After having my first little one, I became very aware of how easily things break or get wrecked. At an early age Monkey would tear books, break toys and managed to destroyed most things he got his hands on. Even these days it seems like something gets broken on a regular basis.
At first, I felt frustrated. Yes, I believe that we shouldn’t attach ourselves to material possessions (Matthew 6:19-21). However, we should still take care of what we have and teach our children to do the same. In our throw away materialistic culture it becomes too easy to be careless about our possession because everything is easily replaceable. We often don’t think about the environmental impact of throwing away broken items and buying new one.
To be honest, I struggle as to how I should respond when Monkey wreaks something. Most of the time, he breaks the item “unintentionally”. Perhaps he was being careless, curious or too rough, nevertheless something broke. When this happens I try to match my response to his. If he feels upset about breaking the item, we talk about how it broke, how he could avoid such a situation in the future, and how we could fix it (if we can). If he doesn’t care that it broke (the more common scenario) then it makes my job a whole lot more difficult.
Over the last three years, there are a few things I’ve learned that have helped me deal with the reality of children breaking things.
1 – Start by getting good quality, hard to break items. This is especially important for items that are handled on a regular basis by little ones. Think toys. After realizing that plastic cracks much too easily, I opted for wood. Wood is good. It’s durable. There are many beautiful wood toys available. Some of our favorites are made by Plan Toys, Soopsori, and Grimm’s. The thrift store is a good place to look for wood toys since they can be pricey to buy new. Cloth is good too. Dress up clothes, play silks and nice stuffed toys like these Folkmanis puppets make nice toys.
2 – Fix it. If it breaks try to fix it. Some things cannot be fixed but many things can. Books can be taped back together, clothes sewn, and toys glued. If you can’t fix it ask around. Someone you know might know how.
3 – Place special items out of reach. Before having little ones, I didn’t understand why you would change your home to accommodate your children. Now I enjoy being inspired by books like The Creative Family and Playful Learning to create areas in my home that allow my little ones to play and imagine. I still think children need to learn how to handle special objects but there is a time and a place for this. There’s no sense tempting fate by leaving your beautiful china at an easy reach. I find this true also for toys with many small pieces like puzzles and marbles that can easily be lost or act as a chocking hazard far babies if left around.
4 – Switch it, get rid of it and live without it. When my Monkey gets tired of a toy he starts to find “creative” ways to play with it… usually this lead to its destruction. Once I notice that a toy isn’t being used anymore I take it away for another day. Some items that are bound to break, because they aren’t particularly durable, are given away to children with a much gentler dispositions than my own. Other items aren’t necessary and we can live without them so don’t rush out to replace something broken. Wait at first and see if you (or your child) can live without it.
5 – Things will get broken. No matter how durable the toy or how high those china cups are, things happen and stuff breaks. Try to remain calm (I’m still working on this one) and remember that it’s just stuff.
What do you do when your child breaks something? I would love to hear your opinions on this topic.