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Thursday, October 27, 2011

For the "dumpers"

How do you have everything out and in glass containers without things getting broken or destroyed?
 We know that seeing some of our “Environment” pictures can be overwhelming and seem completely undoable.  It takes time, effort, TRUST, and patience to have everything accessible to the child, but its soooooooo worth it in the long run.  Not only is it empowering to the child, but it also strengthens the parent/child relationship because in essence we are telling them – “you are capable”, “I trust you” (that must feel so good to them).  We draw inspiration from the Reggio Emilia Philosophy, which is all about inspiring environments and having materials readily available to the child.  Our play rooms have been built brick by brick, per say.  Whenever we introduce a new element or material, we explore it, talk about it, and learn about its function and how to handle it together.  We have taught our children from a very young age how to handle things with care and how to respect their environment.  Accidents are just learning opportunities and messes are not typically an issue because our children have been gently guided to use the materials in functional ways.  We don’t shy away from dumping and pouring (messes), we just give them appropriate outlets to do so.  We are admittedly present with our children most of the day – and there was lots of supervision in the playrooms when they were younger.  Give it a go, take baby steps, and you will see amazing things happen!

Elaboration on Dumping and Pouring

Yes, our children dump and pour with the best of them... some more than others.  Ak's son and my oldest were never big "dumpers".  My youngest was a different story.  She LOVED to dump.  This probably went on between 11M-16M??  Instead of taking away or limiting her environment and taking away something from my oldest... we explored together.  Everything that was available to my oldest, was available to my youngest... despite their 17M difference.  I also do not plan on taking anything away from them when our newest addition gets here in less 2 weeks. Everything will be left out to explore and create!  

My oldest (17M) and AK's son (15M) exploring a dumped container of acrylic shapes.  Yes, you may dump that.  Yes, we will explore it together!  

20 Months

Giving them other appropriate outlets to dump and pour also helps.  "I know you would really like to dump that.  That would be LOTS of fun!  Let's get some bowls and cups to dump with."

22 Months and 5 Months

"You want to dump those?  Those look like they would be fun to dump on the light box!  Let's bring it out and turn the lights off!"  

9 Months

Exploring a dumped container of gems.  Yes, obviously you want to be fully present when they are this young.  I often like to lay out a white blanket to explore on.  It makes the background simple and the objects they are exploring really stand out.  

15 Months

An empty container was always on hand when my youngest was going through the "dumping stage".  "If you would like to dump that, you may dump it here."

I love the look of wonder on her face here.  It is amazing the things that can happen when we put our trust into them.    

These next few pictures were taken today. My youngest is 20 Months old now.  I am so happy that my camera was upstairs!  I love when I can capture moments like this to share with you.  This really touched me this AM and just reinforced my love for child led play.  My youngest is now over the dumping stage.  Yes, you can get there, too!  Sorry for the half nakedness and crazy hair!  LOL  It was early.  

Before I got to my camera she took out a piece of paper, glue, and glitter.  The picture below is her now going for the colored pasta.  

Carrying it to the art table.

Adding to her masterpiece  :-)  

Putting it back after she was done... with no prompting or guidance.  Yes, your child can do this, too!  

When I asked her what she was making. 

"Rain, Mommy.  Rain, rain, go away" 

What a beautiful rain shower it is!

This is why our materials stay out at all times.  This is why we put in the time and effort to teach and to explore together.  This is why we trust our children.  

Give them an opportunity and YOU WILL see amazing things happen.


  1. This is amazing... I hope to get to this point with my almost-2-year-old... hubby just gave me the go-ahead to have the basement as her playroom (it was supposed to be his "mancave." We can't really have stuff lying about upstairs, as we have a very curious kitten who likes to dump and chew, as well as a dog who likes to chew. :)

  2. Hah! I'm glad to see my little girl isn't the only one that likes to run around in just her panties.

  3. What you are saying is hard for me. (que internal cringe). I should bite the bullet and give more opportunities to my youngest (15months). He is most definitely a dumper.

  4. My son is now 5 but I do so enjoy reading about your kids. What a perfect place of exploration you have made for them!

  5. Oh my goodness! I LOVE this playroom!! How long did it take you to put this together? I really want a room like this in my house --when we get a house :)
    Thank you for the motivation to leave things out for both kids (23 mos & 7 mos)...I started putting things away this week that little man can't get to for fear of messes and choking....this post is helping me to see the importance of letting them explore more things, and making the environment exploring-friendly. THANKS AGAIN!

  6. Ok, I have to relate my own little story. We just finished up the flooring in our new craft room inspired by PAHM (I posted a painting pic on fb the other day) and I dragged in our Step 2 sand table to use as a sensory table, and filled it with beans & pasta. I am always letting my son get into things that would make messes, which makes my husband *cringe*. And my son has little control still (18 months) BUT the first night, he spent a LONG time playing with the beans, and whenever he would try to throw them out of his box (which happened ALOT that first night), I made him pick them all back up and give them to momma or put them back in the table. And kept repeating that the beans had to stay in the table. He threw a mini tantrum at one point but I just stayed strong and told him we couldn't play with the beans anymore if he didn't want to keep them in his table. THEN the second night, we go back down there. While I am just watching out of the corner of my eye, he accidentally drops some beans on the floor, then proceeds to pick up every.single.one and put it back in his table, all his own, without me telling him to. Now he does it automatically everyone and I haven't had to say a thing about it.

  7. @Mercedes... you can see more from our environments here... http://playathomemom3.blogspot.com/search/label/Environment

    @Christina Thank you for sharing your story. <3 Spectacular things can happen when we have faith and believe in our children!

  8. Hey thanks for showing me that post! it was nice to see how your room grew over time. It gives me some hope that one day we can eventually have something like this!

  9. I love this! It also makes me sad that I've been so untrusting with my children (21 months and 3 1/4 years). Their playroom is getting a bit of a makeover right now, and as it comes together I plan on incorporating a lot of the ideas you have presented. I'm so excited!!

  10. Hello,
    I know you get a lot of comments, and I know how great you all are at answering them,but I have to ask- a litttle off topic- do you EC? I notice your 20 month old is wearing undies. I only ask becasue I EC'd to an extent, and my 22 month old boy is "potty trained" at home, and wih me, just not with the sitter. Would love to ehar any other experiences/suggestions.

  11. I've just started following your blog. I love your ideas but struggle with a lot of it for a few reasons. 1. I'm incredibly OCD (my problem, I know) so messes really stress me out but I just had my 3rd baby and it has forced me to let go of the messes. I am now letting my boys dump. However, they will not pick up. Since my oldest (now 5) was just a wee little thing we have been trying to teach him to pick up his messes and I get down on the ground with him to help. We sing songs while we pick up, we make it a race sometimes, we do what we can to make it fun but more often than not it turns into a huge battle of wills. Our 3 year old loves to make messes but says picking it up is "too hard," even when I'm helping him. Both my husband and I feel like no matter how patient we are they take advantage of our patience(I'm sure this all comes down to some problems with our parenting) but if we get upset and use threats (taking things away) then we're back to the battle of the wills. We wanted to start incorporating the philosophies and ideas from your blog but I have to admit I DO NOT trust my children at all when it comes to messes! I really really want to be patient with them but my boys are incredibly destructive (or normally destructive and I'm just incredibly uptight). I have no idea how to motivate them to pick up their messes. We've tried rewards systems but they don't respond to that either, at least not with any consistency, and then they come to EXPECT a reward for ANYTHING they do, which I'm not okay with. I know my kids are a bit older than the ones usually talked about in this post but I know there MUST be a way to train them without it turning into something negative and frustrating for all of us.

  12. The light table activities look great!

    I just found this blog by following a rabbit trail through the internet, and am looking forward to mining the archives for more play ideas.

    We're in an apartment, so space is at a minimum; that light table looks really compact. Where did you get it/ what brand is it?

  13. @Miss G We do not EC. We started training her at 18 Months. She honestly was the easiest child to train ever! We just went cold turkey and went right to underwear. After 2 accidents she figured it out. She still has an occasional accident but is doing extremely well. We do still use a diaper for nap and night. Her bladder is just not ready to give up a diaper for 12 hours of sleep.

    @Nikki. Sorry, just seeing these now. Will get to this ASAP. Please email us at playathomemom3@gmail.com so we don't forget about you. Even if you just copy and paste what you wrote here.

    @Micheal we bought the "Ultra thin light panel" from www.constructiveplaythings.com

  14. I love these pictures! The light panel adds a great element of fun. What a seriously organized playroom!!!

    Lindsey @ ErieFamilies.com

  15. looks great...but how do you keep them from putting in their mouths?

  16. Mine is such a dumper. We have baskets of toys down for him and he delights in dumping the contents.. it's hard to just let it go, but I'm glad I do

  17. How old were your children when you encouraged them to keep things in the sensory bin? Or do you? My 12 month old makes a mess of the sensory bin. It hasn't been that hard to clean up but I'm worried that when I have more than 1 kid it will be an issue.

  18. I wish I could do this- but my kiddo takes 'dumping' to another level and just throws everything. He doesn't care for cups, and doesn't like to throw them IN things nearly as much as he likes to just throw them everywhere, no matter how much we work on it. Little stinker.

    He has balls, of course, and I want to make some beanbags and a toss thingy for him to throw them at, but, I get tired of looking for beans/whatever when he throws them around the room, so I've given up on sensory boxes until he gets a little older and can understand me better when I tell him 'no throwing'

  19. Any suggestions when you don't have a playroom? I'd love for my 11.5 month old to be able to do this. Right now he dumps things by throwing the entire container to see what comes out! Thanks! Your blog is great!

  20. Phillip - We have a post called ADVENTURES IN SMALL SPACES....type it into the search bar on the top left and let us know if it answers your question.

  21. I am searching for that great little light box you have in your picture, and can't find it anywhere! Does that say "TickIt" on the side? Can you tell me where you found it?
    Thanks so much!

  22. Its the Ultra Thin Portable Light Panel from constructive playthings

  23. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  24. What do you do when other kids come to visit? I'm talking in particular about those who may not be familiar with such an environment. And who are usually "dumpers" on an epic scale.

    1. Mentally prepare myself ahead of time. Lol. I Understand that all kids are not raised in this environment. I would use the same words with their children that I do with mine. "if you would like to dump that, you may dump it here". Also, we tend to have most of our play dates outside or at a park/playground.

  25. Can you let me know where you got the big construction paper wire mesh holders? I am having trouble finding them. I love your art area!

  26. Where did you get the red and blue jewels being used in the photo of the 9 month old? I've looked everywhere but no luck.

  27. Great post! It's so funny, what a change in that automatic reaction for me - when I heard she had free access to GLITTER ?!? LOL. I think what you guys are doing is awesome and inspirational, keep up the awesome work! :)

  28. I was just wondering how you keep the carpet clean. I can handle the messes, but I don't want to ruin our carpet. Unfortunately, as it gets colder, we have less opportunities to take the messes outside. I'm not going to limit their experiences because of weather, so any advice you have on cleaning up after or preventing carpet staining messes would be greatly appreciated.

  29. Great post...it will useful for my carpet cleaner work...


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