On Forcing Toddlers into Activities



I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the use of ‘force’ to help children learn. I’ve been thinking about it in both home and educational settings.

Tom has never been a child that does well with being forced to do something.

He is 2 and a half and went on a jumping castle for the first time a couple of weeks ago.


He has been faced with a jumping castle many times. He would stand there and watch, but refuse to go on. I would take his shoes off, gently try to encourage him, and nothing. And in this case, I decided to stop forcing. I mean what was I to do? Throw him in and demand he have a good time and get jumping?

Then one day, something clicks in that busy little mind of his and he decides, “I can do this” and he does. The same thing has happened for many things, from going down a slide, sitting on the potty and joining activities.

At the moment, he does not like joining in Mother Goose sessions. He does not like to join the singing and dancing. He prefers to be outside or playing elsewhere. I have tried to encourage him to join in, tried to make it fun for him. But he doesn’t want to do it. He sings and dances at home all the time. I don’t force him anymore. He can join in if, and when he feels like it.

I know there is a fine line between gentle encouragement and force. When are you just being encouraging and when are you trying to force a child into an activity they simply aren’t ready for, or into?

For me, it’s starting with gentle encouragement and knowing when to stop before it becomes forceful. For example, when toilet training Tom I ask if he needs to use the potty. If he says no, I wait and ask again later. If he says no again I leave it. We are starting slow and not pressing the issue. If I kept banging on about it and forced him to sit on it I’m pretty sure he would never want to use it again. Instead, I now find him asking for it himself and of course he gets plenty of praise for doing this!

In a few years time he will be required to conform in a lot of situations. Whether we like it or not, traditional schooling is all about conforming and participation. I personally believe that at 2 and a half years old, this is his time to explore on his terms, I am his guide. I am there to open him up to new experiences by showing them to him time and time again, until he is ready to venture in and have a go.

I don’t want to instil fear by pushing him to do things.

What do you think? When does encouragement become force when it comes to toddlers?

Getting back into flogging my blogging and linking with the lovely Grace at With Some Grace

One thought on “On Forcing Toddlers into Activities

  • I completely agree! I have a 2.5 year old son too and we are going through the EXACT same phase. I have learned very quickly that it’s just about me being patient and letting him discover. I’ve found in many situations that it’s just about time, there have been things he hasn’t enjoyed doing or playing with but then all of a sudden he does. It’s a very complex age and so many things are going on in their little heads so I’m trying my best to just go with the flow!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *