Toddler Obsessions

Set Limits -- or Indulge?

The best way to handle an obsession -- no matter how odd it seems -- is to roll with it. Let her walk on all fours like a pony in the house, allow him to wear the cape to the mall, or buy duplicates of a beloved toy. Lisa Chinnery, of Lafayette, Colorado, always made sure her then-2-year-old son James had one of several toy hammers before they left the house. "For about six months, he took a hammer everywhere -- in the car, to school, to bed," she says. "One of his favorite songs was about a hammer, and we had to listen to it over and over."

And yes, the endearing outfit or cute character your child is infatuated with can get old. Megan Cheran, of Ambridge, Pennsylvania, remembers when her son Xander, now 6, went through a Spider-Man phase at 3. "We had to call him Peter Parker when the mask was off, and Spider-Man when it was on," she says. A more annoying problem was that the costume was never off. "He wanted to wear it all the time -- even in the 90-degree heat," she says. "He wore it in the pool, he wore it to bed, he tried to wear it in the bathtub. The thing would stink so bad I had to beg him to let me wash it."

Although it's okay to indulge your kid's whims to a point, you'll save yourself some aggravation by setting limits early. Cheran tolerated her son being Spider-Man at home and on playdates. "He was not, however, allowed to wear the costume to church," says Cheran. "Then he told me that if God loves everyone, he has to love Spider-Man too!"

For most kids, obsessive behavior tends to fade around the time they start kindergarten or first grade. And no matter how odd the interest -- yellow cars, toy rabbits, or vacuum cleaners -- chances are it's a normal, healthy phase. However, if your child isn't developing socially -- if he can't relate to other children or shows extremely repetitive behavior -- it may be time to talk to his pediatrician.

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