You worry when all kids seem to love activities that yours doesn’t. Here’s what to do when your child doesn’t like what other kids like.
My family got together at my mom’s house for a little swim party. “Perfect!” I thought. “This will be a great opportunity for the kiddo to splash around in the pool.” With his swim shorts and sunscreen packed and ready, we headed to my mom’s.
Except when we arrived, my toddler took one look at the pool and belted, “No—don’t want to swim!”
I wasn’t too surprised. He had been fighting a few of his baths, crying 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 understand how he can enjoy the pool the last two summers, only to dismiss it the next. He had loved swimming, and now when I had wanted to enjoy the pool with him, he refused.
Swimming wasn’t the only fun activity that my toddler has refused to participate in. Take dancing. While other kids move their hips at any hint of a beat, he wants nothing to do with it. He also didn’t like playing on the swings or going down the slides. He didn’t enjoy walking around barefoot—even around the house—much less on the beach.
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 tastes. If my toddler refuses an activity I expect him to enjoy, I would remember the following…
What to do when your child doesn’t like what other kids like
- There is no right way to play. My toddler enjoys throwing rocks and nuts down the slide and watching them spin down. He found a way to play with slides, even if not the most conventional way.
- Not everyone likes the same activities. We all have preferences. Swings may be the highlight of one child’s day, but they may well be the dreaded activity for another. Heck, I don’t like huge crowds and my husband stays away from swimming. We can’t expect our toddler to enjoy everything we introduce him to.
- Consider the worst-case scenario. Let’s say my toddler were to never walk on the beach ever again. Yeah, it would suck, but not the end of the world.
- Making a big deal out of his refusal will likely exacerbate the problem and add needless pressure. Instead, introduce the activity as something he shouldn’t fear. Or accept your child’s refusal. You’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. Your child’s refusal to ride a train today doesn’t mean he’ll shy away from trains for the rest of his life. Most fears will disappear as kids grow curious and learn more about their world.
Well, guess what. I wrote the first draft of this article weeks ago, and since then have a few exciting updates to prove my point. First, my toddler now 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. And he hesitated removing his socks and shoes, at first. But I provided simple explanations. I didn’t make a big deal out of it. And I led by example (I now walk barefoot a whole lot more than I used to!). He overcame whatever was holding him back from going barefoot.
And swimming? We eased him in that day at my mom’s house, in what could 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 suggested removing his shoes, socks and clothes to “keep them from getting wet.” He then saw his cousins tossing a bright beach ball in the pool and wanted to participate. “Let’s join them!” I encouraged. And that was how we 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 anything else he may still hesitate with, I’m certain he’ll enjoy them in due time as well.
Get more parenting tips to handle situations when your child doesn’t like typical things:
- 4 Steps to Stop Worrying
- Do You Know What to Do when Your Child Acts Out in Public?
- Toddler Routines: How to Structure Your Day
- Unfair Reasons We Get Mad at Our Kids
- How to Discipline a Toddler Who Deliberately Disobeys
Do your kids not like a few things that other kids typically like? How do you handle situations when your child doesn’t like what the other kids do?
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