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Empowered by Mess: 6 Tools For Creative Summer Fun!

Empowered by Mess

Today I'm here to encourage you and your family to embrace life's messes. For the past several summers, my family and I have welcomed the possibility of some pretty chaotic, often awesome projects with a “yes, you can” attitude. The result has been remarkably empowering.

I know life as a parent is chaotic. It takes a herculean effort simply to keep children dressed, fed, and housed in a building containing less than 50 percent dirty laundry and stray Lego® pieces.

I realize the messy bits of life can be stressful. For that, I’d like to connect you with our favorite family organization tips available here on our Pinterest board Organized Chaos.

But if you haven't already embraced the messy fun of summer, it's time to give it a try!

Without the limitations of you might get dirty and I don’t want to have to clean that up later, kids can get remarkably creative with an hour or two of unscheduled time on their hands. (Watch for a post on that issue next week!)

In our effort to raise children to be helpers and change makers, we must give them the room to experiment with their curiosity. How else would they gain the courage to rely on their own ideas?

Giving them the tools and time to experiment has lead to some great summer fun in our house already. Thanks to a few well-planned and often extremely messy tools, active curiosity has become a constant state of mind in our house.

Here are 6 messy tools to empower your kids.

Add magazines, maps, clean containers, bottle caps, twine, and duct tape and invite kids to create whenever the mood strikes.

Add magazines, maps, clean containers, bottle caps, twine, and duct tape and invite kids to create whenever the mood strikes.

1)  The UPCYCLE ME Box:  Before you recycle, reuse. Store clean bottles, caps, boxes, toilet paper tubes, and other goodies in an easy to reach box, along with twine, duct tape, and an invitation to play. This year, we've even added a hot glue gun, and when they ask nicely, I tote out the drill! Once a week we clean out the battered items, remove tape form overused creations, and recycle what we can.

This box is the essential engine for experimentation in almost every game played by my kids, ages four to 10.

Make room for treasures from nature walks (a box of sticks, a bowl of rocks), field guides, binoculars, a bug net, etc. to encourage budding scientists.

Make room for treasures from nature walks (a box of sticks, a bowl of rocks), field guides, binoculars, a bug net, etc. to encourage budding scientists.

2)  The Nature Center:  Set up a corner of your house to store treasures from nature walks. Fill a small basket (or a large box…. I got carried away) with sticks, rocks, pine cones, and other  treasures. Add in field guides, a magnifying glass, a bug net, and a recycled peanut butter jar with holes in the top and voila, you’re ready to catch and create. We’ve also got a set of binoculars and a children’s microscope that comes in handy more than you’d expect.

Print and post addresses, gather letter writing and drawing supplies, and invite kids to send the magic of kindness through the mail!

Print and post addresses, gather letter writing and drawing supplies, and invite kids to send the magic of kindness through the mail!

3)  A Magic Mail Center:  In case you missed this recently-added project, you’ll find instructions to set up a kindness-centered mail station here. The kids drag card-making supplies out at least once a week, and we forever have a stash of mail hanging near the door, just waiting for for one more drawing or a piece of candy before it can be mailed. It looks chaotic, but the kids always have a special person in mind for their gift of art and stories.

4)  The willingness to say “Yes you can”:  Whenever possible, let your kids explore. For a toddler, a puddle isn't just a puddle, it's an experiment. I know, I know. Sometimes we really need our kids to stay out of the puddles, off the dirty slide, or away from the interesting-looking bug. Sometimes, company is coming and the house needs to stay presentable. The trick is learning when to say yes and when to say no and when to remind them that whatever mess they make, they will have a part in cleaning up.

5)  Encourage the helpers:  When you’re doing something interesting, kids often want in on the act. Though it may take longer and be messier, do your best to let them help whenever possible. Whether they’re rolling out pizza dough, pitting cherries, using tools for the first time, or unloading groceries, the more you encourage that “I want to help” attitude, the more your child will think of himself as a helper.

Given a little time and a few tools, I guarantee your kids will surprise you with their creativity. Mine built a library yesterday, in what started out as a huge mess -- in fact, I tried to talk them out of it -- and resulted in a beautiful, rainy-day game.

Oh wait, one last tip!

6)  Keep Play Clothes Handy! Rather than reminding kids to stay clean and guard their cute clothes, keep some raggedy t-shirts on hand for the messy moments. Ours live in a basket near the back door. The kids know that if their big ideas turn into big, messy ideas, they can pop inside for a quick wardrobe change and be ready for anything.

Don’t get me wrong, my kids play a major role in the clean-up as well. You may want to remind yours of this fact at the outset of their activity, just in case.

Cheers to summer messes!