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Encouraging Messy Play – Guest Post

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Today I am so thrilled to share a guest post with you. Today’s post is from Olga who blogs at European Mama. I am having a baby next week & will be doing a series of guest posts over the next few weeks. I am so grateful for all of these wonderful bloggers willing to help me out during this time in my life. I want to keep the blog up and running while I take a little bit of a break with my little one! Thanks, Olga!!

My firstborn daughter loves running, jumping, climbing and swinging. She also loves playing with mud, painting with her hands, kneading dough, getting herself wet. In short, she loves messy play, the messier, the better.

Encouraging Messy Play 1

My little girl, however, likes to stay clean. She is sensitive and doesn’t like messy play. Paint or mud on her hands upsets her and it is visible how much she wants to get it off. I understand that because some things just don’t feel right to me as well.  On the other hand, messy play is important for a child, and there are ways to gently encourage your child to at least give it a try. Here are some tips that worked for me:

Encourage but don’t push

A very good advice for encouraging picky eaters to enjoy a wider variety of foods is to offer new meals several times but never push, beg, punish or shame your child for not wanting to eat certain foods. The same approach can be used in encouraging your child to try out more using toys and supplies that are messy.

Don’t compare

I never compare my little girl who doesn’t like messy play with her big sister who loves it. In fact, I try not to compare my children at all because this is never a good idea. If you compare one child to another, you send the message that there is something wrong with one child. But there is nothing wrong with my girl for not wanting to engage in messy play. But allow your other child to be messy and maybe the brother or sister will join!

Make it feel fun and natural

If you start preparing everything for your “messy play project” and tell your child: “look, we’re going to do some messy play” and except him or her to cooperate, that’s probably not going to work. Instead, make it natural. At home, you can do several things that are messy: for example cooking or baking. Don’t treat it as a messy play project; instead involve him or her in the baking process. I let my little girl crack eggs, knead dough, add flour, etc.- she enjoys it and has a chance to get messy, too!

See what textures your child likes and use those

Encouraging Messy Play 3Some children enjoy some messy plays but not others. For example some love Playdough but not hand painting. It is OK to let your child do what she feels like doing. Try out different things and I am sure you will come up with some messy activities your child loves.

Wait it out

A while ago, my daughter wouldn’t touch sand or grass with her feet. Now she could play in the sand for hours and loves walking on grass! I don’t think we did anything to change that. I believe she just learned to enjoy the new textures. We kept suggesting, encouraging, and this helped, but I think no encouragement from us would make her touch new things if she didn’t want to do it on her own.

Encouraging Messy Play 2

Accept them the way they are

Sometimes, with all the effort you put into encouraging your child to love messy play, it just doesn’t work. Sometimes, the child just doesn’t like a certaincraft project because it feels gross to him or her. Sometimes, the child will grow out of it. And sometimes, they won’t and that’s perfectly fine! Also, think of all the benefits of having a child who loves being clean: less laundry, less cleaning up- isn’t that great! As adults, they may be likely to be very organized- a trait I always admire in people!

All children are different and like different things. Some children love messy play, others never will. It never hurts to try to expose your child to different experiences, though! Just remember that your child doesn’t have to end up liking everything you expose him or her to.

Olga Mecking is a Polish woman, living in the Netherlands with her German husband. Her blog, the European Mama is about raising children with multiple languages, living abroad and parenting. You can find her on Facebook , Twitter , Pinterest () and Instagram.

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