The Toddler Chronicles Part I
So we have successfully made it through infancy and we are now entering the toddler years! And thanks to some of the trials and errors that we have learned from raising our first two, we made it through with relatively few bumps along the road! At 18 months, Bella has entered a new phase that is known for it’s tantrums, newfound independence, curiosity and exploration. So far I have found that what worked for her as a baby, is also pretty effective for her as a toddler. Keeping to a schedule, starting as I mean to go on, and not expecting too much are still the foundation for how we are raising Bella into her toddler years. Patience is definitely the name of the game when raising a toddler! The little nonmobile bundle of joy from last year is now everywhere all at once and into one thing after the other. At least mine is!
Starting as we mean to go on….
Especially when teaching boundaries, it really does help to be consistent and start right off the way you would like them to go on. This will help to head off the confusion that would come from suddenly setting rules for a preschooler who has never been given boundaries. This is the age when everything around them is a new discovery and where they can finally learn about their world hands on. One minute Bella is drinking from her sippy cup nicely and the next minute I find her shaking the milk onto the floor and rubbing it into the carpet! I walk into the kitchen for 2 seconds and come back around the corner to find her sitting on the endtable playing with the lamp shade. What an inquisitive age this is! While I completely understand that Bella is just exploring her world, I,of course, have to let her know that she cannot climb on the furniture because she might fall and get hurt. In our household, we choose to give explanations when we tell our children not to do something. We do this because we feel that they are less likely to disobey if they know the reason why. So, for example, I tell Bella ” No, Bella. We can not climb on the table. We might fall and get hurt. Or ” We can’t hit sissie. It will hurt sissie if you hit her. And then, at this age, I redirect her attention to something else.
Keeping to a schedule….
This gets harder and harder to do as they get older. In our case, we have two older children who go to school and have extacurricular activites. My goal is to keep the main parts of the day as routine as possible for Bella, no matter what our plans for the day might be. For us, this means our morning and nighttime routines. When Bella wakes in the morning, I get her from the crib, whether I am working that morning or not, and we sing our special “Good morning Bella” song. I then give her a sippy cup of milk and we watch cartoons together and snuggle. We are then ready to start our day. At bedtime, I give Bella a lavender scented bath, read her a book or watch tv together, and give her a sippy cup of milk while snuggling. I then lay her down for the night. It’s amazing how much better Bella does during the day when these two times are kept as routine as possible. During the day, our schedule varies depending on what our plans are and I adjust her naptime accordingly. Sometimes that means an hour nap in the car while picking the older girls up from school or cheerleading/dance. Even though her naptime is not the same everyday, as long as her morning and nightime routine remain the same, it does not cause her to be overly fussy or cranky.
At our house we definitely encourage independent play. Not only is it known to be beneficial for a child’s overall growth and development, but it also allows time for rest, chores, or time with other children. I try to plan Bella’s independent playtime to be when I have something else I need to give attention to. I have found that if I sit on the floor and play with Bella for a little while and then give her something to play by herself, she does better because she has already had my undivided attention and is now more receptive to playing alone. I also set aside some “special” play toys and activities to bring out so that she has something different to play with that may hold her attention longer. I even sometimes pull out pots and pans or other safe household items and let her play with those while I help the older girls with homework. She loves that she is playing with “real” toys and it allows for some more independent playtime. Other “go to” activities for Bella to do without my undivided attention are; coloring in her highchair, watching her favorite sing along dvd and looking at board books. I think the main thing is to spend time playing and interacting with your toddler throughout the day and plan independent play for times that are necessary to give attention to other people or things. Of course, if Bella takes it upon herself to play independently than by all means, I let her!
Not expecting too much….
Some days I just have to keep in mind that Bella is only an 18 month old and no matter how well I plan, fussiness or tantrums still happen. Just like when she was an infant, I know that by making sure that all of her needs are met, I increase the chances that we will have a more enjoyable time if we go out. I try to make sure she is fed, changed, and not sleepy before going to a restaurant, on a playdate or to the doctor’s office. I also know that even if I have done all of these things, I may have to cut short a trip if a tantrum ensues in public. Rather than trying to reason with a screaming toddler, I choose to remove her from the situation thus saving her, the surrounding people and myself from witnessing a public meltdown.
This stage in Bella’s life is still a story being written and I will be posting as different situations and issues arise. I write about the parenting techniques that we use and have found successful while raising our three children. Of course, there are lots of other ways to raise children and I would certaintly love to hear if you have any useful techniques that I did not mention. I have found that some of the advice I have recieved from other mothers has been priceless and I am always open to suggestions!