"What is the point of that?"
It's a reoccurring question that seems to pop up a lot lately with children's activities that I post about.
I'll blog about an activity we've done, or post pictures on facebook of a fun project, or "Pin" ideas for sensory bins and other fun things to do with the kids on Pinterest. And inevitably I get an email, a comment, a question.... "Why? Why would you make a mess like that?" "That seems like a lot of work" "What would you do with those?"
Some are questions by parents who genuinely want to know, others are a little more condescending than that.
So in response to everyone's questions or comments, and those who maybe really are just wondering why? but not asking.... it's for fun. Just for fun!
Sure, I could write an entire summary of everything gained from something like "Sparkle Mud" (do you want me to? I will! There's fine motor opportunities in manipulating a different texture, there's sensory processing skills that are being developed, opportunity for creative play by bringing people, animals or cars into a mud bin, opportunities for language enrichment as you discuss the different properties of 'mud', besides endless games you can play in it....)
But mostly, I do these things for my kids because they are fun! My kids are learning to have fun! To enjoy themselves. Isn't that the greatest gift I could give them? A childhood filled with "Sure, you could use your feet in the shaving cream instead of a brush..." "Yes, you can try making mud in my kitchen!" "You want to play water beads outside in 20 degree weather? Ok!"
Of course, I try to make each activity we do as filled with meaning as I can. I ask them a lot of questions about what they are doing. I connect different books that we've read to activities we do (for the sparkle mud, we had a fun talk about Mr. Gumpy's Motor Car, a book about a car that gets stuck in the mud, which inevitably brought up the question.... Can we put our CARS in the mud?! ... Yes, I guess you can)
Sometimes I encourage writing letters in the sand, or seeing if we could make our name with the tire marks of a car dipped in mud (yes we could!) But mostly, I encourage my kids' imagination. I let them take control of their own play time, and play with them as much as possible. I love seeing the sparkle in their eye. I love seeing the smile on their face. And I especially love the animation at bedtime, when they retell me about "our day". Hearing them describe how much fun playing in the mud was. How making ice bricks was "the coolest experiment they've ever done"
Isn't that enough? I suppose not. For grown ups, we've lost our sense of wonder along the way. The freedom to make a mess just because it's fun isn't a good enough reason. If you've ever given your kids a sensory bin filled with mud, sand, beans, rice with a few bowls and spoons... you know that there doesn't have to be a "purpose" to everything. Sometimes, they just want to have fun!
Sometimes not setting goals makes a project all the more enjoyable. It's the process of playing that is the goal. The purpose is fun.