Make It Messy: Outdoor Fun for Babies & Toddlers with Paint & Water

I’m not quite sure when it dawned on me. I suppose it started in much like the slow, creeping reality that comes with many things to do with mothering.

I’m talking about mess. Or rather, embracing the mess and considering mess to be a good thing. Messy children, messy home, messy hair, messy mess everywhere. I’m not talking about dirty, I’m talking about messy. There is a difference. As soon as I let go of any notions that mess was somehow bad, or a sign of my inability to keep everything under control, including my children – a delicious, warm happiness spread over me.

To be honest, it’s happened in waves. I was never OCD about keeping my home like a showroom anyway. And while I love to dress my little ones up…I absolutely revel in allowing urging and setting the scene for them to be messy. Messy while eating their food. Messy while playing. Messy while learning. As I watch and learn from them – I realize this is how they learn, grow, and develop best — in a open and accepting environment more concerned about their emotional, mental, and academic (at times) development than remaining tidy and proper.


A simple (albeit – wait for it…messy) activity that we are holding on to for dear life while the weather stays warm, is painting in the buff (or a diaper), outside. No one knows how to embrace being naked like babies and toddlers. It is but a brief stint that they have here on planet Earth wherein they can do as such. To frolic in the privacy of our backyard: running through a sprinkler, smearing globs of paint all over themselves, and any which where else their little hearts please.

Such a notion may have some of your heads spinning at the thought of cleaning up after such an onslaught of free-play creativity. To this I say, give up. Designate a space just for them where you let go of having your nice things and let them cause a ruckus. I’ve decided to give them a corner of our backyard, fence included, where they can paint the rocks and the fence as they wish and just leave it. That’s right, just leave it. It’s like leaving out a big sign that says, “Why yes, children do in fact live here!”

We’re not planning on selling anytime soon and the fence is old. When and if we plan on selling (years down the road perhaps), that fence will be top of the list for replacing.

They can add to it and enjoy it and it will all be a part of our backyard oasis. Which probably won’t make it on the cover of any magazine — which, isn’t something I was striving towards anyway.

Providing joy and freedom, and respecting my children’s development over my own lofty (not so much anymore) ideals, IS something I am, in fact, striving towards.

Images such as the one above are what childhood is. Not pretty, little, squeaky clean, dolled up children sitting pretty and still. So let your kids enjoy!

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