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.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Toddlers Grabbing

Dear Miss Faith,
My son is 22 months and he always wants to pound on the computer keyboard or grab the mouse.  My husband yells at him a lot for this, and the whole thing is driving me crazy, but I don’t know what to do.  Any ideas you have would be welcome.

Hi there,
It’s not surprising that your little guy wants to bang on the keyboard and grab the mouse, that’s what he sees you and dad doing, all the time!  Children want to be involved in whatever we’re involved in, and they want to do whatever they see us doing.  That said, it’s not always appropriate for them to do what we’re doing!  What to do?
I have a couple of suggestions:  the first one is to get or make a toy computer that he can play with, so he can use that imitative urge.  You can make a perfectly good laptop out of a FedEx box, some construction paper, and a marker.  However, this will only solve part of the problem, because the real issue is that he sees your computer sucking your attention away, and he wants to be involved in whatever you’re involved in.  But yelling at him not to touch doesn’t get you very far.  Here’s the important piece:
Whenever a child wants to touch something that you don’t want them to be messing with, think of a way that he CAN touch/interact with it, that is OK with you.  Using one finger is often helpful.  For a laptop, it might be that he can run his index finger along the edge that protects the screen.  Next, teach him how to do it.  And from then on, whenever he wants to interact with the computer, you can guide him to touch it in this way that you’ve sanctioned.  So you’re never pushing him away, you’re never yelling at him to stop, you’re just reminding him, again and again, how he CAN touch it.  “Oh!  You can touch it on the edge, with your finger.” (Show him.  He imitates).  “That’s right!  You’re touching the computer!  That’s the way you do it!”  You smile into his eyes, and he’s thrilled that he gets to interact with you around this object which you spend lots of time concentrating on, and clearly love.  You’re not pushing him away, you’re inviting him in, in a way that is age-appropriate.  He can touch the edge of the computer as many times as he wants to. 
I have done this with children that age with many things, and it seems to satisfy them.  I had one little girl who was a little younger, 17 months or so, who desperately wanted to grab my knitting whenever I’d sit down with it on the couch.  Instead of pulling it away from her or chastising her, I came up with a little ritual: whenever she wanted to interact with my knitting, she could put one finger up and touch the tip of one needle, then the tip of another.  It took a couple of days of near-constant practice with her, but eventually it became an established ritual, and then lost much its interest (perhaps because it didn’t get such a big response as grabbing my knitting had?).  After that she would come up and touch my knitting needles about once an hour, but no more.  Each time was a little chance for us to make eye contact and connect briefly, and then she’d go back to her play.  She rarely grabbed it again.  I’ve also done this with flowers in my garden:  with flowers, you can touch them with one finger, or you can smell them.  That is all.  Children are satisfied with this, just as they are satisfied with the fact that the garbage has to stay in the trash can, or the lamp has to stay upright, or all of the other rules around touching things that we have in our lives.
Miss Faith

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Friday, July 1, 2011

Luring Kids into Helping

This is a response that I wrote to a mom in my teleclass who was inspired to fold laundry with her four-year-old daughter, only to discover that her daughter wasn't interested.  I believe that allowing children to help with housework can be wonderful for both of you, if it helps you and your child feel connected, if it allows them to develop competence, and enables them to feel like they're contributing.  Most children love to help whenever they're allowed to, but if your child is accustomed to you doing it on your own, they may not jump right in when giving the opportunity.  If that happens, then it's time to concentrate heavily on the connecting aspect, so they really enjoy doing it with you.  Here was a suggestion I gave: 

Dear Mom,
Don't be discouraged that your daughter didn't jump right in.  If she's used to not doing it with you, it may take awhile for her to warm up to it.  And I bet that just having you doing it so calmly and lovingly is still nurturing to her, even if she doesn't participate.  One thing you could do if you WANT her to help is to "lure" her in by making it into a real connecting activity.  Since she loves puppet shows, you might do this by telling a story while you fold laundry, something that she will really enjoy.  At first she might just sit near you while you fold and tell the story, and eventually she might want to help as well.  A slightly different take might be to make the act of folding really enjoyable, and incorporate it into a type of puppet show of its own.  It might go something like this:

"Once upon a time, there was a little mouse."  (take one of the baby's socks and make it into a little mouse scurrying along the ground. "That mouse lived in a house where there was LOTS of laundry to be done!  He loved living in that house because there were always lots and lots of places for him to hide."  (Have your mouse scurry from unfolded thing to unfolded thing.)  "In this same house there also lived a cat!  He loved to chase the mouse, but he couldn't find him
when he hid under laundry that wasn't folded. (Make a cat with a slightly larger piece of laundry that you roll up into a log.  Have the cat chase the mouse around, but the mouse always manages to hide.)

"One day, the cat had a great idea.  What if he could fold the laundry, so that the mouse had nowhere to hide?  He was very excited by this idea, but how could he do it?  Cats can't fold laundry!  He tried, and he tried, but he couldn't do it right." (Have the cat try and fail.)  "'I know,' said the cat.  'I need someone with hands who will help me.'  He looked around for someone who could help.  First he went to the baby to ask for help."  (He goes over to the baby.) "'Will you help me fold the laundry so I can catch the mouse?' He asks.  But the baby is too little, and doesn't know how to fold laundry.  Then he went to the mother.  'Will you help me fold the laundry so I can catch the mouse?'  'Yes,' said the mother, and she folded a washcloth."  (fold a washcloth that the mouse is hiding under, and have the mouse run away to another piece of laundry that's not folded.  The cat runs after him, but he doesn't get there in time.)  "Oh no!  The cat chased the mouse, but he wasn't fast enough! He looked around to see if there was anyone else who might help him by folding a piece of laundry.  There he saw a little girl."  (...)

You get the idea.  You and your daughter can alternate folding the laundry while the cat and the mouse run back and forth, until all of the laundry is folded.  You will have to decide if the cat gets to catch the mouse at the end, or if the mouse escapes, to be chased another day.  As time goes on, your daughter might want to control the mouse as he runs, or the cat (although it might be too hard to resist catching the mouse before the laundry is done).  At any rate, you don't have to use that story, but the idea is to make your task SO fun, that it's what she wants to be doing, and it's all about the two
of you connecting and having a good time together.  And, unlike a normal puppet show, the laundry gets folded at the end of this one!

Miss Faith

Joyful Toddlers has moved!  Check out our new location: http://joyfultoddlers.com/