More patience or a different point of view?
Toddlers are busy little people. They like to run, explore and have things their way. As an early childhood expert, parents often ask me: ‘how are you so patient?’. The truth is, I do have patience but when you understand the toddler’s perspective you don’t need as much.
I have trained myself to have a different point of reference when looking at a situation. Here are three examples of natural triggers for even the most saintly of parents and what can be done for a smoother parent-toddler experience.
Going to the mall
The first thing a parent must do is decrease the to-do list. Have a plan for your mall visit with only one to two goals. Browsing with a toddler is impossible so set your own personal expectations in advance with that understanding. Plan your visit to be longer than needed, this way you can give your child more time to explore the environment. Leave time for your child to lead the way, and just follow (no questions asked). Approaching the mall visit form your child’s point of view will make the experience less stress for you. You may even enjoy it, along with some good educational time for I Spy games such as finding colours, shapes, animals, or playing catch. Be creative.
Going to the park
This may be your toddler’s first spring outdoor experience. There is no need to push children to play with ALL the playground structures at once. As adult, we are conditioned to be excited about the ability to try everything. Toddlers, however, need time to learn new environments. It is better for children to use their senses to understand their surroundings than to simply “play” in the playground. Let your child listen to the birds and airplanes in the sky. Encourage touching the grass, sand, rocks (feel free to take off shoes, and yours too if possible). Smell the flowers, examine bugs, ants, bees, and flies (don’t show your dislikes- be brave). Teach your child to be respectful of nature and share your knowledge and curiosity.
Going to the grocery store
We all know toddlers will sit in the shopping cart for less than a minute before asking to be unbuckled. Don’t fight it. Ask your toddler to help with the grocery list and in leading the way. Follow your child through the aisles and load your shopping cart with items on your list (make your shopping list short so the experience can be successful).
Some grocery stores have small shopping carts that can be used by the children such as the Sobeys on Rutherford and Bathurst. Allow your child to keep busy putting items in the mini-cart, just like you. If possible, allow your toddler to also feel the accomplishment of helping to pack the bags with your support.
The bottom line is, toddlers will be toddlers! Be there for them, listen, engage, guide, share, laugh and make memories for a lifetime as they don’t stay this age forever. What does stay the same? Stores at the malls, park play structures the supermarket shopping. You’ll have a lifetime of that.
Naama Yaacov, Director of Early Childhood Education Development at the ProssermanJCC and Schwartz/Reissman Centre