I once posted this photo of Jack playing on a cat scratcher in front of our book shelves and someone commented that it is a miracle that the books are still on the shelf. I wanted to share what we did to make that happen. I used to try to stop him. After all these are the books we have been collecting forever! They have always been perfectly lined on the shelves and in carefully thought out categories.
The more I tried to stop Jack from touching the books the more he wanted to touch them. So I decided to move the expensive books to the top shelves and the cheaper books to the bottom shelves and let him have it. I decided to shift my focus from the books to Jack. Instead of worrying about what he was touching I watched him. I learned about him. I learned how he learns. I learned what he likes. I learned about his laugh and his smile and his funny mannerisms. He tore the books off the shelves every day for a long time. I brought my coffee with me and relaxed next to him. This became more quality time together. I didn’t make a big fuss out of it. Eventually the novelty wore off. He now never even looks at them. This photo was taken at 18 months. He is now 25 months. I can’t remember the last time he even looked in the direction of the bookshelves. Maybe he “got it out of his system.”
I let him explore the world around him. I let him experience what it was like to touch the books, to hold them, to pull them off the shelf, to feel them land on the floor. I had to pick up books for a while and I had to remember to embrace the chaos of my new life, but I didn’t have to battle with him and now he doesn’t care about the books. I feel like our relationship is better for it. There are some tears in the books, but in general they are not damaged. The books don’t mean much to me anymore, but Jack and his world mean everything to me. This method works for basically anything that he can’t hurt himself with.
Just an idea from me to you!
Abby Theuring, MSW
I wish I could say the same worked for our son with our entertainment center. I tried not acting like it was a big deal when he’d go to our receiver for our surround sound system, but he didn’t care if I looked or not, if I reacted or not…. he just shoved it off the back of the entertainment center. I thought he’d get that out of his system. He did… after MONTHS and MONTHS. That was a $300 lesson to be learned. I don’t know how to NOT get him to do it other than let him grow out of it…. but that was a lot of money :(
I did something similar, I had a small bookshelf that he was constantly taking the books off of, so I packed up my books filled it with his and now I let him go at it. I just put them up at the end of the evening.
My little dude loooves playing with books. He has a lot of hardcover children’s books that he pulls off the shelf and plays with pretty much every morning and every evening. He likes how they sound hitting cover-against-cover, and how they sound hitting against the shelf. He’s 8 months now, and isn’t tearing them up yet. Definitely thankful for that!
What a great idea! I am not sure if I could be as brave as you! I would be cringing on the inside so much! My husband is from India and they are taught deep profound respect of books/knowledge- I am laughing now at the thought of our future little one pulling books off of a shelf and my husband wide eyed and freaking out!
very inspiring and helpful as always! Jack is really growing it seems!
I was wondering though, did Jack ever try to eat your books? My daughter has been munching on EVERYTHING she can lay her hands on, especially if it’s something she’s not supposed to have… paper and cardboard being her favourites, the books have been maimed and ruined and I worry about her body trying to process that as she doesn’t really eat food outside purees, but she WILL swallow pieces of paper and cardboard that come off the books. I’m bummed out because I thought by this point (she’s 17 months) I’d be reading stories to her and we’d be enjoying the quality time together, but instead I have to hide the darn books from her so that she doesn’t eat them because she’s FAST, and as soon as she grabs one, watch out! Any advice on that?
That reminds me of how we recently solved our older infant’s interest in the cabinet below the sink. For weeks, she would open the door and pull out the cleaning supplies (yikes!) and push over the trash bin. For a while, I tried just holding the door closed while I washed dishes, which greatly frustrated her. One day, I realized I was approaching this “problem” the wrong way. While she took a nap, I excitedly moved the trash bin and cleaning supplies to a higher cabinet, and stashed her enticing cabinet full of her toys! Imagine her delight when she crawled up to her favorite hang-out spot, swung open the door and found her loves! It was awesome. She climbed in and played in there every day for a few weeks… and then–just like with Jack’s books–she was done exploring that cabinet. I have since replaced the trash bin to it’s original home, and she hasn’t come close to disturbing it. (Now, she’s investigating the drawers). The best thing we can do in this situation is to just let them explore, and resist the urge to send a negative message in connection to their curiosity.