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When your toddler can use words to express herself during playtime, a new dimension begins in your relationship because you are both speaking the same language. At times, however, knowing everything that is on your toddler’s mind may feel uncomfortable. For example, some parents are delighted with the barrage of questions a two-and-a-half-year-old can ask. For other parents, question after question feels a bit suffocating.

As the parent, be sure to keep tabs on how you react when your child’s new proficiency at expressing himself is sometimes at odds with your own ideas about how things “should be.” When you and your toddler have different perspectives, you will want to be in control of your response, so you don’t fall into patterns of overcontrol or withdrawal, or feel overwhelmed by discomfort and anxiety.

As you consider your tendencies, one area to think about relates to your need for order. What makes you feel secure in any given situation? Do you feel most comfortable and relaxed when you are in control, everyone follows the rules, and everything is in the “right” place? Or are you more of a free spirit, enjoying a “go-with-the-flow” attitude?

It is good to understand yourself and your tendencies as a parent because if you are uncomfortable with the spontaneity of fantasy, you may lean toward quiet, orderly activities with your child. Though your child will enjoy reading a book or building a block tower with you, your child will still need engagement in the world of make-believe. He needs you to participate fully in “let’s pretend.” Fortunately, in the case of fantasy play, you can learn to pretend together. If you watch your child and follow his lead, he will teach you.

When you recognize your own “comfort zone,” you have the opportunity to push yourself in new ways. You and your child have a chance to enter a wider world of ideas together. Fun!

More to consider: Creativity and overload . . .

If you tend to be a free spirit who offers all kinds of creative ideas when you play with your child, you may be unknowingly making it hard for both of you. Too much creative input on your part can overload your child’s budding creativity. Simply slow down just a bit.