5 surprising ways your child learns through destructive play

5 surprising ways your child learns through destructive play

If you’ve ever built a tower of LEGO® DUPLO® bricks with your toddler then you’ve probably noticed that they love knocking it all down, delighted by the sight of the bricks falling to the ground. Whether they're knocking down bricks or throwing their lunch on the floor, this kind of activity can be called destructive play, and it’s surprisingly important for your little one. While it might seem like they are just making a mess, what you probably haven’t realized is that when doing things like this your child is like a scientist, experimenting and learning from this activity every time they try it. So, this is what they are actually learning from destructive play:
1. They are learning about their senses

For your little one, pushing a tower of bricks over stimulates three senses at the same time: 

  • Sight: “What a colourful tower in front of me!”
  • Touch: “How do these bricks feel?“
  • Hearing: “What noise will it make if I push it down?”

While building together you can encourage your toddler to experiment more: does the tower make the same noise falling on a carpet as it does on a wooden floor? If I rebuild it another way, will it feel the same? If I drop two bricks together will that make a cool sound?


2. Your child is becoming more self-assured

Younger toddlers may find it difficult to stack two bricks together, which is normal because it takes a while to learn how to do it. For the moment, they are comforting themselves with easy tasks, such as knocking a tower down. This reassurance and self-confidence will eventually help them to do more difficult tasks as they grow up.


3. They are learning about gravity

Your child is just like Newton and his apple. By repeatedly knocking over that stack of bricks they are exploring the concept of gravity…over and over again. Just to make sure. Soon your toddler will be able to build by themselves, but for the moment, they are beginning to discover many different concepts, including early maths, physics, and geometry. All of this comes from figuring out the shape, weight, size, and stability of a brick.


4. Your toddler is beginning to understand cause and effect

When you see your little one knocking over a tower of bricks they are demonstrating their power over the world around them. Through knocking down towers your child is essentially starting to learn about cause and effect; they are the (powerful) cause and the (noisy, superb) collapse is the effect. When your toddler is around 18-months-old, you might notice this kind of behavior becoming more frequent, because they are testing their power over you at the same time. This is just the right time for your child to start to learn, with your help, about limits, for example respecting their siblings beautiful LEGO bricks creation.


5. Your child is learning about collaboration (with your help)

You might find it a little annoying - you spent time building something awesome for your child, and then all they want is to destroy it. You might even become frustrated and not want to do it for them again. But there’s another way to see it: if you build something and invite your child to knock it down, showing that you made it for that purpose, then it becomes collaborative play. As you probably know, learning to play WITH somebody else is something children learn little by little. Stacking bricks for your child to knock down can be a simple introduction to playing together: you build, they destroy, and at the very centre of this, you are building… your relationship, as partners in play.