Welcome to Joyful Toddlers!

This space is about increasing our enjoyment of the young children in our lives through concrete action and by adjusting the lens through which we view them. My work comes out of LifeWays, which is inspired by Waldorf education. I welcome your comments, and questions about increasing your enjoyment of the children in YOUR life.


Monday, September 27, 2010



In my LifeWays early childhood training, my instructor Cynthia Aldinger talked about framing: that is, thinking about what comes before and after each experience in order to help the day to flow smoothly. For example, we know we shouldn't rough-house with the kids right before bedtime, or it will be hard for them to settle down. And who can forget the the age-old, “Don't have a snack now! You'll ruin your appetite for dinner!” If you have a time of day that's often hard, and you've tried making changes but it doesn't seem to be working, try changing what comes before or after that time, instead. I experienced this myself one late spring, when I was having trouble at lunchtime with my group at Rainbow Bridge. The children just always seemed to be “fully of beans” (as my mother used to say): giggly and rowdy. Mealtimes are generally one of my favorite times of the day, but I had stopped enjoying lunchtimes at all. It seemed like I spent the entire meal reminding children to speak quietly, and sit up straight, and eat with their spoons, and only use their water for drinking, etc. etc.

Finally, I remembered the idea of framing, and I thought about how the meal was framed. The weather was quite nice, so we were playing outside before lunch, then coming in for lunch and going right back outside again until the end of the morning. There was lots of big movement outside: running and digging and bike-riding. The children knew they would be right back at it as soon as the meal was done, so there was no impetus to reign their energy in.

I knew I needed to do something to help change the energy for lunch. The next day I prepared the lunch and got everything ready to go, then I put a lid on the bowl and a towel over top. I called the children to the door, but instead of piling inside for lunch, I let them in one at a time. As each one came in, I whispered in his ear: “Tiptoe to the couch and sit down sooo quietly.” Surprised and intrigued, they did exactly what I said. When the children were all sitting down, I took a quilt and put it over all of their laps, then I sat down in a rocking chair in front of them, and did a little “puppet show” in my lap. It was a very simply two little dolls who acted out nursery rhymes as I said them, repeating each rhyme two or three times. Then the dolls went back on their shelf, and I picked up a little harp and strummed my finger across it. I took it to the couch, and I let each child play the harp, then walk to his or her seat at the table. When they were all seated, we started our lunch as usual. Wow! What a difference! The children were all calm and content, and talked and ate quietly throughout the meal. From that day forward, we did puppet shows before lunch until the end of the school-year.

Discussion Questions:
How do you see framing at work in how you put your child's day together? What changes to your routine have you made in order to affect another part of the day? What part of the day might need some tweaking right now? What ideas do you have?

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