Your toddler drew a beautiful multi-colored scribble of which you'd be so proud if he hadn't done it on your freshly painted wall. Your preschooler just threw a toy and broke a vase because she was angry she had to clean up. What happened to the little bundle of joy you brought home from the hospital? Not to worry ... you can teach your child to respect property and take care of things that belong to him and others.
If the phrase "be gentle with your toys" is a mantra in your home, maybe it's time to teach your toddler or preschooler to respect her property. Reading stories together is a great way to introduce unfamiliar topics to young children. Your child may not realize that a seemingly fun activity like bashing toys with his hammer can actually upset others in the family when the toy breaks. Choose a story such as "Goldilocks and the Three Bears," where something gets ruined and makes other characters sad. Discuss what happens in the story after you read. Questions you can ask include "Was anything broken? How did that make the characters feel?"
If games of make-believe are popular in your house, present your child with a scenario where you pretend you are going to lend him your favorite toy. Discuss how much you like it and how sad you'd be if it broke. Ask your child to show you how he will take care of it. You can use many different situations, including ones where you pretend to color on a wall or break a toy and ask your child to respond. Soon the pretend behaviors will transfer to understanding how to respect property.
Follow the Leader
Your child is your biggest fan; he follows you from room to room and repeats everything you say. Use this to your advantage when teaching your child to respect property. Play a game of follow the leader and show your child how to take care of toys by using them correctly, handling them gently, and putting them away when done. Have your child mimic what you do. You can make the game silly and fun by narrating your actions in a funny voice: "Now I'm going to put away this toy so it doesn't accidently get stepped on. Next let's get some markers and color in a coloring book."
Fix It Up
Whether your little one poured apple juice into your makeup bag or shredded your brand new magazine, engaging him in a little game of fix-it up may be the best remedy. Preschoolers and toddlers are capable of "helping" you clean up messes if you demonstrate what needs to be done but stay with them while they do it. If he actually broke something that can't be fixed, it may be time for a trip to his piggy bank to count out some money to replace the item. By having your child clean up messes or replace ruined items, he'll realize that he should take care of property.