Parenting Hack To Simplify Life With an Active Toddler
What do I do with my toddler all day? If this is a question that’s always on your mind, then this post is for you.
Toddlers can be the most loving thing to have happened to us, but let’s be honest, they can be a handful and it’s not because we as parents lack discipline. From no-nap days to hunger strikes, from home destruction to tantrums in the middle of a supermarket alley, living with a toddler can make a sane person go crazy.
Don’t get me wrong! These mini humans with radioactive energy levels are going to grow up to do some amazing things. All they need is a present parent and little hacks to help rough days go smoother.
Here are some clever ideas to tire your toddler out while you catch a breath or drink a cup of coffee while it’s hot.
1. Create a safe place
The most important thing to do is to create a safe environment in your house. You cannot enjoy their childhood if you are always controlling their behaviour, making sure they’re not being too loud, breaking things or being disruptive. No sharp corners, less furniture, more space to run around, no breakable decor items within accessible reach, no scope for jumping off high surfaces. Once this is settled, you can sit down and play with them!
2. Head out as much as possible to burn that energy.
Go for a nature walk. Living in the times that we are in, a little walk outside your backyard would also turn out to be super engaging for your toddler. Throw in a simple checklist of ‘things to spot’ like butterflies, dogs, caterpillars. Be open to noticing small details. Model it around using all five senses. Point to clouds, little bugs, flowers, colors. You could try this in your patio, terrace garden, neighborhood whatever is feasible.
3. Jump on the bed/couch.
Bring your park indoors and let them make trampolines, slides, forts and castles out of your sofa cushions or mattresses.
4. Tape their toys.
Give them a rescue mission to save their toys from the sticky monster (tape). This is a great exercise for finger muscles which helps them with handwriting as well as life skills like buttoning a shirt, zipping their pants. You could try this with the baby seated on a high chair while you’re cooking.
5 . Make brushing fun.
Here’s a fun, hands-on activity to talk about dental hygiene and get your toddler to practice brushing teeth, a daily life skill. On a piece of cardboard, draw their favourite animal or cartoon on it with a big open mouth, laminate it with scotch tape, draw dirt/plaque over teeth with a dry-erase/whiteboard marker and hand them a slightly damp brush. Nice and clean.
We made a monkey. Got my son to help this little monkey who has some chocolate stuck to their teeth and needs help brushing the grime away. Need to make sure their teeth are brushed properly!
6. Indulge them in sensory play
Sensory play is about stimulating your child’s senses: touch, smell, taste, movement, balance, sight and hearing. Sensory play will help your toddler explore, discover, and create using motor skills, like dumping, filling, scooping.
I noticed my toddler getting more vocal during sensory play.
You can make it less stressful if you plan ahead of play. Start with dry items like rice, beans or pasta. Progress with water play and eventually try other messier options like oobleck or kinetic sand. Contain the mess by placing the sensory play fillers in a shallow bin and keep a playmat beneath for any spillover. Keep a towel handy and do all messy play activities before bath to save time and effort.
7. Involve them in your daily chores
Children learn more through their hands than their eyes. My toddler likes to copy us at home. Here in the picture, he’s helping me wash lentils and rice for dosa batter which doubles up as a sensory experience for him. 🙂
As adults, we find these tasks mundane but toddlers love these daily chores!
Participating in these activities not only helps children feel like they are an integral part of the home but also increases their sense of independence and competence. It helps build their motor coordination, problem solving skills and abstract thinking.
Involve them in your daily lives. Just start with something simple like helping you clean up toys, washing fruits, peeling peas, sorting clothes, rolling rotis.
Remember to have as many things as you can within the eye-level of your child. We don’t have a toddler learning tower/kitchen helper so I just kept it accessible for him on the floor. While he certainly hasn’t mastered this skill, he has a lot of fun doing it and it has certainly helped him improve his concentration.
The key to making it fun for your kid is to give them tools they need and plenty of time and space to figure things out.
A little mess is expected but remind yourself that kids are washable!
8. Let them make art
Mark making is the first step towards writing. It’s also a form of expression and communication for toddlers who can’t speak yet. It helps them investigate a new concept. Tell a story.
Ever noticed your child using their palms and fingers on spilled food/milk to create patterns and swirls? Or poke their fingers into playdough? Or simply scribbling on the walls? These ‘Scribbles’ or random swirls are actually an essential pre-writing skills. Learning to control a pen, pencil, brush or a crayon is hard and requires muscle control, hand-eye coordination, concentration.
Let your child ‘write’ on the walls. Invest in washable crayons or markers, they are a life saver! It’s important to let them enjoy the process of mark making. Experiment with different kinds of brushes – Bubble-wrap, Fork, pom-pom balls, sponges, finger-painting. Don’t just say “No drawing on the wall”. Fulfil their need for creative expression.
9. Have a bedtime routine
Toddlers love predictability and repetitions. They really thrive best on having structure throughout their day. Since toddlers don’t have any way of telling time or a sense of how it passes, they develop their knowledge of a daily routine through activities.
They can understand when it’s nap time if it’s right after lunch or when they have to brush their teeth if they typically do it after their pajamas go on.
For us, we take a nice warm bath, followed by dinner and tuck ourselves in the bed with a couple of bedtime reads. Calm them down with a bedtime story or lullaby.
10. Be happy and be present
Sometimes, we get through a whole day of taking care of a toddler only to realize we’ve barely interacted with them. Kids don’t need a perfect parent, they need a present one. Put away your to-do list and live in the moment when you are with your child. Plan your day before they wake up. Once they are up, give them your undivided attention, even if it is for 15 minutes. You have to make up your mind that while you’re with your family, it’s family. While you’re working, it’s work.