Getting into a routine with my 3 week old and VERY active toddler has been tricky! I have struggled with guilt over who to go to first when they both need me, making time for Janie despite how much Cohen needs me, and not going stir crazy during these winter months.
I’ve had to get creative to say the least. And as I thought about all of these different ways to engage my toddler while also tending a newborn, I thought of ways I could take 20 to 30 minutes a day with Janie to learn with her.
We recently finished our basement which has been SUCH a blessing. Janie wakes up in the morning and immediately asks to go play in the basement. I usually get a light workout in while Cohen sits in the swing and Janie plays. And then I have decided while Cohen takes his first nap in the swing Janie and I will have “Mommy School”. I chose to start “Mommy School” for many reasons.
First, I wanted to make time for her to feel special and loved. She is the best big sister, but it is obvious that she feels a little out of place sometimes. She is SO patient whenever I have to nurse or change Cohen, but I can tell she misses the one on one time she used to have constantly. By adding 20-30 minutes of “Mommy School” a day I can confidently offer her time with just me.
Second, I want to get in the habit of actively learning something together each day. It does NOT mean I have a lesson or activity planned each day. It just means we have time without any electronics (myself included) to play together. Sometimes I have something educational planned, but mostly it will be fine and gross motor skills as well as imaginary play.
Third, I want to be actively apart of her physical, emotional, social, and academic development. Being active with her not only allows us to bond together, but also allows me to see where she may need more practice with a skill and helps me really get to know my child better.
I started today with a color activity idea I got from Busy Toddler–she is amazing, I highly recommend following her or checking out her website. I found these foam stickers on clearance at target and grabbed a pack of colored paper as well.
Then I used painters tape to tape a red and blue paper to the wall (I know orange is there as well, that was added towards the end of our activity per Janie’s request).
Then I explained we were going to practice “blue” and “red” today and match our colored shapes to the paper on the wall. Janie was SO excited, and stayed engaged for a full 20 minutes (which is a lot for her).
As fun as this activity was I had a mom epiphany as I watched Janie learn and grow today. I wanted to share with you how I learned and grew through this activity as a mother.
I went into this activity with the notion that practicing both colors by sorting was going to be a breeze for her. I knew she struggled with identifying some of her colors, but I figured once we got going she would catch right on.
Well she didn’t. She kept calling the red “blue” and was having a hard time matching the stickers at the beginning. I used a lot of sentences where I identified the color casually, instead of correcting her. As she pulled out a sticker shape I would say, “You found the blue square!” and she naturally repeated, “Blue square.” In child development terms this is called indirect correction. It is meant to be used as a way to correct your child without putting them down or saying, “No, that’s blue.”
The more I did this the more she started to attempt to the same on her own. Even when she pulled out a red circle and said, “blue”, I smiled and said, “You found the blue circle. Way to go!”
I also modeled how to stick it to the paper when she placed the sticker on the wrong color. I would say, “Hmmmm…this is a blue circle”, and I would put it up against the red paper and say, “No this doesn’t match because it’s red and the circle is blue.” And she would smile and say, “No match!” Then I would hold it up against the blue paper and say, “The blue circle matches the blue paper!” And I would clap and she would clap and move on to the next sticker feeling happy and in no way put down by my correction.
When we began this activity I remember feeling a bit disheartened because she struggled more than I realized. And I will willingly and guilty admit that as I watched her struggle I was comparing her to other children her age that do know their colors. I had a mini panic moment wondering if she was behind her peers because she didn’t know her colors.
Then I remembered all of my childhood development and teacher training. And I remember that my beautiful and smart daughter was barely 2 years old. I knew developmentally there was no check list saying she must know her colors by now. I also knew that every child grows and learns at a different rate. Janie is a really good talker and continues to grow leaps and bounds in that area every day. She has strong receptive and expressive language skills for her age.
As I watched her I thought about all of the amazing things she can do, how well she talks, how physically active she is, how loving she is to her baby brother.
So what is my message to you wonderful mommas? It is two-fold.
- Do not fall into the trap of comparisons. DO NOT push your child to learn something because you are trying to meet the skill level of another child. Be content with the person your child is, they are exactly how they should be at this moment. Love them for that, encourage them, and proudly tell your mom friends exactly what they can do, instead of focusing on what they are not ready to do yet.
- When teaching your child a new skill or concept watch them very closely for frustration. If they are not grasping a concept then they most likely ARE NOT READY FOR IT. For example, I should have only focused on one color and done different activities each day to practice that color. Then the following week a new color. Once she is confident with identifying colors THEN I could have practiced sorting and matching.
While this is a toddler specific post, the above points are applicable to any child at any age. Especially for children learning more difficult skills like learning how to read! Take it one step at a time. Break it down into the smallest of tasks, and follow your child. They will go at the pace that works for them. If you try something and they aren’t ready, THAT IS OKAY! Break it down even simpler and try again. Or take a break! It’s okay to realize something is too difficult right now and come back a while later. Embrace the way they learn (just like I’m learning to embrace the way she dresses herself for bedtime ;).
I am all about praise. Children respond so well to praise. Using indirect correction as a technique makes it easy for praise to join your activity. Janie started clapping for herself every time she made a match, even if it was the wrong match. I watched her in awe thinking, what if we did that as adults? What if we praised ourselves even when we made a mistake? What if we were just a little kinder to ourselves each day? Think of all we could accomplish by remembering its okay to make mistakes and then try again.
Finally, don’t forget to make it fun! Enjoy your time with your littles, for they grow so fast.
Stay tuned for more Toddler Tuesday activities! I try to do “Mommy School” every day, but will post our activities on Tuesdays.
p.s. She woke up from nap and begged to do it again and even some of the indirect correction worked! She started to name the colors more accurately. Patience and consistency are key.