I wasn’t too surprised. He had been fighting a few of his baths, crying hysterically if even a few drops of water entered his eyes. He wasn’t exactly splashing around in the bathtub and playing with bubbles. Still, I couldn’t figure out how the same person can enjoy the pool the last two summers, only to dismiss it so quickly the next. He had loved swimming; and now when I had wanted to badly to enjoy the pool with him, he refused.
Swimming wasn’t the only typically-fun activity that my toddler has refused to participate in. Take dancing. While other kids move their hips at any hint of a beat, LO wants nothing to do with it. He also didn’t like playing on the swings or going down the slides, nor did he enjoy walking around barefoot—even around the house—much less on the beach.
When you’re so excited to have fun and just want to introduce your kid to activities most other kids enjoy, their refusal to participate sends the thrill out the door.
But that’s when I realized that this thought was so backwards. It shouldn’t be about me. So what if I love swimming and dancing, or have the perception that every kid loves sitting in a swing? This is about my toddler’s own personal tastes as well as his propensity towards certain activities that he may not even be ready to take on. I then decided that if my toddler were to ever surprise me with refusing an activity I would expect him to enjoy, I would consider the following:
- There is no right way to play. If my toddler enjoy throwing rocks and nuts down the slide and watching them spin down, then he has found a way to play with slides, even if it isn’t the most conventional way.
- Not everyone likes the same activities. We all have our own preferences for enjoyment, and while swings may be the highlight of one child’s day, they may very well be the dreaded activity for another. Heck, I don’t like huge crowds and my husband stays away from swimming, so it isn’t exactly fair for us to expect our toddler to enjoy everything we introduce him to.
- Consider the worst-case scenario. If my toddler were to never walk on the beach ever again, sure this may prove a bit limiting in our outings, but it isn’t exactly the end of the world.
- Making a big deal out of his refusal will likely exacerbate the problem and add needless pressure. When we either introduce the activity as something that shouldn’t be feared or simply accept their refusal, we’re sending the message that this is not an issue to fuss over.
- Kids are likely to outgrow the obstacles preventing them from trying new activities. Just because your child doesn’t want to ride a train today isn’t a guarantee that he will forever shy away from trains for the rest of his life. Most childhood fears—while very real to kids at that time—will likely dissipate as they learn more about their world and are drawn by their curiosity.
Well, guess what—I had initially written down the first draft of this post several weeks ago, and since then have a few exciting updates to prove my point. First, my toddler now gleefully slides down the playground all on his own. He decided he was ready, and with no pressure, agreed to take that first step.
He has also walked barefoot both around the house and even on the sand. He initially hesitated removing his socks and shoes, but by providing simple explanations, not making a big deal out of it and leading by example (I now walk barefoot a whole lot more than I used to!), he has overcome whatever was holding him back from going sans shoes.
And swimming? We eased him in that day at my mom’s house, in what could potentially be the longest time it takes to introduce a toddler to a pool. First, my husband noticed that he was curious about the smoke coming out of the grill my brother was tending to. “Let’s go check out the fire,” he suggested.
Once outside, we casually mentioned that maybe we should remove his shoes and socks, and then his clothes, to “keep them from getting wet.” He then saw his cousins tossing a bright beach ball in the pool and quickly wanted to participate. “Let’s join them!” I encouraged. And that was how we slowly eased him into the pool.
The best part? He didn’t even want to get out until we had to eat. As for the swings and any other activity he may still hesitate with, I’m almost certain he’ll enjoy them in due time as well.
Do your kids not like a few things that other kids typically like?