You must have seen these adults who keep pulling their kids away from things, raising their voices telling them not to touch anything, doing the whole “1-2-3-4-5” routine and then dragging screaming kids away. Hey, you might have been one of these adults on some occasions. Guess what? You can relax and start using a different approach.
First of all, preventing kids from touching new and interesting objects doesn’t really teach them anything other than the fact that educational hands-on experience is not approved by parents. Ok, I know some things are valuable and may break. Want an easy solution? At home, put those things away until your kids are old enough to handle them with care. Your can’t really have happy kids and valuable objects in the same house. What you end up with are extremely unhappy kids and very stressed parents. Instead, leave only those things that you won’t cry over when they break. And they will break, no doubt about it, but it is just a part of having kids around. What’s more important here is letting kids follow their interest and explore the world. How else would they know that cups and plates break? Or paper gets torn. Or some markers actually don’t wash off of your face for days (true story). Hey, that is an important experience. Might take a few accidents until it sinks in, but that is how kids learn.
How about going out and being in public, you may ask. Let’s see, and talking strictly from my own experience, let them touch stuff. Be near them and explain what the things are for, and ask them to be gentle. Again, don’t let them handle dangerous objects or things that are too expensive and you’ll be expected to pay for when destroyed. Take shopping, for example. There is nothing more exciting and eye-opening for a child than shopping. I would let my kids pick things up, study them carefully, and then ask to put them back. Have we broken anything so far? No, we haven’t. But we also didn’t have to cause a scene with full-blown tantrums and me getting embarrassed and dragging my kids out of the store. We actually have a lot of fun just window-shopping sometimes and exploring store shelves, toy sections included. My worst nightmare used to be to have kids scream demanding to buy them something, you know, like you see kids doing in stores . NEVER happened. When I tell them beforehand we are not there to buy those things, they are very good about putting them back. I think kids want to have that visual and sensory experience more than they want to take something home. Maybe the only reason they cry and ask to take something home is so they can finally touch and study it, something they are deprived of in a store with parents who keep pulling them away from things. Think about it.
So, dear parents, next time you feel like telling your kid not to even think about touching something, remember that this something may hold a very valuable lesson for your child, and it doesn’t really cost you that much, does it? Teach them that touching is fine, but you need to be careful and always put it back where they took it from. You’ll be seriously surprised how fast they learn and respect that rule. Happy kids, happy parents!
Photo: Thomas Hawk (Flickr)