What is it about tiny humans and their bizarre obsessions? It seems that every few weeks my daughter is onto a new obsession. It is not that she is really “into” one thing or another; it is that she has developed a fascination that is all-consuming, all-encompassing, and somehow takes over our entire lives. First, it was the movie Frozen. She went from not noticing the television existed, to needing to watch Frozen on a continuous loop. In the car, we have to listen to the Frozen soundtrack. She has an Olaf doll that must accompany her everywhere and now the poor guy is a dull gray rather than a sparkling white. She must drink out of her Frozen cup, eat “Anna” applesauce, sleep in her “Elsa” pajamas, wear nothing but Frozen t-shirts, and forget about getting into the bath without her Frozen washcloth and bath toys. And that is just the tip of the iceberg (pun intended)! If you have found yourself immersed in a flurry of toddler obsessions, I am here to tell you that you can “let it go” and summer will return along with your sanity!
- Set Reasonable Limits
You are not going to escape your toddler’s latest obsession. Like Elsa’s frozen fury, it is coming your way as we speak. However, you can save your sanity and avoid toddler tantrums by setting reasonable limits and sticking to them. For example, one of my daughter’s obsessions is with Curious George. George is a good little monkey, but I do not want my toddler camped out in front of the television all day watching his program. Instead, I set specific limits. Yes, she can watch an episode, then she can either “read” a Curious George book or we can play with her Curious George doll. Yes, she can watch an episode at three in the afternoon, but not three in the morning (which she actually wanted to do!)
Try to say “yes” as often as possible, to make the “no” when you are setting limits more powerful. Consistency is key. The toddler obsession occurs, in part, because toddlers love repetition. They love knowing that things will be the same every time. It provides a sense of safety and security in the big, wide world that they are trying to navigate. Setting limits accomplishes the same feeling. When you are deciding upon the limits to set, make sure that they are ones that you can live with and follow. Your toddler might not appreciate having rules placed upon their favorite thing at first, but soon he/she will realize that their obsession can still be enjoyed within designated boundaries.
- Offer Choices
Our toddlers are no longer cute little cooing blobs. They are pint-sized people with definite opinions and personalities. They still want to be cuddled, but they also want their independence. Offering choices helps your toddler assert their independence, while fostering their ability to make decisions.
When offering choices, try not to offer more than two. At this age, too many choices becomes overwhelming. Present two choices that you are okay with. Attempting to get your toddler to choose the option you would prefer is a losing battle that will most likely backfire in epic proportions.
Offering choices allows you to gently guide your child towards a different obsession or limit the amount of time he/she spends obsessing. For example, “You can watch Frozen or we can go play outside.” Or “You can watch one episode of Curious George and then you can read or play with your toy.” These choices allow your child to make their own decisions regarding their time and behavior. Melt downs and tantrums will also occur less frequently because they were able to maintain a certain amount of control.
- Embrace It!
You know the phrase, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em?” Sometimes it is best to embrace your toddler’s obsession rather than fight it. Your toddler’s obsession may actually provide some insight into areas of interest as to what your child is really curious about (no pun intended.) For example, I realized that my daughter was not obsessed with jaunty snowmen per say; she was actually captivated with the music and songs. Instead of “accidentally” deleting the Frozen soundtrack from itunes, I belt out every song along with my daughter. I also play a variety of other genres of music and offer her musical instruments to explore.
In another example, my daughter developed a random preoccupation with the color blue, in which everything around her had to be blue or we boarded the fast train for Melt Down City. I finally realized, as I contemplated adding blue food coloring to all of her food, that she was just inquisitive about color in general. She wanted to know the difference between blue and purple and why it is called “blue” but there are different shades and variations with entirely different names, like “teal” and “turquoise”. I slowly stepped away from the food coloring and instead grabbed books, finger paints, and created several color sorting activities.
When your toddler embarks on his/her next fixation, ask yourself what that fascination actually means. Being riveted by Paw Patrol could be an interest in animals or an early love of helping others. An obsession with cars could mean that your child has a desire to learn how things move and work. Furthermore, a sudden craving to eat nothing but a particular food could indicate a missing nutrient in your child’s diet.
Try not to overlook your child’s obsession as a passing fancy and instead use it as an opportunity to teach your toddler something new or inspire a lifelong passion. You never know, you might develop a new hobby also!
Read about obsession-worthy crafts and activities to do with your toddler, as well as read my other articles at Creative Child by clicking here.