Thursday, May 19, 2011

What to do With a Toddler

A friend asked me about a suggestion for toddler curriculum.  As I looked back on what we did with our first few toddlers I thought it would be beneficial to document it here.  I made many wrong decisions , but I also had a few things that worked well for our family.  I don't think any of these ideas are my own, they are from other mothers who gave me tips and advice.  So here are a few of the things that I learned from others that have gone before me.

A day without structure and toddlers usually always led to trial and failure.  A day filled with a structured outline, but flexibility usually set our family up for more success, contentment and joy.  Here is what an average day looked like when I had little ones and didn't formally school.
   7-8 Wake and get ready for the day. We would work on morning chores (make bed, get dressed, brush teeth and hair, and clean up bedrooms) we did all of these things together until they were old enough to do most of it on their own which for our children was around 3-5 depending on the child and if they had an older sibling to help them
8-9 Eat breakfast and have Bible time.  Bible time has looked different ways through the years.  It has always included a Bible story, prayer, and singing.  We've used a few really good books with our little ones including Leading Little Ones to God by Marian M. Schoolland and Big Truths for Little Kids by Susan Hunt and Richie Hunt.  Mostly, we just read a Bible that is appropriate for the childrens' age.  We have always sang songs together during this time too.  Our focus has been to sing to the Lord and for the children to practice following me lead them (words, actions, manners).  Now that our children are getting a little older they will take turns leading during our song time.
9-10 Was spent on a focused activity.  I had a list of things that we could do.  Puzzles, blocks, games, play-dough, crafts, painting, coloring, learning manipulatives like beads and bobbles, or Tangos. 
10-12 We would usually have a snack.  Then have some less structured time either to run errands, play at the park, go on play-dates etc.
12-1 Was lunch and then a story before nap at 1. 
1-2 Has always been quiet time in our house.  The children when they are too old to sleep may bring some good books to bed and just rest and read.  Now that our oldest is having more school work she usually stays up and does school. 
2-3:30 Was free play time.  I might bring out the doll clothes or dress up.
I usually did blanket time during dinner prep.  I could get dinner done a bit easier and Pete came home to some peace.
Some other things that I am happy I did were:
Creating a time where the children had to sit and listen at our kitchen table and to follow my lead.  This has made every transition into more in depth schooling easier as the children were already use to the routine of just being able to sit and listen.
Training character with purpose.
Not running out to entertain them all the time.  Our children are perfectly content now to be at home and have found ways to entertain themselves.  We do not run to the zoo, museum, fancy park, pool etc.  We may do these things as a treat on occasion but they are not routine by any measure.  I am so happy we have been home bodies learning to be content here and entertain ourselves.  It is a joy to not be nagged to take the children out to be entertained and to have them find things to do on their own.
Watching less television.  Again, our children can entertain themselves and don't require electronic stimulation.  We do watch TV, play the computer and have wii nights,but they are not the norm or majority of our time. 
Asking my husband how he wanted me to spend our time and the activities he wanted us doing.
Consistency.  Our children seem to thrive with order and consistency.  When we would be off schedule and things a little out of order slowly we all became out of order too.

Some things I would have done more of:
Play with them.  I often found I was making myself busy with my own agenda.  I think I should have slowed down a little bit more and just enjoyed my little ones.
Patiently allow them to help me with more.  I do not have much patience.  I think I should have tried harder to be gentle and less rushed and let them help me with whatever I was working on.
Less Legalistic, more gracious.  It has always seemed easier to just make and enforce rules than to gently deal with the heart of issues.

I still have one toddler in the house and she is just a joy but also the biggest trial in our days sometimes!  These years are so precious.  As I am growing little by little as a mother and disciple it is becoming clearer just how important it is and beneficial to slow down and be calm.  Rushing away the day and griping in anger and frustration has never helped my toddlers to do any better.  That is my first natural response.  Now after having 4 toddlers on the 5th I finally feel like I am getting a glimpse of how sweet this time is and fleeting.  My responses are more gracious, but I still need work.  With some order and structure I have found the toddler and I both do better!

Raising up toddlers is a lot of work.  But, with a good attitude and some planning it can be a joy!

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