What to do when your Child Doesn’t Play with Toys Appropriately

One exciting thing about being a child is all the cool and fun toys you get to play with. However, some children struggle with playing appropriately, and can be too rough and unsafe with toys. Parents sometimes have difficulty getting their children to use toys appropriately.

To help you gain better control during playtime, and keep your child and others safe, try the following strategies with your children:

  1. Model. When your child gets a new toy, model how the toy should be used. You should provide lots of prompts and hand-over-hand assistance to teach and encourage your child to appropriately play with the new toy.Infant girl playing with toys
  2. Practice. Have your child practice appropriately playing with the toy. If your child starts to get too rough with it, show them the appropriate way to use it and then have them repeat it back to you.
  3. Praise. When your child is appropriately playing with their toys, provide them with praise and let them know they are doing a great job. For example, you can say, “Suzy, I love how nicely you are playing with your dolls!” or “Josh, you are doing a great job of racing your cars and not throwing them!”
  4. Take It Away. If your child continues to play with toys inappropriately (i.e., throwing them, hitting others with them, trying to break them), immediately take the toys away. Let your child know that this is not how one plays with the toys. Talk to your child about why it is unsafe (i.e., someone can get hurt, you can break the toy or other items that are nearby, others might not want to play with you). You can then reintroduce the toy and show your child how to appropriately play with it. Let your child know that if they do not play the right way with the toy, then they will not be able to play with it for the rest of the day.
  5. Make a Story. You can also create a story about how we should and should not play with our toys. Within the story, identify the appropriate ways to play with toys and why we should play with them that way. Your story can also illustrate inappropriate behavior with the toys, highlighting again why we do not want to use toys in that manner. Review the story with your child before they go on a play date or start playing with toys. In addition, you and your child can reread the story after they misbehave with a toy.
  6. Just Not Ready. Some children just may not be developmentally ready to play with a specific toy, despite the age limits listed by the manufacturer. If this is the case, pull the toy out every now and again and see if your child is at the right stage. The toy will be much more fun for both of you when they can use it appropriately.

To keep your child playing safely with toys, always remember to model, practice, and praise; and if you have to, do not be afraid to take the toy away until your child can appropriately play with it.

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