Monday, September 24, 2012

How to Include Toddlers in Everyday Activities

Some wonderful small ways to involve children in everyday tasks - start saying "YES"!! Thank to  Kate Johnson, M.EdChild Development Instructor.

Toddlers are bright shining stars. They are full of wonder and curiosity. Most every experience is new to them and they long to be included in them. As a former Montessori Toddler Teacher, I can tell you that they are quite capable creatures who yearn to do things by and for themselves. The reality however, is that most environments are not set-up like toddler classrooms, which can make for some challenging situations.
The other day, I walked into a public restroom with my recently potty-trained three-year-old and gasped at the realization that my child was about to touch and possibly climb a very germ infested adult-sized potty.  If I discourage him from these activities, I knew he would have a tantrum or an accident-or both. I am inclined to take my toddler and run for the hills, but I do not. And what happened next? He insisted on washing his hands, which was great!
Opportunities for “Yes”: Real learning and boosting self-confidence takes place for children when they feel that they can safely act on their terms and risk learning something new. It happens when they are acknowledged as contributing members of a community or family. I know that allowing my toddler to participate at some level, in what Maria Montessori called, “practical life or daily living skills”, will allow him to gain a developing sense of independence and self-confidence. Have you ever noticed how your toddler wants to help you clean or prepare something in the kitchen? Involving children in small ways in everyday tasks also helps curb temper-tantrums. Instead of saying “no”, what would happen if we created a few situations in which we said, “Yes! You may help.”
Give Freedom & Set Limits: Establish a sense of physical and emotional safety within the context of what we are allowing them to do. We tell children in very simple language what we expect and we model positive behaviors, “Yes, you may spread cream cheese on a bagel, but you may not poke the butter knife at your brother or I will take it away.” It is developmentally appropriate for toddlers to “test” these boundaries. When toddlers do this, essentially what they are saying is, “I am my own person. If I assert my separateness will you still love me?” and ultimately, “will you keep me safe?”
Pre-Plan and Keep it Simple: Know what the limits are when involving your toddler and spend a few minutes pre-planning. It really doesn’t take a lot to make a toddler happy. For more involved activities, think in terms of a beginning, a middle, and an end.
Beginning: What and how many materials do you want to use? What are the limits you need to set?
Middle: What skill do you want your child to learn and how will you help them feel successful in the learning process?
End: Toddlers like to have a sense of closure, so how can you help them clean-up and complete the task at hand? When you are coming to the end of any activity it’s helpful to give toddlers a warning, “two more minutes and then it will be time for us to start cleaning-up.”
Get Started: Child-sized items like brooms, mops, and dust-pans are a great place to begin. Even a sponge and a small bucket filled with some water is exciting to a young child. Toddlers both young and old enjoy raking leaves, pushing and filling wheel-barrows, or shucking corn. Older toddlers are coordinated enough (with a little practice) to peel and slice a banana using a butter knife or cheese spreader (be sure it has a blunt edge). Spreading cream cheese on bagels or crackers is also a favorite activity in my house. Just remember to keep it simple and scale down. Offer small portions. One mini-bagel and a tablespoon of cream-cheese, hummus, peanut butter (or whatever you are using) in a small bowl is enough. If you need more ideas about how to involve your toddler more, ask your child’s teacher or an Isis instructor.
Mess and Mistakes: Remember that toddlers explore with all of their senses so things can get a bit messy-and this ok. They are just learning and will be interested in how things feel, what they smell like, etc. Their purpose may not be immediately evident to you, but what they are doing is purposeful to them. Give them time. They may need to practice a skill multiple times in order to master it.

If you have any other ideas feel free to share them with us.

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