“Me want”, “Me have”, “NO”
Every toddler has their own way of letting you know they want, no, need, this one thing, something has to be done a certain way, or they have to do everything themselves. Whatever it is, their perfect little bubble is about to burst.
At this point, we know we are most likely headed to meltdown city… so what do we do? Can we stop it? Do we just give in? Are these people judging me for my crying kid? Where is my patience level at?
Having a toddler is no easy task, they are starting to realize they are separate individuals. We are trying to help these tiny humans, who have big emotions, just like us, understand what they are feeling. While this may be an exciting time, full of growth and development; toddlers do not understand logic, they have a tough time with waiting, and a tough time with self-control. They can’t always say, “I’m mad, Susy took my car and I want it back.” Instead they hit, bite, push, scream and then we have more crying. We become upset because Joey hit Susie.
As a Mama of a 2.5 year old and as someone who has a degree in Early Childhood Education and has worked in plenty of classrooms with gobs of tiny humans… I am here to tell you, unfortunately, there is no easy fix. However, I have learned lots of things to make this time a little more manageable and I want to share them. As life gets busier, we often forget all the little things we could be doing to support, empathize with, and validate our littles BIG feelings.
- What does your environment look like?
- Is it crowded, cluttered, or are there an overwhelming amount of toys?
- Try to have your main play area be more open with fewer toys.
- Have this area be a YES space.
- Your mood?
- Stay calm & confident
- Get down to their eye level
- Make physical contact: holding hands, offer a hug, etc.
- Don’t force it, they will communicate what they need
- Make direct eye contact, when possible (not easy if your toddler is thrashing on the floor)
- What to do:
- Love. Love them unconditionally and validate their feelings.
- Navigate & Label what you are seeing:
- “You are mad because Susy took your toy and you hit her. It is okay to feel mad, but in this house we don’t hit. Our hands are for helping, hugs, etc.”
- “We have to leave the park now, so we can cook dinner. I know you love the park and you feel sad we have to leave.. Staying at the park is not a choice. But when we get home, you can help me cook. Do you want to walk to the car yourself or do you want me to carry you.”
- Layout the day/transitions:
- “We are going to leave soon for Grandma’s. After you finish breakfast, we are going to change your diaper, get dressed, put shoes on, and get in the car”
- Repeat this several time as a reminder and as you drop something off the list:
- “Breakfast was yummy, now we are done eating, so we are going to change your diaper, etc.”
- If they fight or “refuse” the transition
- “We are having so much fun at the park and Mommy loves pushing you on the swing. But now we are going to go home for a nap. First we are going to take a nap, and then we can play at the park after nap.
- Make sure you clearly layout “first”, “and then”
- Follow through, this builds trust:
- You took such a great nap, I am excited to play at the park again.
- Read, read, READ!
- Littles learn so much through reading and seeing visual representations of what they are going through
- Acknowledge the good:
- “I saw you were getting frustrated with your sister because she kept knocking down your tower, I love how you picked up your toys and moved to a new space.”
- “Wasn’t that such a fun shopping trip, I really liked how you helped me push the cart so nicely.”
- Offer choices:
- “You can walk to your room or Mommy/Daddy can carry you, make a choice.”
- Make the choice something you are ok following through on.
- Keep them simple & direct
- Wait a moment, repeat
- This is crucial, they need time to process what you are saying
- “If you let Mommy/Daddy change your diaper, we can or Mommy will let you…”
- “If you listen while we are at the store, you can get a special treat.”
- We don’t want to bribe
- This teaches them we will always reward them for good behavior
- “Good” behavior should just be a natural part of everyday life
- What can they do - show them other ways to express those big feeling without hurting someone else
- “When you feel so mad and you really need to calm down, count to 10, go to your room and hit your pillow, make angry scribbles on paper, etc.”
None of this will stop tantrums, outburst, or the hitting. But, it will hopefully help it happen less frequently, allow them to come down more quickly, and eventually they will start to navigate these many scenarios themselves.
Here are some helpful resources:
- Hello Genius Board Books - Amazon
- The Way I Feel
- All About Feelings
- Red, Red, Red
Instagram Accounts to Follow:
I once received a post card in the mail that said "Make magical memories, create traditions, and celebrate every day." I love this thought so much that I keep this card on a shelf in my kitchen, so that I see it and am reminded of it often. I love celebrating little moments with my kids, so of course May Day is no exception!
Traditionally, May Day was a day to celebrate the return of Spring. People would leave a paper basket or cone with spring flowers on each other's doorsteps, knock, yell "May basket!" and then run. You better believe the running is my kids' favorite part! The idea is that you want to stay anonymous and not be caught, so the faster you can run away the better! My kids strategize where to park the car or how to sneak up to the door for maximum getaway opportunity. It's extra fun if you can hide in the shadows and watch the receiver open the door to find the surprise on their doorstep.
This year we made up little baskets that included a pot, seeds, soil, and a little bottle of water, so that our littlest friends can plant their own flowers! We also followed this tutorial and tried our hand at making tissue paper flowers. We have some perfecting to do, but it was time well spent!
Happy May Day, friends!
I have a confession...playing with my kids is suuuuper hard for me. I wish I was one of those moms who loved getting down on the floor and getting lost in play with my kids, but I'm just not. I AM great and setting up those scenes for my kids however, and then off I go to clean or fold laundry or make a meal or whatever is on my ongoing to do list. BUT! I have found that I don't mind playing board games with my kids! Maybe its because there is a little more structure to it, there is a defined time frame that I'm locked in, and because they are FUN! I have come to find that I actually enjoy them!
Plus, did you know that kids can actually learn a lot from playing games?! Some highlights include:
-develop hand-eye coordination
-dexterity (picking up, holding, and moving small pieces)
-waiting your turn
-boost language skills
-lengthen attention spans
-teaches how to be a good loser
-my personal favorite: SCREEN FREE!
-And, not to mention, quality time with Mom or Dad! (or grandparents, siblings, peers...)
We also love this card holder for little hands! It has saved us to much frustration!
Here are a handful of personal favorites that we love in our house!
When my kids were really little, my living room looked like a Toys R Us. I was literally surrounded by bright, loud, flashy obnoxious toys. And while yes, my kids enjoyed them for a time (and most of them were gifts or hand me downs), it didn’t take me long to realize that most of those toys were single functioning. Like, they did one thing, and my kids tired of them easily. Then they’d move on to the next, and the next, and pretty soon my house was a disaster and I was frustrated every. single. day.
Then I met a friend whose sister owned a small children’s boutique, specializing in Montessori style toys. I quickly became intrigued, and that was the start of big changes in our house. I weeded out almost all of those obnoxious toys, and started mindfully purchasing heirloom quality toys instead. Toys that sparked creative and imaginative play. Toys that didn’t light up and weren’t made of plastic in all different colors. Toys that withstood wear and tear of multiple kids, and toys that I’d want to save for my future grandbabies.
Several years ago, I searched and searched for a vintage dollhouse to gift to my oldest daughter for Christmas. We painted it, made over the furniture, sewed our own pillows for the beds...I can’t even tell you how many hours she has logged playing with it! She’s 12 now, and while she no longer plays dolls, she is very much into interior design, decorating, and sewing. She spends hours upon hours wallpapering the rooms, and rummaging through my fabric scraps and craft supplies to furnish the rooms. If I could only save one thing from her childhood, this would be it. This is the toy that I will bring down from the attic one day, and she will feel that sense of nostalgia. This is the toy that she will dust off and place lovingly into the corner of her own daughter’s room. This is the toy that when she’s an accomplished designer one day (her dream), she’ll say it all started with this dollhouse.
Now, my second daughter (5 years old) has shown interest in her sister’s dollhouse, and I knew it was time to get her one of her own. For two reasons...1) Big sis isn’t jazzed about sharing hers, and 2) I want both of my girls to have such an heirloom piece. This was supposed to be Alma’s birthday gift, which isn’t until July, but once I started working on it, I knew she’d love it so much and just couldn’t wait that long to give it to her! I have spent months carefully sourcing out and saving up for the perfect pieces and accessories. I knew I wanted to base hers around these darling Maileg mice. We have purchased a few over the years and they are just the sweetest little things! They remind me of the Brambley Hedge books, if you’re familiar with those. I fully expect (and hope!) that Alma will spend hours upon hours playing with her little mice friends and rearranging their rooms just so. That’s the fun of it! And the icing on the cake is that almost daily, I hear one of my girls say to the other “Want to go dollhouse with me?” and they run to their room and bond over these sweet sisterhood moments.
Do you have a favorite toy from your childhood? If you could save one toy for each of your children, what would it be?