Soapy water messy play isn’t a contradiction. Instead, think of it as a magic formula for fun that goes like this: Soapy Water + Dirty Toys = Clean Mess.
We managed to have a sunny afternoon and toys, just like the rest of the house, needed some spring cleaning. I partly filled some bins with warm, sudsy water, gave the kids a few rags, and let then wash toys. After spending the winter on the floor, toys needed some tender loving washing. Once the toys had had a bath, we spread them out on towels on the deck to dry. Play can be work, and messes can be clean.
Is there anything else that can use a wash? This time of year, there’s a good chance some camping or picnic gear needs a bath. Soon, it will be warm enough to use it. For bigger items, kids can put some soap on with a sponge and then squirt them with a hose to rinse. That should spread the clean mess all over the yard. The patio furniture might also need some attention and scrubbing. Fill bins or pails with the magic solution of soap and water and let kids wash.
Spring rain just isn’t enough to get a car good and clean. Rags and sponges are as much fun to a child as a toy. Give kids more soapy water and watch how dirty it gets from washing the car. Floor mats can use a good squirt with the hose too—that is, when they are outside on the driveway, not when they are still in the car!! This messy play is growing from the deck, to all over the yard, and now the driveway too. Good thing it’s clean fun, although by now kids might be dirty.
Work can be play, and messes can be clean. Anything else need washing for some Soapy Water Messy Play Fun?
Bubble Play or Bubble Work? It’s All Play!
Playing in soapy water is another great way to have fun with bubbles. For this activity, instead of just water and soap add in some toys that kids can wash. We might call this work, but kids think it’s play.
Toys spend a lot of time on the floor. They might not look dirty, but could likely use a wash. This can happen in a sink or large container of some sort. On a sunny afternoon, we filled up a bin with warm, soapy water and set it outside on the deck. This way, once the kids finished washing their toys, they could set them in the sun to dry.
Besides toys, you may have other things kids could wash. Any picnic or camping gear that needs a clean up? Rather than washing something in a container, you might fill a bucket with warm soapy water and let kids wash the patio furniture. The mats from the car are another possibility of something that could use cleaning. This can also be an activity for inside the house. Kitchen chairs will feel less sticky after a wipe down. The garage often has stuff to be washed. Kids will have suggestions of things they can wash.
For adults, work is the opposite of play. We can hardly wait for work to be done so we can play. For kids, their work is to play. Through their play, they are discovering how to connect and interact with the world. If we think of play in a child’s terms, we can understand why sweeping the driveway can be just as playful as building with Lego, why washing dishes is a play activity as much fun as digging in the sandbox.
Washing items in a bin is just as much playing in soapy water as pretending toys are in a foamy ocean in the bath. It’s hands on and sensory play. Would this be fun play for your child?
In many places around the world, kids and grownups wait all year for great summer weather, and the opportunity to have fun outside. For an outside play-of-the-day, how about a toy wash?
The magic ingredients are soapy water in a big bowl or container and lots of little things to wash. Plastic cars, dolls, blocks, figurines, and other toys could maybe all do with a wash, especially if the weather is warm enough for a quick dry. If there are some big towels in the rag bag, spread them out on a flat surface close to the washing area. Gather ups some toys that can be safely immersed and supply kids with some cloths, scrub brushes, or sponges.
Oh, and maybe bring the cat into the house. Cats do not appreciate having a turn with soapy water and a sponge.
Much of children’s play is based on what they see others around them already doing. Kids do not make the distinction that adults do between play and work. What we call work may be play for them and it is part of fun, learning, kindergarten readiness, and life skills. Sometimes, kids even see these activities as so important that they insist that they get a turn too.
Not only are even quite young children capable of helping, it is important that they do. Kids need to learn that caring for toys is part of playing with them. Giving children some chores to do helps them learn to be responsible. Being responsible doesn’t come automatically with birthdays, it’s a skill that develops from practicing. Children also feel like they are part of the group when we give then jobs to do and completing something gives them a sense of accomplishment. Part of ownership, is taking care of things. To kids, taking care of their toys by washing them is another way to play with them.
What needs some washing at your house?