Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Writer's Workshop: Keep it Clean!

This is a perfect day; this has been on my mind to write, and it fits perfectly into Mama Kat's third prompt for Writer's Workshop this week;

3.) Describe a time you allowed your child to do something that you normally would not let slide.

I work in my son's co-op preschool classroom once a month or so, and Tuesday was my last day as "lead", which means two things, 1) I cherished this last little nugget of time being his "teacher" and observing how he interacts with the other toddlers, and 2) I'm FREE, FREE, FREE and FREE for the rest of this session. Next Fall, he'll go to a 'traditional' 2's program, no co-oping.

We Moms do the curriculum, and the suggested craft activity for this, my teaching Tuesday, was fingerpainting! "Oh, crap," I thought as I read the suggestion to get out the smocks, the finger paints, and have each very busy, very unsteady set of toddler fingers paint a Rainbow.

"Go for it," said the unaffected, will-be-far-away-at-work husband, with a grin.

Always the under overachiever, I announced to the permanent teacher my intention for the craft that day. She gave me a long look. Then, as if resigning herself to not roll her eyes, got out the table cover, smocks, large sheets of paper. We started with 2-3 kids at a time, quickly whittling it down to 2, while the other Mom watched the balance of the kids.

The result amazed me. Each kid was tentative, at best, to the idea of smushing his/her hands into some kind of paint, and getting messy! Before my disbelieving eyes, each child reluctantly dipped one finger, or two, into the gloppy paint, then delicately put the finger to paper and wiped it around a bit, as if to rid the clean finger of said gloppiness. We encouraged, we incented, we even demonstrated. My own mess-loving toddler took a moment to verify I was "okay" with his fingers (and subsequently, clothes) getting completely bamboozled with bright red, yellow, blue and green.

Once they understood that this kind of atrocious messying-up of their fingers was allowed, they got into it. Really into it. The youngest one, at only 14 months, wouldn't STOP once he got going, and kept sneaking back over to our half of the classroom to begin getting brightly colored again. With joy, I saw my own toddler's independent use of the "handprint" style.

But...One child in particular wouldn't do it. He was the oldest, at 2.5 years, and said, "No, Thank you," when told it was his turn to make a picture. We sat him down and convinced him that Mommy might truly enjoy a picture, or at least a little handprint. He dipped one finger, no more, and slide it across the paper to get it off. When he was done 4.5 seconds later, he popped up, hands straight out in front of himself so as to not touch anything, to get his hands washed. His face, clothes and psyche stayed relatively unmarked. Well, I can't vouch for his psyche.

The thing is, kids are supposed to get messy. And we, as parents, are supposed to clean them up. But I saw first hand how much they have been trained, encouraged, educated, prompted and threatened, to stay clean at all costs! We wash their hands to prevent germs. We wash hands after coming in from outside. Touching someone else's toys. Sneezing. Petting the dogs. Farm animals. Our own butts.

I'm the worst offending OCD-Mom there is. I wash my hands just after I've washed them. The point is.. how much are we stifling our kids' creativity? By just... keeping them clean, at all costs?

Now. If you'll excuse me. I need to finish scrubbing the dirt out from under the dog's paws.


FoN March 18, 2009 at 10:29 PM  

I think a place that let's kids go for it is the best! Every day I pick my daughter up from daycare she is totally filthy, and I love it.

Anonymous,  March 19, 2009 at 4:23 AM  

I'm a big fan of dirt!

J even eats some now and then and he is routinely covered in it.

I'll have to try fingerpainting soon.

So brave.

Sometimes Sophia March 19, 2009 at 6:06 AM  

What a great story. When I was teaching middle school, the kids still wanted to do finger painting. So I let them, working from their own sketches of flowers...
Huge, Georgia-O'Keeffe-style paintings that turned out great.

Now if you're done with the dog paws, you can come tackle my house...

septembermom March 19, 2009 at 6:50 AM  

Those kids sound like they had a blast! I think you're right that as moms we have to be careful not to overemphasize that kids have to be clean all the time. Mess and kids go hand in hand, literally some days:) Happy for you that you had this time in your son's classroom. Even happier that you're FREE, FREE, FREE!!

Wifey Dessert March 19, 2009 at 7:12 AM  

i love the picture!! i do think that parents sometimes try so hard to keep their kids clean but I'm not a parent so I try not to judge. When I was a kid we had what we called "play clothes" which were cheap regular clothes or clothes that i had worn out at school ect. and I got play in them and if i got them dirty it was no big deal! i loved to "work" with my mechanic daddy when i was little and was constantly covered in oil haha... i wouldn't want to deprive a child of those kinds of memories.. anyway i digress... i think this post was great!! i love it!!

Casey March 19, 2009 at 7:36 AM  

My son's school does all sorts of craft projects with my kid and he's forever covered in paint/dirt/glitter when he comes home. I'm with FoN, I love it. I'm not sure how they get ten two year olds to work on projects like that but I'm glad they do.

♥ Kathy March 19, 2009 at 7:53 AM  

I'm freaky about hand washing too lol I can't help it :(

H.K. March 19, 2009 at 9:12 AM  

I wish I read this when my son was a toddler! I knew my OCD for cleanliness got out of hand when my son kept running to me from the playground to clean his hands, he was only 5.

Great post!

mielikki March 19, 2009 at 10:33 AM  

My mom used to follow me around with a clean washcloth while we were CAMPING. True story.
Yes they are supposed to get messy.
Dogs now?
Different story (ha ha)

Michelle March 19, 2009 at 12:23 PM  

It's funny that you did fingerpainting just now -- our preschool sent home a whole packet about introducing painting and fingerpainting to our kids.

And the kid who didn't want to do it? He may have some sensory issues, not the cleanliness beat into him. My son's a good example -- those activities were impossible for him until recently, and they're still not his first choice. Even playing with rice was too much stimulation for his senses for a long time.

But I love the rainbow yours made!

pam March 19, 2009 at 12:53 PM  

Kids love fingerpainting, it is a wonderful creative outlet. Thank goodness it is okay to get dirty - my kids are filthy by the end of each day.

Anonymous,  March 19, 2009 at 1:01 PM  

You're so right. Sometimes the best lessons and the most learning takes place amidst the biggest messes.

I know play-doh is some mom's worst nightmare but I just put a big vinyl tablecloth under the work area and let them go.

I'm all about creativity and imagination. Just let kids play! :)

Jenni Jiggety March 19, 2009 at 1:25 PM  

I have one that is afraid to get messy, and one that is pretty much a perpetual mess...

buffalodick March 19, 2009 at 2:09 PM  

One kid I had was clean to a fault, the other one was "Pig Pen" straight out of a Charlie Brown cartoon....We used to call them Felix and Oscar...

NateAndJakesMom March 19, 2009 at 3:04 PM  

When my oldest was in pre-school, I got a call from the school saying that my son was so afraid he was going to get in trouble for "getting dirty." Seems he was playing in the sprinklers for "water day" and every time he moved, grass would get stuck to his feet. He would scream. He'd pick them all off and then try to play and get more grass stuck to him. He stopped in place and screamed. He was stuck.

After much thinking I realized that every time he got out of the bath and a hair or what not would get stuck to him, I would tell him to stop. Pick off the offender and then pick him up so he wouldn't get anything else stuck to him.

I am better now... not "healed" but better. I feel bad that my learning experience came after a terrifying day for my first son. I just hope I don't scar the next two as well!

Petra a.k.a The Wise (*Young*) Mommy March 19, 2009 at 3:23 PM  

I totally agree that kids are supposed to get messy! But I also cringe when my kids get filthy, lol. You have to find a delicate balance, I think.

Blicky Kitty March 19, 2009 at 6:28 PM  

I was so wanting to leave a comment about how much I can relate but I my hand couldn't reach the keyboard because of the cardboard paper towel roll, princess shoes and graffiti ridden bills (purloined from daddy's bills area) and bank statements. We do enjoy the creative expressions in our fetid little hovel, but sometimes I'm wondering at what cost am I encouraging all this creativity? :)

Jeanne March 19, 2009 at 6:34 PM  

The need-to-stay-clean thing seems to vary a lot from kid to kid, even within a family.

Sammanthia March 19, 2009 at 8:12 PM  

Ryerson has been known to somehow manage to fingerpaint the walls from 4 feet away. No kidding. Sigh.

Jenners March 20, 2009 at 7:01 PM  

What fun! But I totally know what you mean about the "fear" of getting dirty. My son gets really freaked out when he gets too much dirt on his hands ... I tell him it is OK but he just doesn't like it. : )

Mama Kat March 31, 2009 at 7:23 AM  

It's really so true. Doing the daycare here I am SUPPOSED to encourage the kids to get dirty with creativity. Ugh. I've gotten better but we RARELY (if ever) use glitter in this house. You have to draw a line somewhere.

Good for you for putting your doubts aside and letting the kids make a mess!! And it probably really wasn't that difficult to clean's an organized mess. :)



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