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Offering This or That to a Toddler? Let Her See the Choices

Mother playing with her toddler on the floor, surrounded by toys.
Alenna Ozerova/Shutterstock

Limiting your toddler’s choices is a great way to teach her how to make decisions in an overwhelming world. And, if she can see the options, it can help her pick one.

If you ask a toddler (or anyone) what she wants—such as, “What would you like to do after dinner?”—it often leads to analysis paralysis. This is a fancy way of saying she just doesn’t know. A handy trick is to offer a choice and narrow the field, like, “After dinner, would you like to play outside or play this board game?”

Thanks to their still-developing language skills, toddlers have an extreme bias toward selecting the last option. If you ask them, “Do you want A or B?” around 85% of the time, they choose B, regardless of what they really want.

This select-the-latter bias, however, doesn’t apply when presented with visual information. If you point out the two things—such as one game, and then another—it’s easier for toddlers to process the choice and select the one they want.

So, next time, show your toddler the items you’re asking about. You can hold up the snack options or the toys she can take in the car. Ask her to point to the one she wants. This can help your tot more confidently make decisions.

Jason Fitzpatrick Jason Fitzpatrick
Jason Fitzpatrick is the Editor in Chief of LifeSavvy. He has over a decade of experience in publishing and has authored thousands of articles at LifeSavvy, Review Geek, How-To Geek, and Lifehacker. Read Full Bio »
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