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I have a 16 month old daughter. We always joke about how she'll play with anything other than her toys. Lately, I've been noticing that the things she plays with instead are more comparable to puzzles. She plays with her dolls little to none. The moment I give her electronic / interactive toys, or puzzle toys she seems more content.

Is this indicative of any personality traits or is this a phase children go through or something?

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2 Answers

At your daughter's age she is developing skills in problem solving, cause and effect, and other cognitive activities. She is probably enjoying things like pouring things into containers (pots, boxes, etc.), dumping them out, seeing what fits, seeing what happens when she makes one thing interact with another, etc. These are typical skills for a toddler to develop.

At her age, dolls can be very useful toys for developing receptive language if you play with the dolls with her. Give her directions, offer choices, etc. all in a play context (having a tea party, having a picnic, going to the park, etc.).

As to electronic toys, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screentime (phone, tablet, tv, etc.) for children under 2 years of age:

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/11550621/mediaunder2.pdf

Here is the Mayo Clinic's fact sheet on the impact of screentime on children:

https://www.mayoclinic.com/health/children-and-tv/MY00522

I work as an Early Intervention Speech Language Pathologist in the birth-36 month population.

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There is a huge body of research out there into toy preferences, mostly dealing with gender and "gendered toys." I can find no studies on early toy preferences being predictive of later behavior, nor what makes a child pick particular toys.

It is my experience (parent, preschool teacher) that toy preferences can be influenced by modeling from parents, siblings or peers. Your daughter may be interested in gadgets because her parents are. She may later prefer dolls because her friends do. She may go back and forth depending on her developmental stage (play with dolls and "feminine" toys may align with periods of social growth, as may play with "boy" toys). There is a drive amongst children in general to be more "grown up" which could influence toy choice. Some children are natural puzzlers who like to figure things out. If that sounds like your daughter, I would nurture this by providing other non-toys for her to explore.

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