5 Surprisingly Awesome Reasons Why Your Toddler Makes Messes

This weekend, Ry and I did a lot of landscaping, and as a result, my kids did a LOT of digging in the dirt. Their clothes were black with mud, and I was exhausted. Thankfully, a light went on and I took them to the backyard, turned on our water pump, and gave them mini showers before my worst visions of a mud-coated house came true.

Fellow moms, believe me when I say that messes are not easy for me. I have to fight the idea that my house and kids should be clean and tidy, so that I don’t walk around miserable and disappointed constantly…

my son standing behind a huge play fort made of blankets and cushions

Because it’s often a joyful, chaotic disaster.


Why Do Toddlers Make Messes?

The website What to Expect tell us this.

Your toddler’s endless experimentation may seem like mischief — but what he’s really busy doing is practicing new skills.


Little ones make messes because they’re learning how the world works. When they take out every sandwich bag from the box, pull on the end of the toilet paper, or take all the books off the shelves, they’re simply figuring out what those things look like, feel, and do.

When a toddler starts moving on their own, they’re really eager to let loose and be active. They’ve been watching us do things for them for awhile now, and as soon as they can crawl they’re excited to finally take themselves where they want to go. Spilling your water on the floor might just be the thing they’ve been dreaming of.

They’re also getting some spatial skills and simply learning about how the world works. At the same time, they’re figuring out what provokes different reactions in mom, but that’s more of a side benefit.

Why Do Toddlers Make Messes?

To summarize, those sweet kiddos are constantly making a mess because they are…

  1. practicing new skills
  2. learning how the world works
  3. exploring what things feel like, sound like, and what they do
  4. changing their environment and being active
  5. figuring out how adults react

They aren’t intentionally trying to destroy our homes, but it can feel like it. Parents should set limits, do some baby-proofing, and provide sensory toys and experiments whenever possible. Don’t get upset when your child makes a mess.

Messes and Sensory Play

She doesn’t know it, but the word for what your child is doing when she makes a mess is engaging in sensory play. What is sensory play? It’s just what it sounds like – A play activity that stimulates the senses.

Sensory play theorists believe that this is great for kids because it builds connections in the brains neural pathways. It also supports problem solving, language development, motor skills, and social skills. That’s a pretty impressive list of benefits!


Why We Should Let Our Toddlers Make Messes

There are plenty of surprisingly wonderful reasons why our toddlers make messes. They are also the reasons why we moms should let them. I’m taking deep breaths and reminding myself it’s actually a good thing for my kids to make a mess. I’m determined to look on the bright side and pretend I love the sandbox.

Sometimes we all need reminders to allow those kiddos to go a little crazy and make a mess. Here are my top five reasons why you should let the mess happen!


1. It Lets Them Be Little

Kids need to enjoy their age, and making a mess on purpose is a great way for them to love being little! It’s truly so easy to forget that our kids need to be kids. I want them to love their childhood, and to embrace this season before it’s over!

my kids using chalk paint in orange and blue to color the puddles in our driveway


2. It Teaches Them About Appropriate Activities

Making mom-approved messes is actually a wonderful way for kids to learn that there’s a time and place to let loose.

My kids know that they aren’t always allowed to jump in muddy puddles or use the sandbox. We don’t do that before going to church, or when we need to run an errand, or when the heat index is crazy high.

Having some messy fun is the perfect opportunity for kiddos to learn about balancing fun with other tasks, and making a mess with permission.

my kids dip sponges in a bucket of bubbly water outside


3. It Creates Great Memories

It’s the messes I was allowed to make that really stand out when I think about playing with my friends as a little girl. Once, we got to play in shaving cream! I was constantly making mud pies with my friends, too. My older sister and I regularly made our parents disgusting creations in the kitchen (lettuce, grapes, and crackers floating in a bowl of water!).

Sometimes I don’t know what my parents were thinking, but mostly I’m glad they allowed us to make messes. I know my kids will always remember their favorite messes, too.

my daughter dips her paintbrush in red and yellow paint, while her hands are covered in it


4. It Gets Their Energy Out Like Nothing Else

Us mamas know that it’s so important for kids to be active and enjoy life. That being said, I’m just your average mom who loves it when my kids sleep well.

Messy play is kind of special because it adds an element of joy and releases all the happy feelings for your kids. Even if the playtime is stationary, it will be a time of mental engagement for your kids.

This kind of learning and physical activity means that sweet, sweet nighttime will be a snap.

a construction crew works on pouring the curb on a new road while my kids play in a huge pile of dirt behind them.


5. It Teaches Them About Cleaning Responsibilities

Your kids will easily grasp the cause-and-effect happening when they make a mess and a bath needs to follow. It’s also great to show them that we clean up after we make a mess, even if it’s cheering on your toddler when she throws a toy in the bin.

I’m not saying they have to slave away after messy play, but they’ll connect the dots and learn that making a mess is worth the (necessary) clean-up. It just so happens that cleaning is my daughter’s current obsession.

my one-year-old daughter wipes up a door with a huge smile on her face

It’s hard to tell from this picture, but sweet Sylvie loves making a mess as well! Her favorite activity right now is playing in water. It’s right up there with painting. She’s your typical toddler through and through.

Moms, I completely get the struggle with ruined clothes, muddy floors, and feeling like the cleaning is endless. Remember, there are positives to the mess you’re experiencing right now, and your kids will appreciate you for allowing messes!

Hang in there, and if necessary, turn on the water pump before you go inside.


4 thoughts on “5 Surprisingly Awesome Reasons Why Your Toddler Makes Messes”

  1. We are big fans of messy play in my house. It took a long time for me to get used to allowing them to make messes, but messy play = happy, creative kids!

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