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Toddler fun is the name of the game these days, or we try for it to be. I still remember taking munchkin to the park for the first time. She was a bit hesitant until she went down her first slide … then she could not get up the equipment fast enough … lol Toddlers are a whirlwind of emotions. They are happy one minute and the next they are having a meltdown over something as small as giving them the wrong color pouch for lunch. Learning to deal with all the ups and downs has been a bit of a struggle.
I am not perfect and don’t claim to be. Do I still get frustrated and raise my voice? YUP! Do I sometimes have to put myself in a time out? YUP! Mistakes happen, I just really try to learn from them and what I can do better next time and move on.
Labeling & Acknowledging Feelings
We have had very few meltdowns and even those have not been very bad. I believe some of this is because as she was becoming a toddler when she would get upset we would put a name to her feelings and talk it through with her. So, as she has been getting older we still do this, and it seems to be keeping the meltdowns to a minimum and fairly short.
When she starts we have her come to us, so we can hold her, we acknowledge how she is feeling. “I know you are mad that you cannot play with your tablet”, then we talk about why and what we can do – “you did not clean up your toys, so we have to wait to get it out, can you help me clean up, so you can use your tablet?”
Is this 100% …. NOPE but from what I can see, she has less and shorter episodes than other kids her age. The biggest thing I think is to listen to your child, what are they trying to tell you. Does this work for every kid out there? Probably not since not all kids are the same. Do I think it might help most kids? Yes. Learning to remember our toddlers have feelings and want to do things can help. When we come from a place of understanding instead of frustration good things happen.
Now that she is three she has started telling us what she is feeling, I also thank Daniel Tiger for some help in this area. She will flat out say she is mad, and we let her know that it is ok to be mad. Although her “tantrums” have increased as a three year old they are still very short and mild compared to others I have seen. With my depression they seem worse than I know they really are, that is something that I will constantly have to manage as a mom with depression.
No “Terrible Twos” Allowed
“Terrible twos” is not allowed to be used in our house or to be used around my daughter. While doing some reading on how we wanted to raise our daughter one idea kept coming up that just seemed right. What is this idea? It was that we cannot expect a toddler to be able to handle the big emotions they have without teaching them how to identify those emotions and how to work through them. If you expect “terrible” behavior that is what you are going to see and get. If you change the way you look at what they are doing it can be easier to stay calm and help them work through it. We are doing things kind of eclectically pulling from what sounds right for our family from many different things we have been reading.
We read things on attachment parenting, positive parenting and alternatives to time outs. Some things clicked and sounded like something we wanted to try. Others we did not agree with, so we just did not follow. There is really no right way, just what is right for your family. Physical punishment was the primary way we were punished when I was growing up or were sent to our rooms. I know my parents loved me. They raised me similar to how they were raised.
However, I know they did change things that they did not agree with. That is what we are doing. This is something I do struggle with. Personally, I don’t want to spank my child. Especially at this age it does not teach them anything other than to fear a parent when they get mad. Trying to find what works for any family is going to be trial and error. What works great for my child may not work for my friend’s child.
Changing MY Ways
I have given my daughter a couple of swats when I have gotten really frustrated. When I did I stopped, apologize and let her know mommy made a mistake and will do better next time. Learning how to stay calm and deal with my feelings when I get frustrated has been one of my biggest challenges. Am I going to make mistakes? YES! I am working on knowing when I might need a “mommy time out” to gather myself. I just remind myself I am doing the best I can. As long as I let my daughter know I love her, mistakes can be forgiven.
We are learning how to do time ins instead of time outs. Also working on natural consequences to doing something she should not or not doing something she is supposed to do. For example, if she is throwing toys or using them unsafely we just remove them for a bit. Then we give her a chance to show us she can use them correctly. Sometimes this can be hard for me especially since I am breaking old habits from how I was raised. Find your groove and don’t be afraid to try new things if you want. Research and stuff changes the way we look at our growing kids all the time so find what feels right for you.
The leaps and bounds toddlers take when it come to new skills is amazing. I mentioned before that we were worried because she was not taking as much as other kids her age. Well once she started that was that 🙂 We had taught her some basic sign language to help her communicate while she figured talking out. Her favorite sign for a long time was “cheese”. That ended up being one of the first words she spoke.
She was a little slow at the beginning on picking up new words. She still loved telling stories to us and her stuffed animals. It was funny to listen to in the car when you could hear her telling her animals about her day. Eventually she just started adding words, 1-2 a day, then 3-4 a day. It still took her a little longer to start stringing words together, but she got there. Currently we are working on stringing 3-4 words together.
UPDATE: Months later and now we can’t get her to stop talking or singing.
New Ways to Play
Watching the way, she figures out puzzles and how her toys work has been another fun thing to see. Ashlyn is slowly working her way up from 2-3-piece puzzles (The Learning Journey My First Match It, Things I Eat are the ones we got and helped with labeling food also) to a 12 piece we have that she likes. Seeing her play with her toys in new ways just amazes me. One day she will just be playing the next she brings them to me, so they can have a conversation. Almost every day she figures out a new way to play with her toys. She has worked her way up to a big floor puzzle that is like 36 pieces that she can do mostly on her own.
Her trains set up shop in the doll house, her Lego guys ride the trains. She has gotten really into Thomas & Friends, her favorite being Thomas & Friends Cranky At the Docks Wood Figure followed by ghost train Henry. We have tracks for her to set up and she loves to play with those using her Lego’s to build houses around the tracks. We have added magnetic tiles to her building options and if you don’t have some … get some. She will easily build with these for 45 min – 1 hr and has so much fun. She creates houses for her Lego people and tracks for her trains.
Toddler Fun with Toys
One thing we have always done is rotate toys out every couple of weeks. I don’t know about you, but we have way more toys than we have room for. We only put out some toys and then in two weeks switch them out. If she has something she is actively playing with we will leave it. Recently we got a shelving unit for our living room we use as a toy storage area. We wanted a way to clean up other than putting everything next to the fence, so it was not in the middle of the floor.
We just went to our local store and got the shelves and a few cloth bins. Our main thing was to give us storage, so we could work with Ashlyn on cleaning up and putting her toys away. My next step was to make picture labels for the shelves and bins. I wanted her to be able to know where to put her bins when she took them out and dumped them. So, what I did was take some pictures of the types of toys that were going in each bin and made labels:
- Trains Toys
- Stuffed Animals
- Random Toys (you know all the misc toys they end up with 🙂 )
I did the same thing for the open shelves:
- Tea Set
I wanted to use pictures of her own toys, so it was easier for her to get the idea. I had them printed and laminated at my local print shop. Then attached them with packing tape, which has held up surprisingly well.
On the wall above you can kind of see “Ashlyn’s Rules” and we kept them simple.
- If she wants to play with her tablet or iPhone she has to help clean up her toys
- If she wants to play with her toys she has to give us the tablet or iPhone
- If she wants to eat she has to sit at her table
- She has to help clean up before bedtime
Again, we used images to help her get the idea and it works pretty well. Well when we remember to be consistent and enforce the rules. This is something we need to get better at.
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