Usually I consider myself a hands on mum. I encourage my kids to dig in the dirt, pat dogs, finger paint and collect pebbles. For both my and my kids sanity, most of our house is a ‘please touch’ zone. From the moment they started crawling, dangerous or delicate things have been locked away or put out of reach, so that the kids can explore, investigate and play with freedom.
But there are times when we are out and about, when we come across really tempting things that are not safe or appropriate to touch. Like the beautiful bunches of flowers at the florist, or the shiny baubles and lights on store Christmas trees. For those times, I’ve found this technique has worked wonders for us. Simply, I gently ask them not to touch, and then turn the focus onto all the different things that they can do instead.
There are so many ways kids can interact with something besides touch. They can look, smell, hear, imagine, notice, count and wonder. These are all amazing things to do anyway. And by focusing on what kids CAN do, you’re giving them the tools to be able to resist the allure of touching.
If you want a child to NOT touch something, suggest what they CAN do instead.
— Danya Banya (@Danya_Banya) September 27, 2014
For instance, when we wander precariously close to a florist, and I can see my toddler itching to behead one of the roses, I tell her that she shouldn’t touch these flowers with her hands but:
- she CAN look at the beautiful flowers with her eyes
- she CAN smell each flower’s scent with her nose
- she CAN tell me the names of the flowers that she knows
- she CAN say the colours of the flowers that she can see
- and she CAN hold on to her clothes with her hands, because this sometimes makes it easier to remember not to touch.
When I’m with my preschooler, I take it even further. Sometimes I suggest that:
- she CAN choose which is her favourite flower
- she CAN count all the red flowers and tell me how many there are
- she CAN imagine what it must be like to be a bee drinking and gathering nectar
- she CAN imagine being a florist when she grows up
- she CAN try to pick out letters and recognise the numbers on the price tags
- and she CAN hold her hands behind her back if she doesn’t want to hold on to her clothes.
I’ve been using this technique for both my kids from a young toddler age of about 18 months and up. It’s amazing to watch them tune in to their other senses when they start to intently look, smell, listen and imagine.
I have fond memories of Christmas a few years back when JJ was then just one and a half years old. She’d been told she couldn’t touch the flashing lights and baubles on the Christmas tree, but she could look with her eyes instead. She leaned forward, with her pointed finger up next to her eye, until her face was just a few inches away from a particularly sparkly bauble. She never actually touched it, but oh how intently she looked!
My youngest daughter Bee, who just turned two, has started narrating this technique back to me. When we went to the farmers market last weekend, she said unprompted “Look eyes. Smell nose. Touch hands, no!”
This post is part of a Nuffnang native advertising series.