Maximum Madness in Minimal Time
With a baby and a toddler in the house, I sometimes wonder if there is any purpose in organizing, mopping, decluttering or cleaning at all. Sometimes the mere thought of getting out of bed in the morning and embarking upon the mess that was never tidied from the night before is enough to make this mama cray cray! The minute a toy is put away or a spill is cleaned, another magically appears. The messiness can get so bad, in fact, I sometimes think my kids are purposely trying to drive me to the looney bin. I constantly have to remind myself that they are simply discovering their world in a creative way, by delving into surroundings with sheer gusto, and that makes lots of clean-up work for all. Combine this curiosity with their immense desire to do things on their own, I just count on lots of mishaps. It’s a constant balancing act at our house of allowing photo-worthy mess and incredible creativity, and redirecting the tiny tornadoes that are my children.
Below you’ll find the messes that I allow, and the reasoning behind the mayhem.
1. The Mad Librarian
My daughter has always loved books. When she was a young toddler, her love of books was mostly shown through wild episodes of the mad librarian. Every single book was removed from her bookshelves in 20 seconds flat (all 6 shelves that are hers) and thrown into a pile. Repeat this 20 times a day. I would watch her accomplish this mission and be in complete awe of the velocity in which those books came tumbling down from the shelves. She would laugh and smile the entire time. Next, she conquered the DVD cupboard. Every single DVD was chucked into the center of the living room into a pile. But guess what happened next? Those huge piles of books and DVDs became towers. Then they became “trains,” all lined up in a perfect row. Eventually, she would sit there with the books and “read” them for 45 minutes or more at a time. It was all a necessary and multifaceted learning process. Had I put a lock on the DVD cupboard, or put most of the books away, the process would have been stunted. I let my kids explore to the fullest extent that is safely possible, and I don’t lock the mad librarian’s library.
2. My House is Full of Pixie Dust
Glitter. Everywhere. I cannot believe all the glitter. We are constantly in the crafting lair at our house. My daughter loves creating and making “sparkly masterpieces,” as she calls them. I don’t care how particularly neat you are, you cannot contain glitter and a toddler. Instead of getting fussy about it, I decided long ago to just let it happen. I contained it by putting down some styrofoam meat trays, and I hoped that maybe some of that sparkly craziness would go into the pixie dust catchers. When we used glitter, it was a crazy mess of fun. We smiled, we laughed, and that stuff flew everywhere. Now as a 3 year old, my daughter uses glitter and it stays contained. She makes designs with glue and carefully applies the glitter. It stays in one space, and there is no longer a shower of pixie dust. She experimented, she learned cause and effect via pixie dust, and she reached a fine motor milestone. There is now order in pixie land. Every time a speck of glitter is found months later, this pixie dust lovin’ momma smiles. It was worth it.
3. The Lake in my Bathroom
Our bathroom turns into a lake during bath time. If you are one of those who don’t like wet socks, don’t enter our bathroom on bath nights. Toddlers learn so much during bath time, and tossing and pouring water is part of the process. As my daughter pours water, she has to think about how fast and long she wants to pour it. She is working on critical thinking skills. As she pours, she is becoming aware that she can make decisions on stopping water flow or starting water flow. She grasps an understanding of the amount of space she has to work with, and how much water is needed to fill a container and how much is too much. As she pours, she strengthens her ability to control water flow that she pours, and she figures out how to be precise in pouring so she can master pouring into various sized containers. This is working on eye-hand coordination. She is also developing her independence, by soon being able to fill her own snack cup and pour her own cup of juice. There is a lot more than meets the eye when entering the lake that is my bathroom. There is some major learning happening. There is always a wet vac, or a pile of towels waiting to come to the rescue.
4. The Teepeeing Toddler
My daughter used to get a kick out of spinning the toilet paper roll as fast as possible and watching the paper come undone. Rolling it back up constantly tried my patience, but it helped me knowing that this messy activity had many purposes; exploration, cause and effect, eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills. To save a bit of sanity, I would let her have her own toilet paper roll that had a flower pattern on it. We used the plain toilet paper, she got the flower pattern. She eventually preferred hers because we made it special, and I didn’t even have to go to the “this is off-limits mode” about all of our plain rolls. She was disinterested because we made them seem “boring” compared to the floral rolls. This phase of exploration didn’t last too long, but it was epic when it was happening. She was an amazing teepeeing toddler and our inside of our house looked like the outside of my parents’ house looked when I was in high school. It was just another messy and essential phase of learning. No harm done, and lots of brain gain for my girl.
5. The Infinite Dog Dish
Of all the messes in my home, this one drove me the craziest. The dog bowl. Those tiny chicken flavored morsels were not only appealing to look at, toss, sort and carry, but my daughter also found them delectably tasty. The mess didn’t bother me as much as the constant worry inside my head of “what if the dogs don’t like her in their bowl?” This was a situation I could not allow, because it involved her safety. Dogs can be possessive of food, even the nicest of dogs. The food bowl went out to the garage. Poor Marlo and Guido (our boxer and pug), had their food banished to the garage quarters. Even there, my daughter would get to the dog bowl. It was the first thing she headed toward when we walked out to the car. She eventually tired of the taste, she become bored by tossing it all over the place, and she no longer found it necessary to carry it around for hours and then put it in her outdoor playhouse for secret mid-afternoon toddler munching. With time, she became the biggest dog food helper. Now, she feeds our 3 pets and she never forgets. Because I let her explore (within the realms of her safety, of course), she loves the whole process. Now, feeding the pets isn’t a “chore” to her. It is fun and it is one less thing that I have to do during the day, which is always a bonus. I will say that I am glad we always bought dog food with chicken as the first ingredient.