Tuesday, February 05, 2008

My Demolition Darlings

My four-year-old twins are masters of destruction. Ever since they were babies, they’ve delighted in seeing how much of their plates can end up on the floor, figured out how many tosses it takes to smash a race car, and reveled in how quickly they could remove every single item from their drawers and closets. All this time, I figured my kids were just, well, pigs, but the February 2008 issue of Wondertime magazine has convinced me otherwise. In fact, my children are budding geniuses!

In the article, “Why Do Babies Drop Stuff?” by Jennifer Eyre White, I’m told “that babies dump their food (and sippy cups, and toys) from high places not just because they want to watch you aerobicize or to feed the family dog,” but because they’re learning the principles of gravity, as well as cause and effect! When babies are about a year old, they especially delight in dropping things from their high-chair trays because they’ve figured out that various objects land differently. For instance, a banana might fall with a “splat,” while a sippy cup might bounce. And, all this time, I thought my kids were just playing “Let’s Get Mommy to Clean Up Another Mess!”

In that same issue, Jennifer King Lindley explains in “Simply Smashing” that kids love to smash a tower of blocks because they are “building visual and spatial skills and figuring out how the world works.” Like me, the author initially tried to stem her child’s destructive antics by yelling “No!” or encouraging gentle play. However, this never seemed to work, and rarely does with my children either. Why? They’re not being malicious, just curious. They can’t help themselves! In Lindley’s research, she learned that “preschoolers are fascinated with testing their own power . . . and destroying things would seem a dramatic demonstration of it.”

Of course, I’m not saying that it’s okay to let our kids destroy the house, dent the car, break windows or smash plates. But, knowing the reasons behind their bent for destruction, we can help them find more harmless ways to explore their world. Let them throw water balloons outside, throw rocks in the pond, and take apart old toys (all under adult supervision, of course). Your little demolition expert just may be the next great inventor or scientist some day!

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