Whether you’re a parent or not, you’ve probably seen a kid toss a new toy aside in favor of the box.
“There he goes, playing with the box again…I could’ve saved twenty bucks just by finding an old box for him!”
Or something like that.
That was an extremely common occurrence in our house, but it went a step (or five) further: my older son, D, reveled in taking toys apart from a very young age. (FUTURE MAKER!)
That added a whole other dimension to our parental supervision duties; what parent wants to watch her child constantly try to get into the guts of a brand-new toy while worrying that it (ahem, the kid AND/OR the toy) will be damaged forever? Not this parent.
So it was a little bit of a struggle for a while for us, until we started looking for toys that were made to be disassembled and reassembled. That’s a spin on the theory that “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em,” by the way. Nonetheless, it was a lot less stressful to supervise him, knowing that he wasn’t going to get electrocuted or cut or acquire some other random injury from taking apart something that was meant to stay in one piece.
That kind of curiosity needs to be fed, though, and we did feed it. We bought him books on how things work and how things are made and looked for educational shows that he could watch to get answers to so many of his questions. “Bill Nye The Science Guy” had a captive audience in this house each and every time it was on over the weekends, and there was an eagerness to try some of those experiments when the show was over, too. We also loved “Unwrapped” with Marc Summers, who went behind the scenes of food factories and other food-related businesses.
D’s younger brother became interested in how things work eventually too, and now, at nineteen, he is building his own mini a/c units for his dorm room and modifying machines and other things he uses in daily life so they work better or faster. He is extremely comfortable with a soldering iron and electrical kits, and it’s fascinating to watch. They both love to get their hands dirty while working on cars, too. I love it.
If you have a curious kid check out some of our family favorites, currently available on Netflix streaming:
“How Do They Do It?”: Go behind the scenes to do the things, and make the things that form the modern world, like elevators, carpets, street lights and more.
“How Stuff Works”: This collection unravels questions behind the food items we take for granted. Viewers will explore the elements that add flavor to our palates.
“How It’s Made”: This fascinating series visits factories around the world to reveal how everyday items big and small — from marbles to car engines — are created.
And of course, long-time favorite:
“Dirty Jobs”: In this hilarious — and often disgusting — reality show, affable host Mike Rowe joins workers tackling some of the world’s dirtiest, thankless jobs.
All of these shows are interesting and family-friendly (though certain episodes of “Dirty Jobs” might not be for the youngest ones, to be honest), and regardless of whether you’re just trying to keep your kids from getting “summer brain” or you just want something that everyone can watch together, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed here.
Now go! Watch! Learn!