Welcome again guest blogger Jamie Smith, ISU Environmental Rating Scale Assessor.
You just got the room all cleaned up and you hear a crashing sound. Little Susie dumps the entire bin of small blocks on to the floor, and grins at you mischievously. Alex follows suit and spills the zoo animals on the floor while Joshua flings the stacking ring like Frisbees. Before you know it, the entire floor is a sea of toys. We’ve all experienced the frustration that can arise when children continually dump toys on the floor. It feels messy and unorganized- and you’re almost sure they do it just to irritate you!
But then you stop, take a deep breath, and remember they’re toddlers. They’re supposed to do this. It’s how they learn. You may feel like Cinderella- cleaning and picking up after everyone, but you can be Snow White and still “whistle while you work” if you keep the following in mind:
- You are providing valuable play opportunities! Children need many opportunities to manipulate many different items in many different ways. Infants and toddlers typically dump toys from buckets and bins for several reasons. First, it’s fun and natural for them. “What will happen if I turn this upside down?” and “Wow that makes a neat sound!” Second, children are naturally curious. Natural curiosity is something we encourage so that children will explore, experiment, and try new things. As much as it may feel like they’re dumping all the small people on the floor to push your buttons, they truly are not. Children this young are not capable of manipulation or purposely angering others.
- You’re using your child development knowledge! Beyond natural curiosity, children are experimenting with their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. We know it takes many years to be able to use fingers and eyes together to manipulate objects. Finger coordination takes longer to develop than whole-hand movement. It may be easy for children to hold a bucket with both hands and turn it over, but it’s harder to use their little fingers to pick up objects one-by-one to use them.
- You understand things from the children’s point of view! It takes a long time for children to understand that adults use the containers as storage, not as a toy. As adults, we see the bins, buckets, baskets, etc., as a way to organize and store similar toys in a convenient location. Infants and toddlers simply see items to play with.
- You can take advantage of teachable moments! Infants and toddlers do not understand the concept of cleaning or picking up. Adults have to model these behaviors in order for children to understand and eventually participate in them. Children may only be capable of picking up two or three items, even if they dumped twenty. Modeling how to clean up and praising children for their efforts in helping sets the stage for them to continue to understand and assist.
Stay tuned!!! Next week Jamie will share strategies for maximizing the space you have to keep toys under control but still accessible to children.