What we see as messing around could be considered as learning exercise by children. All they look for in any action is do they find anything new in it, how is the result (be it sound or visual) achieved, what is the cause, what is the response, is it repetitive, does the intensity subside or increase or remain the same.
As I emphasize in many of my posts, learning from what children do and understanding them is the important step in parenting. The following scenario that I am writing on has occurred not just once but twice on different days. Purpose of sharing it here is only to spread awareness on the different ways that children take to while learning or doing something new.
Scene: 2y 9m old A spilling out water from her water bottle while moving around in the room.
I ask her to keep a wipe cloth along with her that she could use if she wants to wipe it or be careful while walking, lest she could slip off.
She runs to get her wipe cloth. And excitedly says, 'now I'm going to wipe all the water off'
I say 'v good, just watch your step'
She is busy cleaning up the floor and screaming out loud 'floor is clean'
Just as I said thanks, I see her spilling out the water again and eagerly running to get the wipe cloth for wiping.
And again laughing and screaming about how clean the floor became as she wiped.
Curious enough, I now ask her, where is all the water now?
On the floor
And where did the water go once you wiped it?
To the cloth
Is it? Is it why the cloth is wet?
Yes, the cloth took away all the water and is now wet.
She shows me the wet portion on cloth and says, water is here.
Now, I don't know if she reasoned the statement by her intuition or she could recall what I told her a year back. But, we had a similar activity where she was asked to wipe the table and I showed her how the cloth was absorbing water as we wipe with it.
Whatever the reason is, points that are to be noted are:
She was not messing around
She was not being naughty
She was not being 'non-attentive' to you if you actually said no to her action
She was not being dirty
She was only learning the action and consequences of it - how a cloth could absorb water
You could even offer her a polythene bag/cover and ask her to try wiping with it upon which she would learn that polythene does not have absorption capacity.
And how many of you would first yell a 'no' to spilling of water??
Do realise the benefits and learning that the child could miss if they were actually denied in their exploration. Every moment is an opportunity to learn something new. This is true for every individual, applicable more for children as parents are the ones who decide and teach the child what they can look for in every opportunity.
Moreover, child who hears a 'no' to her action is deeply upset within her conscience, though the feeling and reactions are not understandable by either the young child or the grown up parent. Every action of theirs and every reaction from the care taker is being recorded in their powerful brain.
More the number is No's they hear, more the parents' resistance to their exploring play, more is their resistance to parents words in the growing years when they are actually capable of deciding what they want to do.
A holding a glass water, drank some of it and poured some over her shirt.
I ask her, did you do it knowingly or unknowingly?
She says, I did it knowingly.
Do you know that your dress becomes wet with water.
You still wanted to do it?
Yes, I wanted to see how it is.
OK, now let's change your dress.
Here you have a spare dress, moreover you may not like it, but when outside we need to be careful, OK?
OK, I will wear whatever spare dress you bring for me now.
I laugh secretly (A doesn't immediately like any of the dresses we offer and to dress her it takes whole of 15-20 mins every time there is a dress change)