My 11-year-old cousin recently redid his playroom. What was once the realm of a little boy is now a woodshop/work shop of sorts for a much more grown up guy. Im not entirely sure what goes on in there but basically he cuts things up, smashes things, experiments, and glues and/or otherwise puts the broken items back together. When we were with him on a family beach vacation recently, he was asking around for broken appliances for his workshop. He wanted to take them apart, see how they work, and possibly fix them. Seems like a fun project for an inquisitive mind. Still, I couldnt help but ask him if he ever cuts wires. I explained that lead is often part of PVC wiring so that there might be a risk that hes tampering with lead, a neurotoxin, and possibly inhaling lead dust. He looked at me skeptically. I suggested to him that if he were going to snip lead wires and otherwise dismantle appliances that it wasnt the best idea to snack as he worked. I also talked to him about washing his hands when he was done, especially before eating. He agreed to take my advice under consideration, and then went back to trying to extract an overdue rented DVD from a broken and very stuck DVD player.
While rethinking this exchange, trying to figure out the best way to dole out helpful but unsolicited advice to pre-teenaged boys (tall order!), I remembered a visit I took to a favorite museum of contemporary art a few weeks prior to the family beach vacation. We were taking a pause from the "adult stuff" in their adorable kids' play area. This has kid-themed exhibits and piles of found and reusable materials for children to make into collages and other art projects. We have been to this play space a handful of times. On this particular day, there were cut up Christmas lights put out for children to glue on things, cut up further with scissors, and work into their projects however they deemed fit. I quickly informed the museum's management that the lights seemed to me to be dangerous. Christmas lights are a notorious lead hazard its part of the PVC insulation on the light wiring.
I was told the lights were given the all clear from their local health inspector who looks at all of the materials they put out for kids to play with. That flies in the face of all I know and have read about Christmas lights. So we made our collage out of other materials (colored straws, cut into pieces and strung on string make excellent necklaces, FYI). And we washed our hands before eating lunch.
I find this sort of play taking thing apart and putting them back together, or making collages with random materials an excellent after school activity, especially in the hectic back to school season. It lets kids mellow as they focus and provides them with productive and needed quiet time after highly stimulating days at school. I even like to do, too; its soothing.
If this kind of fiddling and collaging is happening in your house, double check to make sure the materials are safe to be playing with. And let your kids know that washing hands after tinkering with old electronics is a good idea.
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