Embrace the Mess


When I was five years old I became obsessed with making paper bag puppets. I’d take plain brown lunch bags and rip, draw, glue and transform them into – well, honestly, a mess. But that actually was an important phase in my physical and mental development. Projects like paper bag puppets may seem wasteful, needlessly messy or overly simple, but there are countless benefits to such open-ended activities:

Mom and daughter working on a craft.

  1. They develop fine motor skills

When I ask preschool teachers what skills kids are lacking when they reach the preschool classroom, the answer I’m getting more and more often is the ability to use scissors. Kids five and under are becoming increasingly screen and tech savvy, but are struggling more and more with fine motor skill development. Don’t hesitate to slap a pair of kid-friendly scissors in your three or four-year-old’s hands and let them go crazy on some scrap paper. It may be messy, but their future preschool teacher will thank you.


2. They are a stepping stone to literacy

Activities that encourage fine motor skills help build your child’s ability to hold and physically interact with books. It’s also never too early to encourage your child to try writing and illustrating their own book. Three pieces of paper folded in half and stapled twice down the middle is a great template for your child’s debut work of literature. Help your child brainstorm a title, then set them free to draw a silly story. This type of activity is invaluable in setting your child up for a great intro to the world of reading – and writing.

3. They encourage exploration                                     Family working on craft in library.

Conventional craft kits are wonderful, but the feedback I keep hearing from educators is that kids are generally better at following directions than thinking outside the box. As creativity becomes more and more valuable, kids need to be able to create, problem-solve and push through failure. It’s never too early to encourage these skills. Some fun holiday-themed, non-kit projects to encourage creativity: have your child trace their hand on pieces of paper and challenge them to draw as many animals or creatures as they can from that basic shape. Here’s one from the library’s playbook: have them create a unique gingerbread house out of some graham crackers, a base such as a mini milk carton, icing, and whatever candy or mini snack foods you have lying around.

If you feel like a crafting dunce, never fear: all your child requires is the very basic of tools and scraps to create a world of fun. Raid your junk drawers and craft closets, set your kids free, and embrace the creative mess!

 -Lindsay A., CADL Mason