From Kitchen Sets to Action Figures: Letting My Toddler Discover and Develop Her Interests

toddler interests

By: Paula Cabrera

When I was a kid, I loved playing with dolls. I loved pretending to be a princess. I begged my mom to have my nails done in the parlor. I always carried a small bag and inside were my Polly Pocket, clips, and lip balm (which I really hoped would turn into a real lipstick). Yes, I was your typical “girly” girl.

When my husband and I found out we were having a girl, we were both so excited (well, regardless of the gender, we were both so excited). I could already imagine grooming dolls with my daughter, having tea parties with her, brushing her hair, and learning new hairstyles for her. As expected, most of the gifts given to her were clothes and toys – in PINK.

I just always thought my daughter will be like me – girly. So it came as a shock, albeit gradually, when her personality was starting to emerge, that her interests are so different from my interests when I was a little girl. From the time she started crawling, my mom would say, “Your daughter is not like you. She’s too hyperactive!”

Now, at two years old, my lovely Ceecee completely ignores Barbie. When we bring her to a toy store, she naturally gravitates towards the Avengers, building blocks, and cars before she runs towards My Little Pony, Princess Sofia, Beauty and the Beast, and Shopkins. While she enjoys playing with her kitchen set, she also enjoys running around like a little busy bee and climbing whatever it is she can climb – her crib, shelves, cabinets, you name it. It’s always a battle to put on cute hairbands and clips on her, and even after I’ve succeeded in styling her hair, it takes just a few minutes for it to once again be all over the place.

Obviously, how I was as a little girl is really different from how my own daughter is, and I don’t see anything wrong with that. My ideas of playtime have changed, making it more suitable to the interests of Ceecee. As parents, my husband and I value playtime as time to learn and discover; hence, as long as the toys, art materials, and books are appropriate, we let Ceecee discover and develop her interests. So here I am now, picking out Spiderman merchandise for my toddler while helping her out with wearing her favorite boots from her cousin in Texas.

From time to time, I get the looks from strangers (even from friends and relatives, actually) and I am asked, “Why do you let her play with that? She’s a girl.” At first, I was left dumbfounded, not really knowing how to address that question, but now, I just always say, “Because that’s what she likes to play with.”

Yes, my kid has diverse interests. She can get so busy fixing up meals with her kitchen set, making dinosaurs with her PlayDoh, and making all her action figures stand in a straight line. She makes her robot march then makes her stuffed animals sit in a circle as she prepares her tea set. She can’t go anywhere without Sally – her stuffed bunny. She loves her books – Sesame Street, superheroes, Clifford, Madeline, No Jumping on the Bed, Dr. Seuss, Eric Carle, etc. She focuses on her artwork, which is mainly splattered paint on paper and on her dress. She’s a runner and a climber and she also enjoys quiet time cuddling with her parents. And I support all of these because seeing her eyes sparkle with both curiosity and excitement as she discovers the world is absolutely amazing.

While I was carrying Ceecee in my belly, I was all set on patterning her toys and books after what I thought she would enjoy, but I learned that I don’t get to decide what she’ll adore and appreciate. My role as a mom involves letting her discover the world from her own set of eyes, letting her personality emerge without the fear and constraint of the usual dictates of society, supporting her interests and discoveries, and letting her develop these interests and discoveries with proper guidance.

It’s completely okay that my adorable little Ceecee ignores Barbie (maybe even dislikes her, come to think of it) and opts to build towers with her blocks. She’s in the process of learning and discovering as she plays, and I’m not going to stand in the way of that.

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Paula Cabrera is a working mom and a devoted wife. She and her husband are both lawyers who are continuously learning to embrace the joys and pains of both work and parenting. Reading and writing have always been some of her hobbies, and so, despite being busy, she finds time to do both even for just a few minutes everyday. She hopes to be able to be able to reach out to other parents through her short pieces and remind them that they are not alone in the crazy yet fulfilling world of parenting.


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