Got a toddler who takes everything apart? I’m feeling your pain. M has been in that phase for some time now, and recently I reached my breaking point.
Yeah, it was frustrating to have to hide any pen I wanted to keep from my toddler. But I understood that it’s how he plays, and I just let it go.
Not a pen survived.
Then it started to become destructive. It started with my tripod. It continued with my husband’s cologne spray (the stink!) M would take apart anything in sight…
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I didn’t mind the behavior in the sense of destructiveness on his part. I understand that it’s how he plays. M has been inquisitive and observant by nature from the newborn stage. People were amazed at how alert he was, and how he noticed everything. He fingered things early. It’s simply built into his personality – and even his talents and skill set!
But I wasn’t sure how to channel that part of his nature. So I outsourced and asked some fellow moms.
To start with, I was reassured that many people who show such signs (according to testimony from fellow moms – I don’t have scientific backing or statistical data for this) end up being brilliant engineer-types.
For a while, I had focused on activities for M that focused more on assembling and dismantling than actually creating something. He had a few favorites, which I will share with you here, but we were running out and I needed more solutions.
I will share with you here as well some more activities that fellow moms suggested to help channel the tinkering nature into something constructive (or at least not destructive.)
Disclaimer: I do not take responsibility for the safety of these activities. Know your child and your child’s nature before trying these. If your toddler is under three and still puts things into his or her mouth, you probably want to avoid these. Always be within arm’s reach when doing these activities.
4 Adapted activities for the toddler who takes everything apart:
I started off with adapting favorite activities to suit him better. The idea is to focus on making the simple put-together-take-apart process fun for him, and constructive. So I took some top kids activities and made it more suitable for his tinkering nature.
- Play dough and craft sticks – M wouldn’t do much with dough until I gave him craft sticks to put in. He kept building what he called a porch. Sure thing, sir! But it kept him very entertained.
- Beading pipe cleaners or other stiff items with pony beads – for some reason he seemed to enjoy the nature of this activity. He even matched the blue beads to a blue pipe cleaner without prompting! The focus of this is NOT a finished product – he takes it apart and puts it back together over and over during the course of the activity.
- Painting by stirring jars – While he doesn’t enjoy painting much, he does enjoy stirring. We added paint to the mix to make it more fun. Add a cover and there’s another dimension to this activity.
- Food sculptures – since these are mostly done with junk food (gumdrops or marshmallows) that M still doesn’t eat, I’ve been avoiding this. But recently I had a brainstorm – why not try it with fruit chunks? Just chop up fruit (apples mostly), give him some colorful toothpicks to stick inside, and let him have sweet, healthy fun….
6 Tinkering activities for the toddler who takes everything apart:
The common thread among the advice I received was basically structured (but child-led) tinkering activities. You can read about tinkering on Tinkerlab – she gives a good background there along with some other activity ideas.
- Taking apart pens – M was doing this anyway, so why not let him? Get some cheap pens, gather those promotional pens, or clean out your junk drawer and designate the ones that don’t work anymore. Store them in a small container, and let your child play with the parts again and again.
- Take apart an old toy (courtesy of Little Worlds) – hit the flea market, yard sales, or your local Craigslist for toys that no longer work!
- Take apart old electronics, etc. with few sharp parts. Add a screwdriver to the mix and let them work it! Here’s an example using phones from Mama Smiles.
- Create a tinkering station (c0urtesy of A Mom With a Lesson Plan) – this is tops on my to-do list for M. This small-scale version holds hours of take-apart fun.
- Nuts -n bolts – Left Brain Craft brain is full of fun tinkering ideas. I love these nuts-n-bolts trees she made, but you can let your child hold the reins to make it an all-year activity.
- Create a tinkering space (courtesy of Tinkerlab). This was top advice I received from many moms who have been through what I’m eperiencing. The feedback ranged from creating a large space in the basement where they can tear, destroy, etc recyclables and such, to ideas such as those described in the series by Tinkerlab. You’ll definitely get lots of ideas there!
4 Perfect toys for the toddler who takes everything apart:
While I wanted to add more activities to my list, I also want some more things he’ll actually play with during free play time. Usually, that’s when he goes the craziest, finding things from around the house to destroy (especially his toy cars). We have a few (as you’ll see below) but it’s time to refresh and add a couple.
While any building toys can work, it seems like some do better than others.
- Pipe builders – he has been playing with these for over a year already and he still loves them. The simple shape makes it easy for little hands, and he can sit engrossed for hours (yup, my active baby!)
- Educational Insights Design and drill – at first he didn’t play with it much, but I found that reversing the activity made it right up his alley! I started putting the screws in halfway for him, and allowing him to take them out. He does enjoy putting them in too now.
- Janod turtle rings – Stacking rings never appealed to him much, but a smaller-scale version with more rings, and turtles that connect entertained him for a long long time. This is an especially great activity for young toddlers and toddlers who still mouth things.
- Take-apart toys – among the top suggestions from other moms were toys that can be taken apart and reassembled. These are different from building toys in that you are actually destroying instead of creating. Some that were suggested: Battat take-apart toys, Motor Works or Marvel Avengers SuperHero Mashers.
That is all for now! I hope that I have helped you regain a bit of your sanity, as my fellow moms have helped me!
Do you have toddlers who take everything apart? Which activities or toys work best for you? Comment below!