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Sarah Michelle Gellar on Embracing Kids' Mess

This Is the Secret to Letting Your Kid Get Messy Without Losing It

As concerned parents, we often lament our children's fixation with "screens," but the minute they come to us with, say, a bucket of Play-Doh or several jars of glitter and glue, we literally recoil at the thought of the inevitable mess to come. Before we realize it, we've come up with an excuse for why now's not the time . . .

"I just cleaned in here."

"We don't have time for that today."

"You had craft time earlier this week already."

"You'll make too big of a mess."

Don't deny it: according to Swiffer's second annual survey on cleaning, nearly all parents — a startling 95 percent — have said no to their kids' requests because of the mess it could make.

What's more surprising is that most of these parents recognize that letting kids make a mess helps encourage their creativity and fosters positive emotional and intellectual development. In fact, this belief is getting stronger with each generation: 75 percent of millennial moms think so compared to just 59 percent of baby-boomer parents. (Of course, just about all parents — approximately 97 percent — would agree that cleaning up a mess teaches kids valuable lessons.)

So, why are we still saying no all the time? Sarah Michelle Gellar, a self-professed Type-A mother of two young kids, has been there. But the star is now leading the charge that we should start saying yes to the mess, and she has a few suggestions on how to do it without completely losing it — or ruining the new area rug — in the process.

POPSUGAR: Have you ever had a hard time saying yes to a messy activity?
Sarah Michelle Gellar: I am definitely a Type-A, tidy, everything-has-a-place kind of person, so initially encouraging a mess was against my nature. But once you realize all the benefits, it's pretty simple to let that go. Creativity is one of the most important brain functions in developing youth. It is the ultimate road to invention. I believe it is really important to both nurture and encourage this in children — and adults, too!

PS: How do you do it without stressing out?
SMG: I try never to say no when it comes to creativity, but I do try and lead down an "appropriate road" — like not on furniture or the walls.

PS: Even with messier projects, do you have any secret tips for minimizing the more problematic messes?
SMG: As long as kids understand the project at hand and that it's not about just making a mess, it's usually not so bad. And it helps knowing that there are products that make cleanup easier.

PS: Do you believe in cleaning up as you go or waiting until the end?
SMG: When I'm with my kids, I definitely try and be in the moment and wait till the end unless the mess poses a real danger, like slipping. But when I am cooking by myself, I definitely clean as I go to simplify.

PS: You've certainly had something ruined because of your kids — what mom hasn't! How do you deal?
SMG: I try to focus on why it happened and not what happened. Are they trying to get my attention? Were they frustrated and trying to express something? That is a big help.

Image Source: Swiffer
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