The OCD in me doesn’t like mess. And I am sure most parents do not like it too. A psychologist reckons that the huge underlying reason parents give their kids digital devices is because they are mess-free! But I remember growing up, I never saw playing as a messy affair. All I remember was it was fun to discover, to explore and to create. So I’m trying to change my attitude toward messy play. I tell myself they love it, they are having fun, its helping them to learn and mess can be cleaned. Mess can be cleaned, mess can be cleaned – a mantra I repeat to myself over and over like a spoilt record player.
So today we did some sensory play and I made for them baby friendly cloud dough. Cloud dough is made up of 8 cups of all purpose flour and 1 cup of vegetable oil. Some mothers add powder paint for colourful cloud dough, others like to add scented oil for a lovely smell. It was a cinch to make. Totally idiot-proof recipe. When I was preparing it and running my hands through the cloud dough, I loved the feeling too. I could tell my toddler was really excited about what I was doing once she saw I started adding some Play Doh moulds, a spade and some cups to the container (previously used for bathing newborns) of cloud dough.
I laid out an oversize mat in the living room and placed the container there and everyone immediately came scrambling over and wasted no time to touch and taste the cloud dough. Two of the triplets immediately found it tasted awful so they stopped trying to taste it, but one of them kept tasting it until she was satisfied it was not meant for eating. My toddler clearly made full use of the cloud dough. She made shapes with the dough using the moulds, scooped the dough into a bucket, scooped the dough in her hands and let it fall freely, stepped on the dough and so on and so forth. The babies were more like, “What the hell is this thing? Its taste so bad but it feels so guuuud.” They were busy picking up the flour and throwing it on themselves. Sigh. Mess. Mess can be cleaned, I repeated to myself again.
The activity exhausted them. The triplets had enough after thirty minutes of playing. I didn’t even need to give them a bathe, just simply rinsed their faces, hands and feet at the sink. Livia continued to play for another hour and then when she was completely covered in cloud dough came to me and said, “Want bathe.” That was my cue to start cleaning up. I would say cloud dough was fairly easy to clean since water wiped away trace marks and those clumps could be vacuumed. So my worry about mess and cleaning up was overexaggerated. Tomorrow we might try Yoghurt finger paint, now that I am emboldened by this positive cloud dough experience.
Later in the evening, I also let the triplets eat purple dragonfruit. And they looked like they murdered someone and ate him. I figured I was going to bathe them so might as well let them have fun digging in. The dragonfruit mess was a lot more difficult to clean because the purple stains got everywhere! But it was not impossible to clean, just a little bit more work. After their bath, I also did exploring kitchen play, where I took out my baking equipment like my measuring cups, spatula, whisk, beaker, etc. for them to play with. I figured it was quiet and mess-free, and less stimulating allowing them to calm down for bedtime.
Maybe I had energy today so I could see mess in a more positive light. I don’t think I will react with such great attitude if I had a tired, frustrating day. Accepting mess is an ongoing process. The good thing is the older they grow, the better their motor skills, and the less mess they make and by the time they are two, they can even help clean.