How Clean is Your Mess-o-meter?

Yesterday at playgroup, we were discussing how as Mums we all have different tolerance levels for mess.

One Mum said, “Playdough, no way, I don’t let my boys play with playdough, it’s too messy.”

Another Mum reflected that pretty much anything goes at her house (within reason). Coincidently, this is also the Mum who filled the water trolley for the first time today (now that the weather is warmer), which the children absolutely loved. So much so that I had to strip Immy off before popping her into the car as her dress was soaked. Now that didn’t bother me at all, it is a short ride home and it is a warm day, and to me it’s just water. As I have shared previously, I think I too rate pretty highly on the ‘mess-o-meter.’

As well as mess, I think we also all have different tolerance levels for noise. I certainly saw evidence of this as a teacher. Some teachers (and unfortunately, some administrators) feel that a quiet (read ‘silent’) classroom indicates that the children are busy learning. I was always of the opinion that a general level of background chatter was normal and healthy, as long as the children were staying ‘on task’ with what they were meant to be achieving.

Learning doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Children learn through doing. Doing, at least where young children are involved, usually involves mess. Whether it be debris, dirt or disarray, it can all just feel like mess. But it’s not, its doing and playing and learning.

And all of this learning is much less effective in isolation. We not only learn by doing but also by showing and telling and demonstrating to others. Learning that is shared in this way is not only good for the pupil but also for the child tutor – as knowledge is shared, it is reinforced.

I find it hard to believe that children can learn to the best of their ability without some element of mess and noise.

As a Mum, how do you rate on the mess-o-meter?

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  1. SquiggleMum says:

    I have my limits, but they're pretty high! I'm up for water play, finger painting, playdough etc, but whole body painting is too much for me!! And I agree that productive noise is a positive thing.

  2. Tammy James says:

    I think it depends on my Mummy mess o meter … if my Mummy Mess is high then my tolerance for kid mess is lower … BUT … if Mummy is organised and in control then no mess is too big for me to handle … well most messes … well Its Ok to go for it with the Playdough.LOL

  3. I have my limits too depending on where we are. At home, it's pretty high. They can be creative and we use playdough, paint, water, birdseed etc. The set up can take forever but they love it. I think we need to do it more because so many people don't get to see the joy and fun the kids have. Those that like the mess should invite their friends kid's over every now and again. We're afraid of what we don't know.
    As for noise, with three boys, I've had to change my noise tolerance. Yep I was that teacher in the class with a quiet room for reading and work ( discussions were different of course). Time and place for me now…. Super heroes don't seem to fly quietly saving people

  4. Anonymous says:

    What i've discovered is that my three children function better in a tidy environment. Not sterile, but tidy. Too many toys out, no one has a clue what to play with, and the whining starts. A clean slate in the mornings really helps them start their day on a more positive note.

    I'm also more likely to let them do creative things when the house is relatively tidy – if i have to clear off garbage from the kitchen table, the chances of them being able to fingerpaint are pretty slim.

    And i'm not ashamed to say that i've banned Playdough from my house – it's ruined two laptops so far, and i can't afford to replace another. The times when i really feel like someone needs to play with it, we'll make a batch, play with it outside for a while, and throw it away.

  5. Haha… I think I rank pretty high since I'm pretty messy myself! And yes, I think learning should take place with some amount of noise, rather than in a vacuum. When I taught in school last time, I find that although there are times the kids need to pay attention, there are times where noise is productive, like during discussions etc, as long they are on task! 🙂

  6. I'm variable, to be honest. When I'm very overtired or very stressed, I have cranky moments when the chaos gets on top of me and I storm around demanding that everyone help pick up and basically throwing a Mummy tantrum about it. Thus usually happens once every couple of months or so. Mostly, though, I am reasonably relaxed about mess, but not about smell / dirt.

    By which I mean, absolutely on the painting, drawing, playdoh, water play at the sink, all the dollies out for a play, leggo and blocks covering the table and floor … but not so much on the sand being dumped on the carpet out of shoes, smelly clothes left lying in bedrooms until they moulder, food being eaten anywhere and everywhere and leaving a trail of detritus all over the house. I try to get the kids to help me pack up at the end of the day, so we at least start somewhat tidier the next day too.

    My biggest problem is actually lack of space both for storage and activities – the house is getting mightily cramped now that we're a family of 5 (3 bedrooms, 2 of them small; one medium sized living room; very little interior storage capacity). It's hard to even maintain a semblance of order when things don't have a place to go back to.

  7. Silent classrooms freak the hell out of Speech Pathologists 😉

    And gotta love messy play for the sensory averse kiddies!

  8. i'd say i'm at the top of the mess meter – i even held a "messy party" theme for my son's 3rd birthday on sunday! my kids are constantly filthy dirty from all the creative play they do but i believe it's been so good for their learning and development. plus. i don't think i was born with neat genes at all, so i can't expect them to be tidy!

  9. I'd rate pretty high on the Mess-o-metre except when it comes to glitter! Glitter is fine anywhere except in my house, that is anywhere I don't have to clean it up (eg planes and hotels, at daycare/kindy)!!!

  10. Busy Brissy Mum says:

    Creative mess is fine by me. I always have my own creative mess around the place and I love to encourage the kids to be creative in their art and play.

  11. I’m so surprised play dough is such an issue for anyone!!! That really blows me away. I was surprised when a mummy friend told me she had never let her son paint (except with water, outside, at playgroup). My son has a sandpit, a pile of dirt, playdough on the shelf, paint when we have time. Really messy stuff is planned for when there’s time for a bath.

  12. Mess-o-meter is way up the top. My kids play with slim, goop, you name it as long as it is out side i really don’t mind there is not much a hose and a broom can’t clean up. Play-dough, glue, glitter, and paint (under supervision) inside i don’t mind.

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