"Mum! Daddy! Please I really want this! I will play with it all the time. Please, please, please!"
After some consideration you get it. It looks vaguely educational even!
A week later, it’s gathering dust. You search around and find where your child is playing. To your surprise they’re stuck into the stacking cups that you put by the door to donate to charity. They are 9 years old after all! They keep showing an interest in toys that seem far too young for them lately. What is going on? What should I do?
First of all PANIC!
Only kidding! Don’t panic! It is very common and can happen for a number of reasons. Get yourself a cup of tea/coffee and watch this month’s video to help understand why they are drawn towards younger toys right now.
In the video I go into more detail as to the reasons why but I’ve outlined the key points below..
Deeper reasons why they might be playing with younger toys…
- They’re challenging themselves in their daily life.
Perhaps they have started something new like a new instrument or sport Anything that is pushing their own personal comfort zone. So that could be something relatively simple (to our adult mind) like making new friends, starting new chores. A feeling we get from doing something relatively easy (like playing with younger toys) is a sense of control. This kind of play could be seen as a kind of self soothing. If they are seeking these toys for soothing it may be telling us that they’re feeling a little overwhelmed at the moment. So let them play with younger toys!
- They are feeling under pressure.
What’s a feeling we get (as adults) when we complete a simple jigsaw puzzle or throw a hoop in the basket? A simple win! A feeling of achievement! If a child is seeking these kind of feelings of completion and achievement through their play, it may be telling us that they’re feeling frustrated with something else in their daily life. It could be a sense of frustration with a project or even themselves. When I worked in a local school in Hong Kong I noticed a spike in this kind of play around exam period where pressure was particularly high in this environment. So, if you can link this play to an outside pressure, let them play with younger toys!
- They have unfinished business.
Despite what many parenting books about child development would have us believe, children all have their own timeline of development and no two children develop at the exact same pace. Yet a lot of parents (& teachers) can feel in a rush to get them to that next developmental stage. Sometimes at the expense of experiencing more foundational play. Perhaps your child wants more time to play in a younger way. You can think of them as time travelling back to a younger age where there was unfinished business! It could be a time where they want to luxuriate in being adored and cared for (perhaps as the only one before their sibling came along and they had to have sudden change). So if your child is seeking this, let them play with younger toys!
If you’re not sure if the child’s play could be linked to an early life trauma (such as a medical procedure, sudden death or relocation) seek a consultation with a registered play therapist.
Let me know what "younger toys" your big/little kid likes to play with in the comments below! NOTE This can include your husband/other half ;P