I was so honored to be featured here yesterday - please head over and check it out!
A Question from a Reader:
"Now that I have two toddlers at home I sometimes find myself lacking creative ways to intentionally play with them. I loved reading about some of the ideas you have done - but my boys are a bit younger. Maybe you could share some games or activities that you did when they were toddlers. We have great toys and we get them get out a lot, but if I have to play trucks one more time I might just die!"
Oh yes, I remember those days very well. Now our family is in a different phase, but at the time it seemed as though the toddler years might just last forever. In order to survive (& thrive), I developed a few strategies to help me enjoy those days with my little people.
Here are four ideas to make the most of the toddler years:
1. Remember that little ones don't need lots of stimulation.
I'll never forget when a friend at a playdate asked if my boys were enrolled in any summer classes. They were 2 -years-old and 18-months-old at the time! The idea that constant entertainment, recreation, and academic stimulation is needed from day one of a child's life has gotten out of hand in Western society. It's simply not true, and it puts unnecessary pressure on mothers these days.
Your toddlers need two things - love and play. And for children growing up in healthy, functional families - those two are a given. So let your little ones tag along while you work. Let them get in your way at times - even eat off the floor on occasion! It is not a big deal.
Relax. They are learning all the time. Life (and you!) are their teachers.2. Create a written toy rotation list.
This idea is needed more for mom's sanity than a child's development. It brings variety to the day for mother and toddler, and alleviates boredom.
During the early years (& even now) we kept a few toys out for free, anytime play. Others were stored in our basement. I created a rotating list so that I could pull out something "new" each day. Good toddler play activities include cars & trucks, play animals, blocks, musical instruments, water play, Play Doh (or homemade alternative), play kitchen, baking, fingerpainting, stamp art, legos/duplos, and playing in a tent.
Keep in mind that the typical toddler has a short attention span - most activities will be over after fifteen minutes, twenty if you're lucky. At that age it often ends up that Mommy plays with the toy while your child watches. That's okay, too. You're still connecting and developing creativity.
Let your children engage with toys in whatever way comes naturally to them. Don't limit play to what a toy is "suppose" to do.3. Enjoy books together.
As an avid reader, I couldn't wait until I could explore books with my children. But often it takes a while for attention span and interest to develop. (In our family I noticed this interest for full stories present around age three.)
That doesn't mean, however, that toddlers don't enjoy books. They do - in their own way. Pulling them off the shelves and tasting them are two classic examples!
So store the treasured titles away for a couple of years, and let them go for it. You want your children to learn as soon as possible that books are fun, interesting, and engaging - not something they get in trouble for touching.
Put plenty of books at their eye level and let them investigate. Every once in a while, pull one down and show a page to them. Toddlers also love hand-sized photo albums. Place pictures of your child along with family and friends inside.4. If you have multiple children, plan for one-on-one time.
It's easy during the toddler years to get stuck in survival mode, but your children need to be valued as individuals. So when you can, seek out ways to spend time one-on-one.
One idea I used was what we called "playpen time." This involved about 30 minutes (which we worked up to slowly) where the children would play alone (with toys) in a playpen or crib. While one boy played by himself, I could spend time with the other. Yes, sometimes there were interruptions, but it was better than having no one-on-one time.
It's hard to believe now, but those pudgy faces that greet you every morning will fill out before you know it. One day very soon, you might even find yourself in the bathroom without little visitors. So don't wish these precious days away.
Take one moment at a time, and enjoy your beautiful babies.
What activities does your toddler most enjoy?
***This post is linked to Works for Me Wednesdays.***
Why does it seem that initial meetings with my children are always accompanied by drama?
Being handed Elijah four years ago (photo above of our first meeting) was nothing but - accompanied by words like malaria, parasites, severe dehydration, hospitalization, and exhaustion.But look at him now!This weekend we celebrated Elijah Liberia Day in honor of his heritage and four years with our family. And man, did he love it. His favorite part? Sporting the West African shirt, above, which he would wear every day if he could.
I think we're on the right track. As I tucked him into bed at the end of the day, my boy turned to me and said, "I love my Liberia."
Me too, Elijah. Me too.
Photo by Rob
**Proud to deliver my first guest post, written by Caroline Starr Rose**
You read to your children when they were young, but now they
can do so independently. Are there benefits to keeping up the practice? By
third grade, many parents stop reading aloud, rightly believing their children
able to go it alone.
While this is certainly true, it is significant to realize
that for many, interest in reading takes a huge dip at this age. Books have
become more challenging, school work more complicated, and reading more burden
1. Reading aloud brings
I’ll admit it. At thirty-five, I still love hearing books read
aloud. I listen regularly to books on CD as I run errands. I love it when my
husband says, “Listen to this!” and shares something he’s currently reading. As
a teenager, I remember asking my sister to read to me while I was sick. Even
though I felt too old for it, listening was an escape from my discomfort.
2. Reading aloud builds
When you share a story with others, you participate together in the world the author creates. You experience the story along with your children, allowing for a “touchstone” experience: one all of you can refer back to, share in common, and understand.
3. Reading aloud creates
My father read half
of the Little House on the Prairie
books to me (I made him stop when I realized Laura’s dog, Jack, was going to
die). My mother read a chapter of Nancy Drew to me everyday after school. These
rich memories move beyond the content shared. The security, the undivided attention, and the
continuity my parents offered me in these reading sessions were beyond compare.
I often tell my sons nothing is better than two boys, a book, and a blanket. We
snuggle, read, and enjoy being together. I hope by doing this I’m building the
same sorts of memories my parents gave me.
Children who experience literature build richer vocabularies
and hear the varied rhythms of language. The more exposure, the more natural
and broad this language development is. This introduction to new
topics, places, people, and ideas is limitless. So much I’ve learned of the
world around me I first discovered in a book.
Photo by Barb McMahon
Photo by Barb McMahon
5. Reading aloud
challenges the listener beyond their current reading level.
agree that, when hearing them read aloud, children can readily grasp books two reading
levels beyond their own. Don’t be afraid to give a challenging book a try. I
have picked up many mid-grade novels to read to my older son and have found his
brother, two years younger, just as involved. A younger child might not
comprehend everything, and that’s okay. Read with the big picture in mind.
6. Reading aloud
My third-grader is a voracious reader, but he’ll
gravitate to the same books again and again. On occasion, he’ll bring home
books from the library I suggest, but often won’t pick them up on his own. If
we read together, though, most of the time he’s hooked. Sharing with an adult
can make a new book more attractive.
7. Reading aloud opens
As our children grow older and more
independent, they naturally pull away. By reading aloud, you can share together the
choices characters make, good and bad. Discussion isn’t forced when it grows
out of stories.
Two-time Newbery winner, Katherine Paterson, has said, “Books
are a dress rehearsal for life.” There is safety in witnessing
events through the distance literature creates. Equip your child for his own
future. Read tough stories together, intentionally laying groundwork for his
intellectual, emotional, and spiritual growth.
How do I read aloud
to my older children?
I think older children need to be told by an adult
there is nothing wrong with continuing the read aloud experience. If you enthusiastically approach your
child, though it might take several attempts, you will have a positive
Here are some ideas:
Writers write, ultimately, to create meaning. What better way is there to connect with a story than alongside your growing child?
Did your parents continue reading to you as you got older?
***Caroline Starr Rose is a mother, former teacher, and writer. An excerpt of her current novel-in-verse is featured in Louisiana Literature magazine. Caroline stays connected with her former students by leading after-school book clubs. She blogs about writing, reading, and waiting at Caroline By Line.***