Why Kids Should Make a Mess

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”

Albert Einstein

 question mark

I know.  I know.  Sometimes I let my kids take it maybe a bit too far.  Like last week when my daughter filed this glitter jar up with unused pancake batter and food coloring:


Or when my son had the bathroom faucet looking something like this:


But I take a deep breath because as long as no one is at risk of injury, I know I can clean up the mess.  Or rather,  they can clean up with a little assistance from me.  And then I let them do it.

Why? Because. . .Science.

We often don’t see the thought processes going on because we are blinded by our instincts to immediately stop what we see as messy or destructive behavior.  We all do it.  Preservation of our resources.  We put good money into that house or spent so many precious hours cleaning and don’t want to get stuck cleaning some more.  And we all know they won’t want to help with the clean up.

I also think that sometimes what we don’t see is that this is how they learn about their world.

Granted, no, I have no idea what pancake mix, food coloring, and a glitter bottle are going to amount to, but I know there was some color theory experimentation going on the beginning phases and something else that has been exposed to her brain about her world by putting it in a bottle – either something about viscosity or mold (haha! Yeah right, I wouldn’t let it get that far) or something else entirely.

I watched the gears turning in my son’s head as he turned the faucet in the powder room into a high pressure sprinkler.  It all began when he was washing his hands.  He noticed the way the water fell over his hands, then he moved his hands upward and watched the change in the way the water ran over his skin before forming drops.  He continued his surface tension/cohesion experiment moving his hand further and further upward until he was practically blocking the faucet entirely and, much to his delight, the water began to spray wildly in all directions.

Of course part of me was saying “Well, looky at this fine mess you are making. STOP!” but I didn’t stop him at first.  I let it play out so he could see.  And I didn’t stop my daughter from playing with leftover pancake mix.  Because I want them to learn to love learning, to be curious about their surroundings, not to take things at face value, and not to stop just because people tell them things are a certain way.

Some of the greatest scientific discoveries were because the scientists didn’t give up when people balked at their ideas or because they were told something was one way and that was it.  We would not have half of the great things we have today if they didn’t keep on.  I mean, seriously, we might still think that the sun revolves around the Earth or that atoms are truly indivisible.  But science didn’t stop, it continued to press on for answers and more and more discoveries were made and are still being made.

I want my kids to approach everything with questions and not to always just believe what they are told, but to seek the answers for themselves.  If a mess is made in the process, so be it.  That mess might just be the beginning signs of the next great scientists.

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