The reason I decided to reflect upon this is because the word “mess” is used more often than “water” in a home with children. It is a challenge every parent faces, every day. Hence it becomes imperative to understand why, why is it that they create a “mess”?

Children from the very beginning are in their learning mode. Always switched on. From their very first view of the world into their infancy, they know that the earthly elements around them are meant to teach them- coping, survival and life skills. The very first ones are, groping to grasping to holding and so on. The same ways their ability to find occupation also changes. Playing with their mobile in bed as an infant progresses to using lego blocks, assembling a puzzle. If the imagination is aptly developed, they will use all sorts of things – household stuff like branches, stones, leaves even garbage (mind it, those things are termed as garbage in our world).

Just imagine, the children (ages 2+) wake up to what? What is it that they expect to do in their day? Before they get introduced to a structured environment (school) what is it that they want to do? “They learn through exploration.” This is a beaten-to-death sentence, used almost anywhere related to parenting. But what does it really mean? It means, children indulge. They believe in using their hands, fingers, mouth – touch, smell, see and more to learn more about texture, feeling, color and more. They pick up things, check them out, pile them, segregate them, push them, pull them, bite them, and try to chew them and so much more. This is how they interact with their environment. They conclude things for themselves. Up until they drop a glass of water or milk they will not register that water/milk is a liquid. Yes, it messes our life up, but it is a vital milestone that a child crosses, realizing that there is a difference between water and bread. This was an example. What we need to understand is that creating a “mess” is a learning process for children.

I am by no means suggesting that we do not encourage our children to put things away. Cleanliness is an equally important value and to be able to put all things back in the right spot is also a critical milestone. What you can do is after playtime is over, you can have a conversation with your child. Engage your child with questions to understand what has he done and why. These conversations will give you a deep insight into how he thinks. Ask him if he is ready to put things away and if his “work” is over. That would be the apt point in time to “clear up the mess”.