Does Baby have that one interest that seems to outshine all else? Maybe she loves trains, gravitates toward dolls, or has a blast building with blocks. Young toddlers tend not to focus on one activity for particularly long periods of time, as their growing minds are actively seeking out new sensations to explore. But as Baby grows older, you will begin to see her preferences come out through play. Tune into what she enjoys, and play into her passions as you discover her unique tastes.
- Allow free play: So much of our lives are structured, and for toddlers, the idea of scheduling is incomprehensible. If you have a hard time detaching yourself scheduling, make sure to “schedule” some free play time for Baby to explore her territory in a self-directed way. An item in the toy bin that may have not been of any interest just a week before may jump out at her, and before you know it, she may have a new favorite activity.
- Be a careful observer: Does Baby stop to listen when a song plays, then happily dance in place? Maybe she runs over to the ball pit in a play area, or can’t resist toy food and pretend kitchens. Whatever it is that seems to grab her attention, take note. Once you know what she enjoys, you’ll be able to make sure there’s plenty of it in her life – though she’s also going to keep exploring new things, and finding new interests for you to keep up with!
- Bring it to life: Once you’ve identified what Baby enjoys the most these days, dedicate some time each day to focus on that activity. If she loves art (or loves making a mess in a way you hope will turn into a love of art!), sit down and do some painting. She will have fun doing what she likes, and you’ll love watching the smile it brings to her face. More than that, by engaging in her favorite thing with her, you’re getting an early start on showing her that the things she loves can be things you do together.
- Make a day of it: If Baby is an animal lover, take a trip to the local zoo or petting zoo. Toddlers who love to be physical may have a great time getting their energy out at the park, or an indoor play area for little ones. Tots who love creepy-crawly things may find some exhibits they’ll love at the nearest children’s museum, and for children who are fascinated by space, maybe it’s time to check and see if your town has a planetarium. Letting your toddler explore and discover her interests outside of the home, and connect abstract interests with the way they fit into the rest of the world will be exciting and gratifying.
- Notice strengths: You know Baby well, and that includes knowing her strengths. Don’t be shy in sharing an activity that you think she might enjoy, but hasn’t discovered yet. Seeing your enthusiasm for a certain interest may steer her in a direction she may not have explored on her own.
As Baby grows, she will begin to discover more and more of her unique preferences and interests. Making time in your day for her to explore and do what she enjoys, and to enjoy it with her, can be a great way to get started building a vocabulary of shared interests and activities. While her favorite activities are bound to change over time, keeping your encouragement consistent will help her feel free and supported.