Satisfying Your Child's Need to Take Things Apart

Two Boys Taking TV Apart
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Does your child seem to be more interested in taking things apart than in putting them together? Do you feel you have to hide all your mechanical possessions to keep them from being taken apart? Your child isn’t being destructive; he’s being curious. He probably just wants to know what makes those things work. Instead of trying to stop your child from destroying all your possessions, help him satisfy his curiosity. Here’s an easy way to do that.

This activity is best for children no younger than 5. The younger your child is, the more adult supervision the child should have.

Buy a Tool Set

I don’t mean a toy toolset. I mean a real toolset. It doesn’t have to be a large set but should include a Phillips head screwdriver as well as a regular screwdriver, a pair of pliers, a wrench, and a small hammer. If you want to get fancy (which you might find you need to do), buy a set that has a screwdriver with interchangeable bits since that will be more versatile. Not all screws are the same size, after all. You might also consider getting a set with a small set of wrenches.

Collect Broken Mechanical Objects

If you have broken mechanical items around the house, don’t throw them away. Instead, give them to your child to take apart. If something is already broken, you don’t have to worry about your child breaking it.

So what kinds of things should you collect? Just about anything with moving parts would be okay, as long as the parts can be separated. Sometimes you see mechanical objects whose parts are put together with what looked like welded bolts. Those objects aren’t good since there’s no way for your child to remove them. A plastic clock is an example of an item kids would enjoy taking apart. Other mechanical objects that would be fun for kids to take apart include typewriters, printers, toasters, radios, computers, and even computer hard drives.

Safety should always be the main concern, so avoid items that could be dangerous, like batteries that might contain acid or any items that have glass parts that could break and cut your child. Anything electrical should have the wire removed completely or cut off (the whole wire, not just the plug) as close to the object as possible.

If you don’t have any broken items, ask your friends and family for some. If no one has any, let them know what you want the items for and ask them to save broken mechanical objects for you. In the meantime, consider going to a yard sale or resale shop. You can find some pretty cheap items that you won’t mind seeing destroyed.

Let the Fun Begin!

When your child starts working on the first couple of items, sit with her to make sure she knows how to handle the tools and how to use them. I suggest starting with items that have fairly large pieces, including the screws or bolts the hold the pieces together. Some mechanical objects have some pretty small screws and trying to work with them can be frustrating.

You might also start with items that don’t have dozens and dozens of parts. Start with items that have a limited number of larger pieces and work your way toward items that have more pieces and more and possibly smaller connectors, like small screws.

A Word From Verywell

Your child will be delighted with the opportunities to take things apart. Remember that your child isn’t really interested in destroying the objects; he just wants to see what they look like inside and how all its pieces fit together.

1 Source
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Kidd C, Hayden BY. The Psychology and Neuroscience of CuriosityNeuron. 2015;88(3):449-460. doi:10.1016/j.neuron.2015.09.010

By Carol Bainbridge
Carol Bainbridge has provided advice to parents of gifted children for decades, and was a member of the Indiana Association for the Gifted.