Let your child express her likes and dislikes verbally and silently.

How to Identify Children's Likes & Dislikes

by Lucie Westminster

When your pint-sized toddler shrugs her shoulders when you ask what she wants to do for fun or eat for a snack, all you want is an expression of opinion. Knowing that she loves bananas or hates swimming makes your life easier as a mother. Identifying your child's likes and dislikes reduces tantrums and arguments, leaving you with fewer headaches at the end of the day. Your preschooler might forcefully tell you what she prefers. However, even if your young tyke is unable to verbalize her thoughts, you can still use a variety of techniques to identify her preferences.

Channel your inner-Oprah and interview your toddler. While it might seem obvious to ask him what he likes and dislikes, it is easy to forget this simple and effective technique. Engage your toddler and make a game of the interview. Create a pretend TV stage that would make interviewers such as Barbara Walters jealous. Set up a large, comfortable chair and use a play microphone to ask questions about his favorite color, food or activity.

Give your toddler choices during daily routines and activities. While the choice of chocolate and candy bars for breakfast is not possible, offer choices such as carrots or peas for dinner. Over time, you will notice your toddler consistently choosing or rejecting a certain choice. According to KidsHealth.org, choice also has the side benefit of reducing tantrums and power struggles with your sweet angel.

Take notice of your child's non-verbal cues to help determine her likes and dislikes. If your toddler constantly points to your husband's football, your toddler might be trying to tell you he wants to play with it. On the other hand, if your toddler shakes his head, stomps his feet or throws his hands in the air, you know he is not thrilled with that particular choice.

Observe your child as she plays. While a toddler should always remain supervised, a child playing alone feels free to play without adult restrictions. Stay nearby, but give your toddler a bit of freedom and space to explore her surroundings and toys. You might notice she constantly chooses to play with her stuffed horse when you do not select what you think is her favorite teddy bear.

Items you will need

  • Soft interview chair
  • Pretend microphone


  • Ensure that your toddler's likes and dislikes are not a result of lack of knowledge. Introduce him to a variety of experiences, foods and materials, and encourage him to try the new vegetable on more than one occasion before telling you he does not like it.

About the Author

Based in Texas, Lucie Westminster has been a writer and researcher since 1975. Her work has been published in journals such as "Psychological Reports" and "Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior." Westminster's interests include developmental psychology, children, pets and crafting. She holds a Ph.D. in psychology from Miami University.

Photo Credits

  • Amos Morgan/Photodisc/Getty Images