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, November 15, 2010


Hi All,
Sorry not tot write last Thursday, it was my birthday and I took the day off.

Thinking about birthdays, I thought I would share a few thoughts about toddlers and birthdays.  When a child turns one, have as big a party as you want.  The party is really a party for you, getting through your first year of being a parent to this little being!  When your little one gets tired, just put them to bed and keep partying with your friends.

After that first birthday, you start wanting to have a birthday celebration for your child's benefit.  It's fun to think of your child as a social being, and perhaps you remember wonderful birthday parties from when you were a child.  Before you get carried away, however, heed my advice:  SIMPLER IS BETTER.  The birthday parties I remember most fondly fell from about age 7 to age 11; save the big parties for that age.  Younger than that, birthday parties can spin out of control really easily.  You think you will invite the five girls in your three-year-old's preschool class, and suddenly you have six three-year-olds, twelve parents, and two to four older or younger siblings all crowding into your livingroom and kitchen.  You may not have planned on a party for for twenty-three people, but that's what you've got.

In general, a good rule is to invite one pint-sized guest for each year of your child's age (or you can do their-age-plus-one).  Three friends over at the same time is absolutely enough to be a party for a three-year-old, and that holds true at almost every age.  Additionally, be clear on your invitation if parents are to stay or to go, whether siblings are welcome, and what time things will end.

Another good rule is to plan activites that alternate big energy with quiet energy.  It can be so exciting being the center of attention and having so many people over, that children need help calming themselves down.  You can give them this help by planning a storytime into the schedule of events, either reading a picture book about a birthday, or telling the story of your child's actual Birth Day, or telling the story of the star child choosing his parents and making the journey across the rainbow bridge.  Most of you readers have seen the puppet show of that story that I do for birthdays, so I won't share it here.  If anyone hasn't heard it, tell me in the comments and I'll write it out for you.  I remember hearing that story every year up until the age of seven, and it holds a special place in my heart.

And finally, keep it short and sweet.   An hour or two hours is quite long enough for a party for a child age 5 or younger.  Birthday parties can be so exciting that children go through their energy reserves very quickly.  Having a wonderful time and then saying goodbye leaves everybody with fond memories, looking forward to the next birthday.


  1. Could you post the puppet birthday story!!! My daughters birthday is approaching soon and I am looking for something special to be a part of her birthday tradition.

  2. Sure! You can do this either as a story or as a puppet show. To do it as a puppet show, you will need four puppets or dolls: a mom, a dad, an angel, and a baby/starchild. There are many different versions of this story floating around, but this is the version I tell.

    "Once upon a time, there was a Starchild who lived up in the heavens. She loved to run and jump and play with the other starchildren, but her favorite thing in all the world was to play with her her ball. She would spend hours and hours throwing it up and down, up and down. One day, she threw it as high as she could, and it fell down, down, down through the clouds.

    She followed her ball down through the clouds, and when she came out she saw a most beautiful place that she had never seen before, all green and blue, filled with trees and rivers and oceans. She followed her ball even farther down, and soon she saw a man and a woman who were living together in a house. The man was named _____, and the woman was named _____ (note: you can adapt this description to your family's circumstances, with older siblings, pets, parents together/separate, etc.). They were very happy together, except for one thing. 'If only we had a child!' they said. 'Oh!' thought the Starchild, 'I wish *I* could be their child.'

    The Starchild rushed back up through the clouds and ran to find her Guardian Angel. 'Please!' said the Starchild, 'Please may I go down and live with THAT man and THAT woman?' 'Yes you may,' said the Angel, 'But it will be a long journey.'

    And so the Angel and the Starchild set out together on a long journey. Down below, the man and the woman were preparing for a child to come into their lives. Winter was followed by Spring, then Summer. And finally Autumn arrived, and the Angel and the Starchild stood at the top of a beautiful Rainbow Bridge.

    'Here is where I must leave you,' said the Angel. 'When you awake, you will no longer be a Starchild, you will be an Earthly Child.' And with that, the Starchild fell into a deep sleep. (note: at this point in the puppet show, I sing the song "rockabye baby" as the child drifts down into the mother's arms. This is not a tradtional part of the Waldorf story, but I love the imagery of rockabye baby as child being born, with the mama's tummy being the tree top, the amniotic sac being the cradle, the umbilical cord being the tree branch, and the whole 'falling' process being the birth.)

    And when the child awoke, she discovered that she was an Earthly Child, and she came into the arms of her mother and her father, who looked down lovingly at her. 'Welcome, little one,' they said. 'We will call you _____.'

    (note: this can be the end of the story, or you can continue) And little _____ began to grow. First she learned to crawl, and then she learned to walk, and soon she was (describe things she love here) playing with her dog Jasper in the backyard, and going to Miss Faith's house to play with her friends. And then one day she turned three years old, and she invited her friends _____ and _____ over, and here she is today, for today is her birthday." Look up from the story or puppet show as you say this last part, and walk over and give her a big hug. "Happy birthday, _____!"