Have you ever watched a toddler walk into a pristinely organized room and joyously proceed to dump everything off shelves and out of buckets? It’s probably a familiar image if you have young children or have spent any time around them, but why do toddlers do it? Looking through the Montessori lens might help us find an answer.
Toddlers dump for a variety of reasons. Here are just a few possibilities:
They are bored. A child will become bored if the same toys are kept out. It is important to give your child a variety of items to play with. You may even rearrange the placement of toys, to give your child a new sense of curiosity.
The activities inside are too hard. Be mindful of the skill level needed to play with each toy you give your child. If a toddler cannot grasp an activity or they are not given enough guidance, it can cause them to dump the activity from its container.
A need for maximum effort. If your child isn’t being given ample opportunity to fully exert themselves, they could be seeking out the opportunity by dumping their toys.
No other outlet for dumping. Toddlers will dump no matter what. Dumping is an essential exercise for exploration as a child, but it is important for them to be given a constructive place to dump. For example, during bath time or sink play.
Your reaction. Very often, as caretakers, we can overreact when we see a child dumping out our hard work onto the floor. But it is exactly this reaction that fuels dumping behavior. It is great fun in a toddler’s eyes to see mom, dad, or a teacher get worked up over their mess on the floor.
Toddlers will do, what toddlers do—they will dump, but if we are mindful of the reasons why, we can contain dumping to constructive spaces and meet the needs of our toddler’s growing minds.