Thursday, July 1, 2010

Activities for Toddlers

I don't have toddlers anymore.  I wish I knew everything I know now back when I did have toddlers though!  So I'll answer a question I was asked about this in hopes that it can help.   It's what I would have done, but I can't practice it so I don't know how worthwhile the information is!

The main thing that I would do with toddlers is that I would have clear "free time" and "family work" times.  I would teach them what they are and what is expected out of the toddler when they are in that activity.

For family work time I would have them help me with all my household chores.  This takes real discipline from mom.  So you may have to work up to it!  A three year old can learn to sort clothes, fill the washer and fold laundry with moms help. They can match socks and help put small piles of clothes away.  A toddler can empty the silverware from the dishwasher.  They can set the table for dinner.  They can scrub a toilet and wash a wall.  There really is endless things they can do side by side with mom. 

By doing "real" family work and helping mom they gain great confidence in themselves and the vital aspect of self-worth within the family.  They learn discipline and increased stamina.  It is not work to them because they are with mom and they think it is fun. I did do this with my daughter and she learned to do all kinds of things as a toddler.  She is well disciplined now and works hard. (Why I didn't do it with the rest of them I don't know).

The toddler will learn colors from sorting laundry, sorting and categorizing skills from silverware, basic math when setting the table, etc.  If you spend time talking to them while you are working they can increase their vocabulary and verbal articulation skills.  You can memorize many things together.  Liberty learned the names of the 12 apostles at age two.  You can sing primary songs.  I would sing the Books of Scripture songs with them.  They  can learn anything.  They will learn if we have the patience to teach them.  Also they are tired when they are done!  Toddlers need to get worn out so they will sleep well at night and nap time.

When mom needs to address Baby's needs she can then dismiss the child for "free time."  The Toddler can learn that free time means "not bother mom time as well."  In the beginning this might only last 30 minutes, but over time they can increase the length.  They learn this is the time they get to play with their toys.  They can build with blocks, play outside if the yard is fenced, or play with whatever "lifeless toys" you choose to have.  (see the the Headgates article) I would help the child learn that they create their play and not have it dictated by hours of entertainment based toys and activities.  Children need to learn to play by themselves and not be entertained.  It is hard.  It's so much easier to turn on Dora.  Save Dora for emergencies.  With discipline though there should be few emergencies.

I'm embarrassed to say that free time for my toddlers was pretty much ALL day.  Free time included as many Blues Clues episodes as they wanted among other things.  Also they had a whole play room full of push button, cartoon toys.  They learned they wanted to be entertained.  I am paying dearly for that now.  I should have taught them that free time only happens for a couple of hours all day.  If only I knew then what I know now!

Of course you'd have times where you would read and play games.  And perhaps this time would be "mommy time."  I would also take them outside as much as possible.  This is vital.  This also wears them ou.  So when you have to be inside working on those things that can't involve the toddler they are willing to amuse themselves.

I would save the free time until you desperately need time for Baby or a shower or something.  They will be trained that they need to amuse themselves and that they need to leave you alone.  The discipline they are building is vital for when they are older and are trying to get through Shakespeare, Euclid and a host of other books and other physical and mental activities.  Training is hard, but focusing on it now when they are two and three is so much better then when they are older.  Trust me on this one!

So wear them out with work time so that when you need personal time they will be more than happy to run off and play by themselves.

If you have older children they can of course help with the toddler. They can do some mentoring of them also.

I highly recommend "Home Education" by Charlotte Mason which is volume 1 in her series, "The Original Home Schooling Series."

This is what I would do in hindsight and this is what I'm going to teach my daughter to do with her children.  I hope the information is helpful.  Please share your thoughts on activities with small children in applying these principles.


Jess said...

LOVE this...

My 4 yr old... she is included in devotional time... she will even make up stuff to "read" us out of the scriptures when it is her turn..(she only lets us help her read what it really says after she tells it herself.. lol..)... Then when we do chores/family work time... she has her little duties... and these are things she took upon herself. Her big bro takes the trash out... and she puts a new bag in.... she also helps with doing dishes...(we dont have a dishwasher and live in our RV so this can get messy)... She helps with picking up her clothes and toys, she helps fold laundry when its all washed and can put away her own clothes.

When we have work to do outside the RV... for others, on the farm we stay on... she comes along... and she either gets assigned a small job working along side me or dad... or she is allowed to have "free time" a short distance away from the work area.. where I can still see her.

I think it is important to start them young... to learn to know how to work, and all the lessons that go with that. I did this with my 12 and 13 yr old... and it has been nothing but beneficial for them to already know.

Last year, because of their work ethic.. they both worked odd jobs and made enough $$ to pay for that season of football and cheer... they did so this year as well....

One of my 4 yr olds favorite activities... other than her free play time and working together... is reading together. I try really hard to never pass up an opportunity to sit down and play barbies or to curl up and snuggle with her and a good book..

This is just what works for us.. and is what/how we do.... it may or may not be right for you and yours... hopefully it made sense.. and maybe was a little useful.

Thank you for this post... as it IS so important to start off young...and I know I for one am ALWAYS looking for new inspiration/ideas.. =)

Mrs.Smith said...

Just for the record -
It's much, much easier to think it than to actually implement it.

But also for the record -
I have much happier, sweeter toddlers now that we are a no-movie, no push-button-toys home.

The first 2 weeks of "detox" are the hardest. Now I don't even *think* things like, "If only I could stick 'em in front of a movie." Yay!!!!

And one more thing for the record -
It takes me 3x as long to do 1/2 as much work when I include my children.
-It does carry with it the advantage that they aren't somewhere else making messes when they're "working" with me, and I'm trusting it will pay off when they're bigger.

There you have it. Input from a mommy in the trenches with lots of little bitties. Boy, am I looking forward to having bigger, more capable helpers! Thank you for giving me a glimpse into what life might be like 7 years from now.


Tricia said...

I would agree that this is a beautiful theory, but easier said than done- particularly the part about free time for the little ones. I actually think there is a more excellent way, but it requires a more excellent mommy! Maybe I'll write about it someday...

I too love to read the thoughts of mothers like you who have "been there" where I am, and give me a glimpse of the future with older children!

Tricia said...

NOT to imply that I AM a "more excellent mommy." Eeeks!

Karen said...

The hardest time for me as a parent so far, was when my kids were toddlers and I had no older kids to help me keep them happy. I have been finding that even with older kids, I need to make more of an effort to have my toddler near me more often though. Thank-you for your thoughts - I often think it would have been nice to know what I know now 10 years ago - and I'm sure I'll feel the same way in another 10 years. Thanks for your constant wisdom!

Being A Mother Who Knows said...

I would agree that this may be a little idealistic. : ) As a friend of mine says though, "If you don't shoot for the stars you'll never land on the moon." Well said.

I do know that I would have changed the following things:

1. I would have had them work a lot more.
2. I would have drastically limited their free time.
3. I would have expected them to entertain themselves for at least short amounts of time with life-less toys.

I hope that I can better equip my daughter and the young women I mentor to be much better prepared for motherhood than I was. Just some thoughts.....

We are Ben and Rebecca said...

I'm living it now, and I changed just as this was posted. I noticed my son had new bursts of energy that needed to be focused. TO me that means he needs more structure. Yes, it is more work- but this is my full time job, and what else would I be doing if not encouraging him to become the kind of husband and father that is so critically needed these days? I like all things that go along with gospel living- the church puts people to work, and I believe that is inspiried.
I agree 100%, and with just one week of living this he has settled a lot. He has always been an independant player, and I have never been a fan of toys that make noise.
I appreciate this, I now have the cleanest house on the block :) But most important, usuing his energy in a constructive manner.

Being A Mother Who Knows said...

Yeah Rebecca! I love success stories. : )

It is hard work. Like you said it's our job though.

Being A Mother Who Knows said...

I thought that I had posted a comment on here a couple of days ago and now I can't find it. It must be on another post. That should confuse someone. Ugh!!

What I think I said was:

It may be idealist to do with toddlers. A friend of mine says, "If you don't aim for the stars you'll never hit the moon."

What I do know though in hind sight is that I would have:

1. Expected them to work more.
2. Drastically reduced their free time.
3. Expected them to play independently with out interrupting me.
4. Only had lifeless toys.

At least I know now so I can fix it before they are in their teens or out on their own!