You turn your back for one moment and all of the sudden a recently picked up basket of blocks or drawer full of clean clothes is all over the floor.
The dumping phase can be challenging... but it is developmentally normal.
Dumping things out is part of a child's exploration of the world. They want to experiment with cause and effect, learn about their caregivers reactions to their actions, and reach maximum effort.
So rather than hoping that it won't happen again or getting frustrated, it’s helpful to offer alternative activities that satisfy their urge to dump.
5 Activities To Satisfy Your Child's Urge to Dump
Below are 5 alternative activities to satisfy your child's urge to dump but it's also helpful during this time to avoid large bins of toys or baskets full of small parts - for your own sanity.
Also note that part of what children enjoy when dumping is the sound. Some of the suggestions below are quiet so if these aren’t satisfying their curiosity, it could be that they want to HEAR the sound that dumping things out makes.
Keep this in mind when choosing loose parts and materials for the activities below:
1. Take a Bath
Baths are a great place for dumping activities. You can give your child containers of different sizes to dump water to and from.
You can also give them a large container, one that’ll be tough to lift, for some maximum effortwork to help expend their energy.
If it's warm enough, you could do this outside in a baby pool too.
2. Set Up Activities Where The Purpose is to Dump
Add a couple of empty containers (basket, box, tupperware, etc.) and "fill" them with toys that are safe to dump, like bean bags, balls, stuffed animals, etc. Limiting the amount of items that can be dumped will make it less frustrating for you while satisfying their urge.
So rather than a ball bit, offer a basket of 5-6 balls.
After dumping, pick them all up and dump it again.
You could also do this outside with sand, dirt, wood chips, etc. Bring a couple of sand buckets to the playground or beach for filling and dumping.
3. Simple Pouring Activities
Turn dumping into pouring by offering jugs to pour loose parts back and forth. Initially, your child will likely dump them but with practice and opportunities for repetition, they’ll eventually control their movements enough to simply pour back and forth.
With this alternative, you’re channeling the energy into a more refined, calming activity.
4. Sensory Bins
Sensory bins are perfect for children who like to dump.
Since dumping is going to be their main way of exploring the sensory bin, prepare for the mess by adding an old bed sheet or table cloth under their workspace. Then be sure to add containers, scoops, funnels, along with the sensory bin filler.
However, if messes aren’t your thing, I would skip this one or bring it outside if the weather is nice.
5. Turn It Into A Game
Each of you has a container that you collect things in and then dump them, i.e. you could do this outside with pinecones or little rocks or inside with toy cars or other small toys.
Decide where the dumping area will be and have fun carrying your containers to be dumped. You can walk, run, have a race, make it silly, do a freeze dance version where they have to stop when the music stops, etc.
Redirecting Other Behaviours...
If your child is out of the dumping phase but you're looking to redirect other behaviour, you might find these other posts helpful: