Early Childhood Education: Destructive Play

A mom went to a parent teacher conference and was told that her child was lacking fine motor skills, like being able to cut paper. The teacher suggested that the mom let the child practice cutting with no direction as to what to cut; to just let him cut. The mom looked at the teacher and said in horror, “Absolutely not! That is way too messy!” Yes, it is considered destructive play to just cut materials for no specific reason, but destructive play is also an important part of early childhood education.

If you haven’t already experienced it in your own home, just do an Internet search for “messy toddlers” and you’ll see that kids like to make messes. And they’re good at it. Early childhood education consists of children being given the opportunity to experiment, get dirty, and to play rough appropriately. Kids learn a lot of information about the world around them when they are involved in destructive play and by experiencing it personally. What do different types of cloth feel like or look like and why (try this with velvet, cotton, and corduroy, for example)? What happens when you get glue on your hands? How do bubbles form and what makes them pop? What happens if you knock over a tower of blocks? How do you clean up a mess that you made?

Here are a few destructive activities that your children may enjoy that can help them learn about the world around them:

early childhood educationEmpty containers – toy boxes, drawers, or baskets; you’ve seen kids make huge messes in mere minutes. What are they learning?

  • Cause and effect
  • Object permanence – there are objects underneath the ones they can see
  • Gross motor skills – moving arms to empty the bin, bending over to reach inside the bin, etc.
  • Fine motor skills – taking out toys one at a time

early childhood educationKnock down blocks – build a tower for your child and then let them take blocks off or knock the whole thing down. What are they learning?

  • Cause and effect
  • Fine motor skills
  • Working together

early childhood educationRemove puzzle pieces – playing with the big puzzle pieces is fun. Not putting the puzzle together, but taking it apart. What are they learning?

  • Fine motor skills
  • Hand-eye coordination – working on grabbing specific puzzle pieces
  • Spatial awareness – realizing where the puzzle pieces are in relation to the whole puzzle
  • Problem solving – seeing how the pieces fit together

You can also teach your kids to clean up the messes they made. Then they learn these early childhood education concepts, as well as responsibility for their mess. It can be difficult to let go of the need for perfection all the time, but let kids be kids!

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