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DS, age 5.5, keeps having these really elaborate ideas -- a rover to send to Neptune, a pop-cork cannon, a parachute in a backpack, a laser-beam defense system for the creek near our house, etc. -- and wants to build them. My husband and I are strictly arts-and-letters type but we try to help him by suggesting materials, doing some of the tool work that he can't manage, etc. The problem is that, as you might expect, many of these projects do not meet his vision of what they should be -- they don't work, or he can't take them to the level he wants. He ends up frustrated and angry, and I feel like I've become so negative ("that won't work", "you can't do that", "we can't afford a laser", etc.) He has always been a super-upbeat, creative person. I feel like I am crushing his spirit. I've tried to explain that people who build things usually fail many times before they succeed; that maybe we should try some simpler projects so we all learn the skills to do more complicated things; etc.

I hate to see him give up even trying to think of these things. But I also hate that we spend a great deal of time these days frustrated and angry. Any suggestions for how to channel his desires into something that might satisfy him? For example, building models, or trying to construct some of these things out of Legos, or drawing them? He has always had elaborate ideas, it was just much easier for us to help him realize them when they involved puppet shows and things like that!
 

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It is pretty normal for children his age to get frustrated. It is all part of growing. Rather than talking to him about failure and trying easier projects, encourage what he is doing and have him explain to you what he is doing. Instead of putting labels on it and seeing things through adult eyes, see it through his eyes. Let him play with his materials any way he wants, as long as it is safe, and then have him explain what he is doing. He is probably frustrated that he is not meeting his goals of exactness but he can learn to use his imagination and pretend that what he has made is what he dreamed of. Don't make suggestions to him, don't help him, don't do the work for him. Let him get a bit frustrated. That is part of learning. Learning to tolerate frustration and grow through it is part of growing up. Too many kids don't learn this and too many well-meaning parents try to solve problems for their children. What happens, is the kids never learn to solve the problems themselves. Show him empathy but don't try to fix it for him. Let him do it himself. Even if he gets mad. Help him show the anger and frustration in ways that don't hurt himself or others but let him have his emotions. The best learning comes from the most frustrating situations. I know you meant well, but as a former elementary school teacher, I can't tell how many times I've had this conversation. You want your child to be able to do things by himself and tolerate his own frustration. To do that, he must learn to use what he has and experience the ups and downs of project building.

Maybe you could buy him some toys or find some for him that are easy to be successful at and then give him some that he can use creatively. He can have successes and learn from frustrations this way.
 

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one of my younger brothers went through a phase when he was really into drawing "plans for his inventions". which i'm guessing was my mothers way of creatively helping him create things that were "impossible", but because our father is an engineer he suggested using graph paper, rulers and pencils with different weight lead so the plans looked more professional. it also made my brother feel like his ideas were being taken seriously.
 
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