3 Minute Read

Why destructive play is important for your toddler

Do not panic! Destructive play does not necessarily mean that your child is frustrated or angry - ‘destructive play’ is the name for a certain type of toddler/pre-schooler play.

When your child is being ‘destructive’, they are appearing to push things over, drop things on purpose, or break things. However, your child is not pushing things over or breaking things to hurt or offend anyone. Destructive literally means to unbuild. Your child is being a mini scientist and is ‘de-structuring’ or ‘unbuilding’ things in order to see what happens. They are studying cause and effect.

‘If I push my baby brother, he falls over.’

‘If I take my sister’s toy, she shouts.’

This can be extremely frustrating! So, let’s think of ways in which you can re-direct your child’s ‘destructive play’ so that they get the most out of ‘de-structing’ things and you reduce your frustration levels!

In order to do this, we need to encourage a positive version of the ‘destructive’ behaviour. When playing in this way, your child is most likely pushing over, dropping or breaking things. Let’s see what we can do with these three elements in their play.

Pushing or knocking over

Build some towers of wooden blocks/empty cardboard boxes together and let your child push them over or knock them down. Show them how more boxes or blocks makes a bigger impact.

Dropping things

Have some containers (ice-cream containers, margarine/yogurt pots) and fill them with things that bounce (ping pong balls), float (feathers), make a noise (teaspoons), etc. and let your child empty them out over the floor. Fill them up and do it again. And again! Try it out on different surfaces. (grass, tiles, carpet)

Breaking things

Take things apart! And then you can help put your child put them back together, so that they can take it apart all over again. Duplo is good for ‘tearing apart’ or anything with Velcro, which makes a very satisfactory tearing sound. Ripping newspaper is another alternative. For older children, taking apart something familiar is deeply satisfying, such as an old phone, or radio. Don’t worry about putting these items back together again but enjoy the process of looking at all the bits inside the phone (under supervision).  

What is the purpose of these activities? If we leap to the conclusion that our child is being destructive, we are missing out on a vital part of their learning. These activities may seem to encourage destruction, but strangely, the more chances your child has to ‘de-struct’ things in an enjoyable way, the less inclined they will be to do it in other ways. Give it a go today!

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