Let playing kids play

My daughter loves to play with babies and letters. And babies. And letters. And sometimes nothing else.

When we went to our weekly Early Childhood Family Education class on Monday, I repeatedly tried to steer Eve to the sand table the teachers had set up. It’s a great sensory activity for her to scoop up the sand and feel it in her hands, but also so messy, I’d much rather she do it in the classroom than our living room. But she didn’t want to leave behind the plastic baby she was feeding, burping and pushing in a stroller.

On Tuesday, we had dinner with my husband’s cousin, his wife and their little girl, Faith. Faith, who’s 2 1/2, wanted to play dress-up. Eve, almost 2, wanted to play with Faith’s magnetic letters. No amount of raving over pretty purple princess dresses, or balancing tiaras on my head, or Faith’s tears, could convince her to play with her cousin.

Despite my desire to encourage cooperation and expand her horizons, I’ve quickly come to realize that toddlers do what they want to do. And you might as well let playing kids play. 

She’s still at the age of parallel play — not so interested in playing with other children, but alongside them. And it’s wonderful to see her attention span increasing, especially for things she enjoys.  We have a bucket of foam letters, designed for the tub. Eve will dump out the letters, pick them up — identifying the ones she knows — and dump them out over and over.

There will be plenty of time for sand and sparkly clothes. Play is play. Bring on the babies and the ABCs.