Car Smashing | Play Sighting 0007

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Car Smashing

For his whole young life, Tyler loved cars. As a toddler, he had his toy steering wheel in hand every time he was strapped into his car seat so he could help drive. When he was a bit older, he fell in love with Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars–he had dozens and dozens of them.

He’d drive them, sort them, build parking structures for them, race them, clean them, and organize them. He gave them names and personalities. He realized the utility and value of pockets when he discovered they could be used for transporting cars–one in each hand, one in each pocket. He loved his cars.

That’s why it was a huge surprise when he started smashing them with a hammer.

About eight-years-old at the time, he’d secure a car in the vice of his workbench, wack it a few times with his hammer, unclamp it, toss the car-corpse aside, and clamp another car in the vice.

His demeanor seemed cool and calm as he explained the cars that he was smashing were the ones he was “done with” and that he didn’t like the ones he was smashing any more. He wasn’t angry or aggressive–the whole thing seemed cathartic.

I can’t get inside his head, but my best guess is that he was outgrowing his car collection and the ritual smashing eased that transition.

My first inclination was to put a stop to it, but before stepping in I reminded myself that play is in the child, not the toy. I bit my tongue and let it continue, trusting that he needed this power play experience AND that it was unlikely to turn him into a hammer-wielding menace to society. Besides, most of the cars he was smashing had bent axles or missing wheels and wouldn’t be much use to anyone else.

20 years later, he still loves cars and–to the best of my knowledge–hasn’t made a habit smashing things with hammers.

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I'm an early learning speaker, podcaster, content creator, author, and founder of Playvolution HQ and Explorations Early Learning.