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, October 4, 2010

New Experiences

Anyone who has spent any time around a toddler knows that young children love repetition. Children love hearing the same stories over and over, love playing the same games with you over and over, love hearing the same songs. The word “again!” is one of the first words a young child learns. With experiences, when things are done the same way each time, the child can relax into the rhythm of it. If each evening you you do things the same way, your child will anticipate each step as it comes. After tooth-brushing is done, she will be heading right to the bookcase to choose a book. After the lights went out, my mother used to light a candle near our bed, sing a lullaby, blow out the candle and sit quietly next to the bed as I drifted off. I can clearly remember this routine being relaxing and reassuring to me.

Why do children love and need routine so much? Here's an analogy that I think is apt: once I was invited by a Muslim friend to go to the mosque with her for the celebration of Eid, the end of Ramadan. I eagerly said yes, curious to see what it would be like. Once we got there, however, I was quite nervous. I wasn't used to wearing the head-scarf she had lent me. I didn't know what was going to happen, and what would be expected of me. Should I stand with them while they prayed, or should I watch? If I watched, where should I sit? There were no chairs. I had heard that in some cultures, showing the soles of your feet was rude. Was this one of them? I didn't know. I followed my friend around closely. She introduced me to the women in her community, some of whom kissed me on the cheeks, and some of whom touched their hearts and murmured phrases that I assumed meant “nice to meet you.” She showed me where I could sit during the prayers, which were all in Arabic and involved lots of movements and everyone did at the same time. I was glad to be watching. After, we socialized and ate strange and delicious foods, then went home. The whole thing lasted perhaps two hours, and I was exhausted.

I loved that glimpse into another culture, but I was glad to get home in the end, where I knew exactly where everything was, how things went, what was likely to happen, and how. Most of my daily interactions are just a small step out from being at home, because I've done them all hundreds of times. Toddlers, however, haven't done anything outside the home hundreds of times. I believe that the whole world outside the home is like that visit to the mosque, for these little people in our lives. They don't know how things go or what's appropriate. They don't have the skills to converse easily with others or do what others are doing. Even though they have someone who knows what's going on to show them around, it's still exhausting, like that visit was for me. If we can remember that, and limit the amount of exposure our children have to new experiences, then new experiences can be exciting, something to be anticipated beforehand, relished at the time, and talked about afterward.


  1. Faith:

    Poignant words even thought I kind of know it :) Thanks so much for your thoughts here. We've incorporated your short puppet shows into our dinner routine. Wow, dinner is so enjoyable again. Hope all is well.

  2. That's fantastic! I'm so glad to hear it.