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My child, who will be five soon, enjoys structured play more than unstructured play. For example, he loves puzzles because they have a clear goal and a right way to complete them. He does not like blocks or magna-tiles because they are more open-ended and creative. Is this normal for his age? Should I encourage him to try different kinds of play?

What are some toys that would appeal to this preference for structure?

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    What other toys and activities (such as drawing, reading, playing outside) does he like or dislike? Mar 23, 2023 at 20:29
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    He loves cutting, dot to dots, listening to stories and kicking around a ball Mar 23, 2023 at 22:25

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I don't know if what you describe is normal for your child's age, and I would beware of any advice you get on the internet about "normal" diagnosis based on the online post. I recommend talking to your child's teachers and the pediatrician, or, if you are really concerned, perhaps a child psychologist.

That said, we encouraged our kids to explore different activities, including those that they did not like at first. We never forced activities on the kids, but gently encouraged them to try very different ones. It helps if the kids see other kids (same age or older) doing something: this naturally makes them want to imitate. As a result, the kids broadened their circle of competence considerably, and continue to surprise us with their new choices.

Some toys and other activities that appeal to those with preference for structure (based on our experience):

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    Thank you! I will check out the links, very sound advice! Mar 26, 2023 at 8:05
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I cannot tell you what is normal and what is not, but i can tell you what I observe in my child, who is of a similar age as yours and also is more interested in structured play.

My child is really fond of Lego. Not so much to play with the sets he has, but more to build them. It it occurs regularly that he builds a model of a car, precisely following the instructions, takes it apart and builds it again. But actually playing with the built car happens only rarely.

What you could try is to see if your child likes to build something according to an instruction sheet/booklet. This could even be an instruction how to build a house, or a car or something else, using the toys they already have. I find that building things, even when following an instruction, helps in developing motor skills and 3-D thinking.

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  • Thats a great idea! Thanks Mar 26, 2023 at 8:05

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