by Penelope Loves Lists founder Meredith Monday Schwartz
We got a question from a Penelope Mama, troubled by the mess that comes with toddlers and summertime. Here’s what she said.
Q.: Sand is one of the worst things. It gets into everything, and it will scratch delicate equipment like phone screens. My husband is a real Penelope (way more than I am – I’m just a wanna-be) and he HATES the stuff. I would love to see a post on sand management when going to the beach, or even just the playground. The beach is easier I think because you can really make a containment plan, but playgrounds, preschool, everyday sand? There must be a way that Penelopes deal! Thx!! -Sally
A: Hey Sally,
Oh, man, do I hear you! We live on the West Coast of California and the summertime means lots of time outside, at beaches, on hiking trails and in the playground with all that terrible tan bark. I hate it and so does my Penelope husband.
We considered simply never taking our 3-year-old anywhere dirty, but unfortunately, his 3 older siblings decided they’d ruin that plan and tell him that the beach existed. So… plan foiled. Womp womp.
So, how does a Penelope deal with the mess of the outside coming in? She has a plan, of course!
Here’s what you’ll need:
- 1 plastic large trash bag
- some travel packs of Wet Wipes or this amazing product called Sand Off. Buy it now. You’ll thank me.
- a large towel for each child
- your patience and sanity
1) For heaven’s sake, allow your child to get dirty. We all know it’s a necessary part of childhood. So get over yourself and put the kid in some play clothes and head out.
2) Now smile and pretend you’re enjoying yourself. When you’re at the park or beach, let them get knee-deep in sand, or tan bark, or just dirt. Trust me, your kid needs it. Your house is neat and tidy all the time. They need to be able to make a mess. You’ll save on therapy later.
2) Reign 90% of the mess in BEFORE your kid gets back into the car. THIS IS THE KEY. This is where normal parents go wrong. The kid is tired, they’re tired. So they just put everyone in the car, fast and dirty. Emphasis on dirty. Don’t do it. Grit your teeth and take the time now and you’ll breath easier later.
Here’s what to do:
- Before you allow your child in the car, remove whatever clothes you can. (The child’s clothes, not yours. Though, if you need to be naked to maintain your sanity, who am I to judge?) Now shove those into the bag you’ve brought for this purpose. If you’re at the beach, this is when you’ll need to remove bathing suits and dress the child in clean, dry clothes.
- Remove shoes. THIS IS KEY. Take those suckers off, wipe off little feet and put the shoes in the same bag with the excess clothes.
- Now, use your wipes to rub your little one down. If they are 3 years old or over, they can do this themselves, but only if you’re trained them in the art of thorough wiping. I trust you have, dear Penelope.
- Be sure to shake out hair and empty pockets. You know they’re hiding rocks and sticks and all manner of other things in there. My daughter shoved a worm in her pocket once. To bring home as a pet. #gross
- Lay the towel you’ve brought (for this purpose) over the car seat or carseat.
- Kiss your child, apologize for your OCD behavior and then put them into the car.
- You’re 90% of the way there at this point. Breathe deeply. On the ride home, be positive. Tell your child how much fun you had a the beach or park or playground and be sure to emphasize “getting dirty is normal and fun! Aren’t we having fun, INSERT NAME?”
- When you get home and they exit the car, carefully gather the towel they were sitting on and shove that into your large bag with their extra clothes and shoes.
- Take that bag directly to the washing machine and set that load on “Hot Enough to Scald Off the Germs from 10,000 Children”. That setting.
- As you walk to the door, teach your child to stomp loudly and with great force, removing any excess sand. Tell them they are now allowed to enter the house and to go directly to the bathtub.
- Bathe said child.
Breathe deeply now, Penelope. Your toddler is clean. Your home is clean. Your car is mostly clean. You can send your husband out to finish that job later. You may have to perform a service, but it’ll be worth it.
Pat yourself on the back because you did a great thing today, my friend. You allowed your child to get good and dirty. And you did that while not having to totally compromise the sacrosanct tidiness of your home.
Job well done.