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How do I interest my 2 ½-year-old in toys?
Q: My 2½-year-old son doesn't like toys. One of his favourite playthings is wrapped candies. He takes a bag of candies or lollipops and carries them around in little plastic bags. He transfers them from the bag into a bucket into a truck…etc. He takes these bags everywhere he goes and carries them to the next place he is playing. He also likes to play with the VCR and cassette tapes—he knows each tape by sight, and likes to put them in an out of the VCR.

Don't get me wrong: he can play with toys sometimes. He has a train set and a kitchen which take his attention for brief periods, but mostly he likes to play with real things. Should I be worried? What can I do to interest him in other things?
Debi Pennsylvania
A: There’s no need to worry: many children love put-and-take activities and carrying things around with them. It sounds like your son has a great imagination as well as a sense of order and an understanding of object classification. And he has found his own creative way of organizing things in his world and incorporating them into his play. But I do recommend you find a replacement for his interest in the candies, which pose a choking hazard for your son. You may want to look for age-appropriate toys that have been specially designed for put-and-take play and portability—there are lots of toys out there, because children enjoy doing these things so much!

Here are some examples of the type of portable toys you might look for:
  • Play tools that can be stored and carried in their own toolkit
  • Pretend make-up that comes with its own cosmetic bag
  • Small desks that contain crayons, paper, and other arts-and-crafts supplies
  • Play doctors' kits

Your son’s interests will expand as his experiences do. For example, visiting a farm, zoo or museum might spark his imagination and inspire him to play with, and perhaps collect, toy animals or dinosaurs. Playing with other children will also expand your son’s interests as well as help him to develop his social skills. Eventually, your son will grow out of his current collect-and-carry stage, but his organizational skills will last him a lifetime. In fact, my mother-in-law has told me similar stories about my husband when he was a little boy. He’d keep busy for hours collecting things and separating them into categories, and putting them in neat piles or in small boxes or bags. Now, as an adult, he keeps things organized and everything has its special place. Of course, I’m very happy about that!