Toddlers dump toys and touch everything they can to explore their world. This is a developmental stage and very age appropriate, even though it drives parents crazy. Children learn by touching and exploring the world around them. Dumping buckets of toys is a milestone to encourage and celebrate. At the same time encouraging them to put things back in the bucket is also a milestone to encourage and celebrate. There are some things you can to do help with this stage to keep from completely going crazy.
Developmental Stage-Dumping, as frustrating as it is, is a fine motor skill that is very important. Toddlers are learning about how things in their world work. Dropping their sippy cup off the edge of their high chair 20 times is teaching them many things. They learn about gravity, cause and effect, and how to get under your skin. It is important to not let a toddler know that something drives you crazy. They don’t mean to make you mad they do however enjoy the reaction they get. So when your toddler dumps out a bucket of toys, laughs, and runs away, they are looking for your reaction as well. Take a breath, calm down, and then assist them to pick up what they dumped out. This is also a cause and effect they need to learn. At What to Expect “Why Toddlers Make Messes” are more reasons for why toddler explore in this manner.
Less is more- With infants we put toys all around them so they have many things within reach. With toddlers giving them buckets over flowing with toys is just an invitation for a ‘dump and go’ party. Toddlers need to have things to do and toys to play with but giving them less in those buckets will help with the mess as well as the clean-up. If you look at the mess in the room and feel over whelmed with cleaning it, it will be worse for you toddler. Putting a couple of things in the bucket gives them a chance to dump it and yet still be able to pick it back up.
Stacking and nesting toys- Nesting toys fit nicely inside each other but they are also fun to stack. Show toddlers how to stack the toys and how to fit them together. This helps toddlers fulfill their need to dump and stack objects in a more constructive way.
Activities- Facilitate the need for the dumping without as much mess. Handle puzzles are fun to help with taking out and putting in. Peg and Peg board are another game to play. Have a truck with a few building blocks in it. Encourage the child to take or dump all the blocks out and then encourage them to put them back in. Help, with hand over hand, pick up a block and put it in the bucket to teach them what you want them to do. Get excited and celebrate when they put them in the truck.
When you give toddlers constructive fun activities to do they are less likely to be so destructive. Keep in mind a toddler’s attention span is still pretty short so they move from on activity to another fairly fast. Toddlers are very active at Baby Center “Toddler fin motor skills: Filling up and dumping out” they talk more about why this is so fun for toddlers. Take these steps, encourage, and celebrate your toddler’s achievements. Remember; don’t stress so much it is just a stage.