one piece of newspaper print to buy me exactly four minutes and seventeen seconds of quiet turns into a paper mache nightmare plastered against the front window? Once outgrown, most of us never get back to that stage of fully engaged learning again... Those activities are priceless and so, SO important, not to mention almost entirely unavoidable with young children.

Now, I don't dare call myself an expert for fear of appearing to be on a shaky soapbox or anything, but according to my education and experience as, ahem, an EDUCATOR, I have to say I think it's a damn shame we don't get dirty more often. People retain, demonstrate, and build on skills learned experientially at a higher rate than those attained through other means. Plus, dirt is good for kids. Like really, really good for them. I can understand frustration at the clothes being trashed by someone who doesn't have to pay for or launder them though, and offer this simple solution: Hit a thrift store and designate $10 worth of play duds as exactly that. Problem solved. Messy play ensues and the child is freed from oppression brought on by clothes he or she didn't select for themselves in the first place!

Nothing but bliss.
Stomping together.
In honor of the Always Clean Kid, I made sure my kids got extra messy yesterday. We began with a muddy, mucky, throwing-rocks-and-ourselves in the puddles walk up to Birch's Dirt Kingdom (several piles of landscaping materials at the edge of the devel-opment up the road). Then Birch and Aspen played with dirt and rocks and sticks and decomposing leaves and sand and pebbles and bark and garden soil for an hour. Watching them fully engage with the world is a gateway to unfiltered joy.  

I polled readers on their favorite messy activities to do with their preschoolers, and a friend suggested flour and trucks in the dry tub. This sounded like an awesome way to follow up the outdoor play, so after peeling the sticky layers off the boys we headed into the bathroom with a selection of cooking utensils and a full bag of flour.

They had a blast! After over an hour of naked flour chef play (what?) I swept out 2/3 of the flour and added some water, and the Dough Boys continued to enjoy the sticky mess for another hour.
This eventually morphed into showers to wash the bread out of their hair, cracks, and crevices, and was then capped by a relaxing bath and simple water play. Incredible.
All in all we spent about .30 and got four hours of awesome sensory goodness. The cleanup was easy to boot. I used a simple homemade cleaner on the tub to clear any crusty remnants and to ensure total clearance of the drain. I'll post the recipe later this week.

How are YOU getting messy with the children in your life today?        

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