My toddler doesn’t always play the “right way.” For instance, he complains when I try to sit him in a swing. Instead, he wants to be on the ground so he can pull the swing, let go and watch it sway back and forth. Each time, he squeals with delight as if he just discovered the best game ever.
How my child doesn’t play the “right way”
My then-toddler would use his fire truck not to ride it, but to scrutinize its wheels or fiddle with buttons. He’d spend several minutes lifting the seat up and down and placing objects inside. But he hardly rode it.
During play dates, other kids would sit on the truck, scuttle their feet and “drive.” Why isn’t my toddler riding his truck? I worried. Isn’t this a milestone that he should be able to do?
I realize now that no, it’s not a milestone. And it’s not even a sign of anything other than the curiosity about how things work. And sometimes that curiosity requires him to play in a different way.
Yes, we do encourage him to play and learn “the right way.” We model the proper way to read books. Left to right, up to down, because he’ll need this skill when learning how to read.
But we don’t step in if he wants to flip pages back and forth, all in the wrong order. Or even use the books as a boogie board (yes, he has done this on our carpet).
I want my toddler to explore a toy and figure out how it works himself. If we tell him how to play with every toy, he might think there’s only one answer to every question. One authority over every possibility. Instead, we don’t want to limit his curiosity.
There will always be something to learn. And maybe it’s mastering object permanence by hiding items inside a truck. Or discovering momentum in the pull of a swing.
Discuss more topics about the way your child plays:
- Stop Comparing Your Child to Others
- Encourage Independent Play with Your Child
- The Benefits of Imaginative Play
- How to Be Awesome at Playing with Your Kids (Even if You Don’t Like It)
- The Benefits of Open Ended Toys (plus a List of My Favorites)
Do your kids play in unconventional ways?
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