One of the staff was recording the children on her camcoder. Mia was walking around, playing. She's in her comfort zone in this place. The staff spotted Mia and started recording her. Soon, she has neglected the other kids and continued following Mia and recording her every move. She's tiny but very bold and quick on her feet - determined to climb everything, try out everything. Adam was playing in the sandbox. She came over to the sandbox, grabbed a handful of sand and put it in her mouth. I rushed over, took the sand out and started cleaning her mouth and hand.
The staff: You know she's going in there? (the sandbox). Then there is no point in cleaning her hands. The sand will just come out in her poop. She is using her mouth to explore.
Interesting, I thought. I am usually relaxed in letting my kids put things in their mouths, because I believe it is necessary for their learning and exploration. But I do draw the line on things they can choke on, things that are dirty, and..well...sand. However, stopping babies from eating sand when you're in a sandbox can prove to be very frustrating for both the baby and yourself. So I thought, ok, let's give this a try. Let's let them eat sand.
The staff is still recording. Mia grabbed some sand in her hand. She put it in her mouth. I fought the urge to clean her up. She tasted the sand, slowly. Her face crinkled up. She spit the sand out.
The staff: You see? She doesn't even like the taste. She is spitting it out.
Mia repeated this cycle a few times - grab, taste, spit. Then she started feeling the sand with her fingers. Her face still crinkled from the taste of the sand.
The staff: Now you show her what else you can do with the sand.
I took some sand toys - sand wheels, shovel. I started pouring the sand, turning the wheels. She observed, interested. Then she tried the toys. No longer putting the sand in the mouth. She poured the sand, picked up the shovel, felt the sand with her hands and feet. She climbed in and out of the sand. Tumbling into the softness. A whole lot of learning (and fun!) that she would've missed had I kept saying NO to her eating the sand.
She did try putting the sand in her mouth a couple times after that, but she didn't enjoy it. I think she discovered that playing with the sand is more fun than eating it.