I’ve recently become very frustrated with my toddlers destroying things. I will get them something that I think they’ll enjoy, like a coloring book, or a puzzle, and they have destroyed it within minutes of receiving it. It seems like they don’t even get the intended fun out of it before it’s shredded and nothing more than vacuum fodder.
Honestly, this is one of the main reasons why I’ve always kept such tight control over any space in my home that was accessible to the kids – I don’t want them destroying my stuff!!! That’s right, I want to be able to set something down for a few minutes and have it still be there intact when I get back. I know exactly how many writing implements and cutting implements are accessible to the kids at any given time (approximately zero until they recently were given boxes of washable markers). That’s approximately 50% of the reason that the bathrooms, kitchen, and parental bedroom are kept behind closed doors or gates (the other 50% being safety concerns of course).
After a particularly destructive afternoon, I vented to my online mommy group, a group of us who all had babies due the same month so genuine parenting peers at any given time. I got a lot of empathy, advice on how to deal with it, and then I got a link to this Neil DeGrasse Tyson video.
For those of you who prefer a summary rather than watching a video, he answers a question about how to raise scientifically minded children. His answer – get out of their way. Children are born curious and approach everything they come across in a scientific manner, and all of their destruction is simply learning how things work. The more we tell them not to destroy, the more we tell them not to explore, not to learn. The stuff they destroy is a small price to pay for the education they give themselves doing it.
I must say, this really resonated with me and put things in perspective. I’m still going to control the kids environment of course because if my kids ruin my phone, we’re going to have a big problem, but I’m already finding myself making different decisions that I would have made a week ago and I’m getting out of their way.
A few days ago, I tried to help the girls with some simple 9 piece puzzles I got them. I just wanted to get them started, show them how it works. They got bored, would try to put a piece in then hand it to me immediately when it didn’t fit right. Pieces got lost and thrown around. Today, I’m giving them a 24 piece puzzle and walking away. They are far more focused and have been putting together a variety of puzzles just fine and loving every minute of it! In fact, as I type this, this is what’s happening.
I’m learning. I’m trying to get out of their way. When Middie Biddie kept trying to get to the salt shakers I keep on my desk (long story), I finally stopped wrestling her away from them and said “ya know what? You want to know what that is, here you go!” I licked my finger, sprinkled some salt on it, and let her taste it. Then spent about 10 minutes of her running up to me, me licking her hands and sprinkling some salt on them while she ran off giggling to lick it off. I’m trying to get ok about messes because messes mean learning happened. Shredded toys mean learning happened.
Finding the dollar store had coloring books and Disney puzzles helped a lot too. Don’t really mind finding random puzzle pieces scattered around if the puzzle only cost a buck.