Tuesday, August 26, 2014
His messy play (and what a difference one book makes)
There was sunshine over the weekend and, after a week of sickness and bed, we spent hours outside soaking it all up. We put on t-shirts we hadn't seen in six months and stood barefoot on the grass. And then it got messy.
Dear Boy has never liked messy play. He's never wanted to put his hands in the dirt, to put his fingers in the paint or squish into the play dough. He just didn't like it. He would examine his hands and flap about and demand to be cleaned off. With the exception of buckets full of water and the potential for a drenching, he's never sought out or engaged with my invitations for messy play.
This, of course, made me worry about his development. Did he have sensory issues (maybe that'd explain his erratic eating?); was he getting enough opportunities to be an active learner, to explore a range of materials and use them to express himself and his feelings, to develop important concepts, to learn about cause and effect, to solve problems and make predictions, to practice his fine motor skills? Most of all I was worried that he just wouldn't be comfortable inhabiting the world in all its very sensuous glory or be able to find that joy or the release of tension in the experience of dirt and sand and dough. It worried me but I was prepared to accept that that's just part of who he is. I wasn't sure what I'd do with a kid who didn't want to explore, but I could adapt.
A few weeks ago, we walked through the darkness to visit the late-opening library. Dear Boy ran down to the kids' section and splatted into the noisy beanbags and rode the plastic dog-shaped chair-thingies. The little cubby of board books had been denuded. Normally filled with all manner of treasures, it was down to just five books (which is both a sorry state of affairs and amazing at the same time). Dear Boy picked up Messy, shrugged as if to say 'whatever, this'll do' and we went back off into the darkness to pick up our dinner.
We read Messy every night for two weeks before we returned it to the library. We read about messy eating, messy cooking, messy gardening, messy painting, messy toys, messy craft. He didn't seem particularly enamored with the book, but he kept choosing it.
And then on the weekend, he asked for paint and brushes. I set up the paper and he went to it with green and blue ('dark blue, Mummy, that's my favourite'). And then he painted his cars. And then he painted his hand. And then he bent down and painted his bare legs.
The next day, he asked for his bucket and spade and took himself down to the back corner of the yard where he dug in the bag of dirt I'd grown our spuds in the year before. He put his fingers in and pulled out weeds and rock and a stray potato or two.
And he didn't ask to wash his hands until it was time for lunch.
Then yesterday, his first day back at daycare after our feverish week off, he asked to paint. Then he cast aside his brush, stuck his hands in the blue paint and announced 'I'm going to do hand prints'. The other children put aside their brushes and made prints in red and green.
I couldn't be more pleased.
Are your kids fans of messy play? Are you a developmental worry-wart like me? Any ideas for helping him ease further into this glorious new world?