Letting Her Play With Sugar

My daughter (1.7 years) came into kitchen while I was fixing breakfast in the morning and as usual asked me, pointing upwards to the slab and making insistent sounds, to be seated on the slab so she could see the action clearly. As always I lifted her up and seated her besides me on the slab. Once there, she started looking for something interesting and took notice of the sugar container and wanted it. The pointing and the insistent sounds resumed, to make sure the message passes on to me. I tried giving her some sugar cubes in a separate bowl but she didn't want that. She wanted to handle the whole container.

Conflicting thoughts ran through my mind.

If I give : She might spill it everywhere which would be difficult to clean and there would be ants all over the place.
If I don't give : She will cry and it will be difficult and time consuming to divert her attention to something else. Moreover, it will be a disrespect to her need of exploring things.

I decided to hand over the container to her and to observe her calmly. I decided to intervene if and when things start to get messy.

So now she had the open container in front of her. She took the spoon from it trying to hold it as correctly as possible and then trying to get some sugar on it. After some 4-5 tries she thought of taking the spoon to her mouth. Just when the spoon was about to reach her mouth, she tilted it slight downwards as if taking a bite from a fork and most of the sugar in spoon fell down on slab. But she was content with getting even a little in her mouth. So she went on doing the same thing many times. The sugar was getting spilled only on slab and not on the floor below so i was not much concerned. I could clear it up in a minute so I just watched her and did not interrupt.

After some 10 minutes she started to spill sugar on purpose. Instead of taking the spoon till the mouth, she will tilt it in between. So I immediately took the container from her saying a bit loudly and firmly that spilling is not allowed. I was surprised to discover that she didn't protest. I cleared up her clothes and all the mess on the slab while she was silently and meaningfully looking on. Then I took her to her toys area and she started playing with them happily.

Had I not given her the container at her request and kept giving her other things on the pretext that I don't understand what she is asking for (which is what many of us so often do with kids who have not started to speak yet), the subtle signals she would have got would be -

  • They don't trust me with anything...they don’t give me anything I ask

  • They don’t understand me...I never get what I want....

By letting her play with it for sometime -

  • She learnt a very important thing - that she can pass the message or communicate, that she is understood. It means a lot to all of us and especially to babies who are very new in this world.

  • She might have learnt that she is trusted to do things.

  • She might have learnt that spilling things is not a desirable act.

Those 10 minutes were absorbing and enjoyable for both of us. She got pleasure in exploring things and I got pleasure in observing her activities.

It is sad but true that most of the times when stuck in situations such as described above we parents decide hastily without giving sufficient respect to human nature. Tolstoy puts this beautifully -

"We use force to curb the imaginary disorder. We think that the disorder is growing greater and greater, and that there are no limits to it,- we think that there are no other means of stopping it but by the use of force, whereas we only need to wait a little, and the disorder (or animation) calms down naturally by itself, growing into a much better and more permanent order than what we have created."

Category: parenting