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IS YOUR 3 YEAR-OLD NOT INTERESTED IN TOYS?

IS YOUR 3 YEAR-OLD NOT INTERESTED IN TOYS?

"The opposite of play is not work. It’s depression.”

                                                                      - Brian Sutton-Smith



In these times, we often hear many parents remarking, “My child is not playing with toys enough!” or "I have tried everything, but he prefers gadgets" or "I keep playing with my child, but she will now never play without me"

Playing is critical to the emotional well being of the child. Every child has different playing patterns, but typically children between 2 and 6 are drawn to play with toys. Every child is unique, and has thinking patterns that vary day to day, yet there are similarities in the reasons why they choose not to play. Let us look at some typical reasons why this happens, and how to resolve it simply

  

CHALLENGE

REMEDY

TOO MUCH CHOICE; TOO MANY DISTRACTIONS

When the child has so many choices- 20+ toys, television, gadgets, playing with parents, going to classes, there is an overload of information that the child is unable to process, and chooses to just go with the flow, instead of choosing what they want to do. They may also choose to do nothing for the same reason.

 

 

Rotate toys, keep some out in visibility, and the rest stacked away, every month rotate the toys. Ensure the toys are in a place/ at a level that the child can pick up independently.

Buy toys that have good quality, and interest the child for longer periods.

We often see children from lower economic backgrounds enjoy playing more, and look for opportunities for amusement, simply because of lesser number of options.

CARTOONY TOYS 

Much as you would like to believe your 3 year-olds will play with toys that represent their favourite fantasy characters, they truly prefer toys that look and feel important and adult like. Cartoony characters have more visual appeal for adults than for children.

      

 

Funny baby toys do not give them a sense of self worth the way a smart wooden toy would. The cartoon toys are fun for a short while, but the child has no major interest in it. They do not look like what “mama” and “papa” might play with, who are the role models the child wants to imitate. Toy kitchen sets come nowhere close to the real thing.

To test this, keep a toy mobile and a real working mobile (even if it is uglier then the toy mobile). See which one the child picks up and plays with.

Children will gravitate to the real one rather than the toy mobile which they will not even pick up the second time over.

AGE INAPPROPRIATE

When the toy poses no challenges, children get bored easily, and do not want to engage with the toy for too long.

If the toy is so challenging that it frustrates the child, it has probably been given to the child a couple of years too early. The child may then mess up the whole thing, and throw it away in anger, also losing interest in play in the process

 

It is critical to draw a fine balance between too easy and too difficult. The toys have to be age appropriate or rather developmentally appropriate.

If a 4 year old has not yet developed adequate fine motor skills, a threading toy will not be interesting, as it will seem pointless and too challenging.

How often have we seen a child in a park climb the slide in the opposite direction once they have mastered sliding down. The steps now seem too easy & boring, and the child wants to challenge himself/herself

If a child has mastered stacking, then the next toy must have complex stacking or stacking with some more complications.

PARENTAL INTERFERENCE

 Do you play excessively with your child? Has this made your child so dependent, that she/he will not play by herself/himself anymore?

Do you have a timetable where there is a time allotted for everything like playtime, lunch, classes etc?

Young children like routine but cannot work by time table. They are spontaneous and anything can trigger their interest.

Do you correct your child’s errors often, especially while playing?

 All of these can make children lose interest in playing with toys.

 

If you have not given opportunities for your child to get bored, do so now. Children find creative ways of amusing themselves with toys, if they do not have too many alternate options. It is healthier than constantly engaging them, or ferrying them from class to class.

Do not hassle them that it is time for lunch/ park/class if they are playing. Playing is food for the soul, and the children need to play as much as they need to eat.

Give self correcting toys that they can explore, discover & learn from without any adult telling them they are wrong. Let them decide how and when they want to play. Parenting involves many time changes and adapting to the child’s routine. This is critical for the child’s development.

Allow them time to play and arrive at their own conclusions. Nothing boosts their self esteem more than knowing they can do it themselves. This will naturally enhance their interest in toys.

EARLY YEARS NATURAL BRAIN DEVELOPMENT

Between 0 and 7, the brain is developing at its fastest. So the child may quickly get bored of a toy that has limited usage.

Like a jigsaw puzzle which has a straight forward one time usage, which may seem boring after a point, especially if it is made of cardboard which does not have textural appeal.

 

Use toys with a straight forward objective, but which can have more complex games over time. Children love to challenge themselves incrementally. Take it step wise.

A classic example is “Fishy Circles”, it starts with complementary pairing, goes to gradation, abstract pairing, memory games, all between the age of 2 and 3. A simple toy made more challenging at every stage.

NATURAL VERSUS SYNTHETIC

Toys which are made of metal/ plastic/ synthetic materials typically do not have a grip on the child unless of very high quality.

Children love sticks, stone, clay and other daily life materials. They love playing with food items, kitchen items and more

 

The charm and appeal of wooden toys are unbeatable and children naturally gravitate towards a good quality wooden toy as against a synthetic toy

 

All in all, to interest your child in toys, you could keep in mind the following:

  • Give the right toys at the right age
  • Rotate toys with minimal choices
  • Give quality toys that are naturally attractive and stimulating
  • Allow the child the freedom to decide when and how long to play
  • Ensure you do not correct/ redirect/ interfere too much

This should lead to more play. More play with the right toys, will certainly make children happier, more socially adaptable and develop better thinking skills.

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