Playing with My Almost Two-year-old

Hi Naomi, I had a question about playing with my daughter, who is twenty months old. I’m not always entirely sure how to play with her. We have some toys and she plays with them sometime, more often because I’ve said “Do you want to play with blocks? Do you want to color?” I try to pick interesting toys (basic puzzles, big blocks, we have a rocking horse) but they’re not that interesting to me and I wonder if her lack of interest stems from my lack of interest? Right now, more than about anything else (besides nursing!) she prefers being outside and playing in water. So we take lots of walks in our neighborhood, she sits on the counter and plays in the sink or outside we run a little water from the faucet and she pours water. For a while I felt I should be talking more or trying to make a game out of it- basically make more of an effort to make it lively and entertaining. Now, the more I read your work and others like you, I’m not so sure. I love spending time with her and it seems easier and more natural lately for me to talk less, try to entertain less, and instead to follow along as she does things. But is this lazy parenting?! Could you share some thoughts on this? How did you *play* with your boys, especially at this young age? Did you have any favorite toys? Thanks so much for your time!

Dear Parent,

It seems to me like you have answered your own question. Your daughter does not need an entertainer, a play program or many toys. Children often focus on one theme of interest for months. Why divert a child from such amazing focus? Your daughter is a little scientist and water is the current exciting theme. And of all things, water can be a theme for a life time.

I loved being with my children in their world. I did not plan their time for them. In a way you can say that they “entertained” me. But no, they didn’t think of me. They played and did their own things and I loved watching and listening.

I didn’t really play with toys with my children. Maybe a bit of a ball and when they were older, some board games. When they were little, I did what I loved doing: I read them books, went for walks, took them to swim, played piano, sang, danced together, and laid on the grass looking at the stars. Most often I watched them doing their own things. I sat in the sun watching them play in the sand, build from blocks, make messes with paint or run around. I often watched them play piano and sing. I did not entertain. I only responded to each child’s cues and joined when asked. Most of the day I watched children doing their own things with or without toys.

Let your daughter do what she likes. She needs human connection, not toys or entertainment. There is nothing lazy about this kind of care. It requires of you to be fully present to her and to yourself. In a way toys and entertainment are an escape from being present to the awe of the moment. Be authentic and leave the power in the hands of your daughter. 

Warmly,  Naomi Aldort,