I know how hard it can be for some parents to let go, and let their kids/table/floors get dirty. Believe me, I understand! If the mess is outside, I don’t even think twice. But, when the kids start to make a mess inside, it’s another story!
The girls do an experiment (say, for example the Wet and Dry experiments in the Science in the Kitchen book). We’ll read the directions, talk about what we’re going to do. The kids will make a hypotheses and fill in their science journal. Once we’re done, they’ll start playing around with the plate full of colored sugar water. Pretty soon, they’re asking for a cup with water and more sugar. Then, they want to see what happens when they mix the food coloring with milk. Then… it goes on and on (It’s like the If You Give A Mouse A Cookie book!).
Once they’re done with the actual experiments, they usually play-to-learn for about another 30-60 minutes (until I cut them off because we have to clear the table for dinner). When all is said and done, I have a table with spots of colored water, sugar crumbs on floor, and lots of additional dishes to wash. The experiment didn’t start out this way, and it could have easily ended with a nice clean table.
But, do I really want it to end that way?
There’s usually an “aha” moment where I have to allow my “must not make a mess” self to step back, realize that the kids are now entering into a different phase of their educational experience, and let them do a little unguided learning.
They’re learning, happy, and making a mess. And I’m OK with that!