11 Games To Entertain a Toddler AND a Baby

PicMonkey Collage

Try these 11 simple games to keep both your toddler and baby happy and stimulated.

Introducing…Baby H

Hello everyone, and Happy New Year!

This is a very special new year for me, as our family of three has now become four! I am very pleased to announce the arrival of the latest addition to our boy-heavy household: our enormous, beautiful H.  Wow – was I ever glad to meet him!  It was a long, uncomfortable Summer for me.   I found pregnancy with a toddler so challenging that I pretty much stopped writing.  Those of you who wrote lovely supportive comments when I felt well enough to write again – thank you for making me feel useful and not alone. For me, carrying a baby has felt a bit like transporting ‘The One True Ring’ to Mordor – it is the most precious thing any woman can carry, and the burden is SO heavy.  My first thought when I wake up every morning now is: YES! I’M NOT PREGNANT! I literally think this will continue until the day I die.

Well, I have reached the end of my arduous journey, and I have my gloriously chubby reward.  I really cannot tell you how refreshing it is to have some energy again, and to be back on the scene.  And now I have some fresh inspiration for the blog – in the form of a gorgeous,  cuddly baby!

Mum-of-two Land

There hasn’t been much time to recover from pregnancy this time around.  I have been thrown straight into Mum-of-two Land, without even a Rough Guide for navigation!

Mum-of-two Land  is very similar to Mum-of-one Land, only everything is more intense.  There are more nappies to change, more mouths to feed, more laundry baskets to empty, more beds to change, more wriggling legs to get into the pram, more tears to soothe, more wardrobes to rotate, more brains to stimulate, more tummies to tickle.  This results in less time to do any of these jobs, less time to myself, less sleep, and, inevitably, more of that dreaded Mum Guilt.  Each day is a flurry of activity, yet nothing really ever seems to get done.  I used to enjoy planning little projects but there is no chance of that now.  I give myself a virtual gold star if I manage to get through the day having fed, clothed, changed and exercised both boys without losing the plot.  If I expect anything more of myself, I go a tiny bit mad trying to achieve it.

Managing all this practical stuff is tough, but I can (just about) cope with it.  By far, the biggest challenge for me has been keeping the two of them entertained at the same time.  T and I had got ourselves into a very comfortable routine.  Now that little H has arrived, our world has had to shift to include him, and there is less time in the day for playing.  I find this incredibly frustrating, as I want them both to be happy and stimulated, and I love playing with them both.

I have installed what I call ‘Mummy and T Time’, which happens while H has his nap, but for the rest of the day we are all together, so H rarely gets his own ‘Mummy Time’.  In the first few weeks, I would get to the end of the day and realise that I had barely spoken a word to H.  On a few occasions, I found myself in tears when daddy came home, worrying that I wasn’t spending enough quality time with the baby, and fantasising about his inevitable future drug habit/jail sentence caused by my neglectful parenting!

Toddler and Baby Games

As time has gone on, my hormones have settled down and H has become a bit less nocturnal, I have calmed down.  And I think I have found a way to ease the Mum Guilt a little: we have come up with a few games and activities that are really quick and easy to set up, where both the boys are learning and having fun.  Here they are.  I hope they work for you too :-).

1. The Song Bag

songbag 3

You may have read my post about how to make rhyme time a bit more fun at home.  We made a song box in which we put a selection of props for our favourite songs.  Well the song box has now become a Song Bag.  T loves getting the props out and being able to choose which song we sing.  The one we are singing in the picture is ‘Five Little Speckled Frogs’ – we have five plastic frogs, a bit of shiny blue card for the pool, and half a breadsticks tube painted brown for the log.  What would you put in your Song Bag?

Learning taking place:
Toddler: singing, speaking, memory and fine motor skills
Baby: language, tune, rhythm

2. Ready, Steady, Go!

readysteadygo

My T is just as active as any other toddler and most days seems to want to just RUN.  I think if he could, he would run all day.   As we do not own a toddler-sized treadmill, I try to get outside at least once – sometimes twice – a day to let him stretch his muscles.  But sometimes, when it is raining or cold, or I am just too tired, I have to stay in.   It occurred to me recently that I could just incorporate running into everything we do inside.  So now I get him to run to do the following things:

– Get items of clothing to get dressed (he doesn’t always want to put them on but still enjoys fetching them!)
– Fetch a piece for his puzzles
– Fetch his various Thomas trains (as I name them)
– Post a letter in his post box game (read here on how a fellow mum inspired me to set up this fun orchard toys game)
– Fetch a number for number ordering on his whiteboard
– Pick up stickers to stick on his collage

The beauty of these running games is that H loves it too! Babies are fascinated by movement and big brother running at full pelt across the living room floor is one of H’s favourite forms of entertainment.  Once he has the instruction, I call out “Ready, Steady, Go!” and he’s off.

Variation:
When we are out, I’ve noticed H loves watching T run around and play football or splash in puddles.  So we pop him in the sling facing forwards and then we can all have a kick-around together!

Learning taking place:
Toddler:  gross motor skills, auditory processing skills and vocabulary (from following instructions), colours/numbers/letters/shapes/adjectives depending on what he is running to get!
Baby: visual tracking, vocabulary

3. Guess The Sound

guessthesound

This was one of my favourite, last-minute games when I taught in a nursery.  First, we would go through all the musical instruments in the music box, naming them and playing them.

Then, I would put them all inside a bag, make a noise with each instrument (enough for each child to have a turn) and ask: “what’s making that sound?”.  T LOVES this game so much I am kicking myself for not remembering it sooner! When he isn’t sure, I just supply the answer when I pull it out of the bag (“it’s the bells!”) and then let him have a good old shake/blow/bang!  Once he has had a turn, I get him to show his baby brother how to play the instrument.  That way, he gets to demonstrate how the instrument works, and the baby is enjoying listening to the different sounds, and watching the movement.

T loves the guessing element of this game, and the big reveal of each instrument.  And he especially loves loudly demonstrating how to play each one!

Variation: use other things that make a noise – a piece of paper, a bottle of water, a squeaky toy, a packet of rice

Learning taking place:
Toddler: fine and gross motor skills, new vocabulary, differentiating between sounds
Baby: an awareness of different sounds, vocabulary, grasping skills, hand-eye co-ordination and cause-and-effect.

4. Mystery Box
This is the same idea as the sound game above, but here you just use your sense of touch to guess the object.  We used to call these Feely Boxes at school.  Next time you get a delivery with a decent-sized box in it, hold on to it! We just cut a hole in it and then I experimented with various “flaps” before settling on some craft foam, for stiffness and durability.  Ours looks like this:

We had fun hiding (baby-friendly) objects inside and putting his hand in.   He had a guess at what the object was, then I tried to get him to describe it by asking: what does it feel like? Is it big/small/round/flat/soft/hard? At the moment, he doesn’t have the patience to hold on to it and guess, he just wants to pull it out for the big reveal!  But when he does, he loves shouting out what it is!  I then ask him to hide something for me and I model how to guess what it is.  This game is great for teaching opposite adjectives, language that describes texture (shiny, soft, bumpy etc.) and just for getting children to talk.  With a reluctant talker on my hands, I am very into these games right now!

Learning taking place:
Toddler: describing language, adjectives, nouns, turn-taking
Baby: sensory awareness, vocabulary, hand-eye co-ordination, grasping skills

5.  Balloon Games

Have you ever met a toddler that doesn’t love balloons? Nope, neither have I.  And the best thing is, they are cheap and easy to find.  I play a few different games with balloons.  Sometimes we just play catch.  Or I blow up 5-10 balloons and throw them up in the air, one at a time, saying can you catch the yellow/blue/red balloon? T has been showing lots of interest in numbers recently, so I now write numbers on the balloons with a sharpie, place them around the room  and have him find the numbers I call out! When he finds them we whoop and cheer and show it to his baby brother! The other day we had some boxes in the room so I got him to throw them in the box when he had found the number I asked for.  He loved it! Then it turned into an investigation of capacity which really got him excited.  (If anyones interested, we discovered that you can fit 10 balloons into a big box and 4 balloons into a smaller one!).

Learning taking place:
Toddler: hand-eye co-ordination, turn-taking, colours, numbers, auditory processing (following instructions)
Baby: visual tracking, sensory awareness, hand-eye co-ordination

6.  Pop The Bubbles
Bubbles are another easy toddler-pleaser.   Popping them is fun and uses up lots of energy too – so we play this game regularly.  Bubbles are also a lovely sensory activity for babies, who just enjoy watching them float around, and disappear.

Learning taking place:
Toddler: hand-eye co-ordination, counting skills (if you count the pops)
Baby: visual tracking, sensory awareness

6. Puppet Show

One of my favourites! Puppets have been such a hit in our house for over a year now.  They are great for encouraging toddlers to talk.  We use them to make up stories and also to re-tell T’s favourite stories, so he is having fun and also practising his memory, sequencing and speaking skills.  T loves doing different voices for the characters.  In the photo at the top of this post, we are retelling the story of the Gruffalo’s Child with a shoe box we painted, some finger puppets and other bits and bobs.

So far, we have only been using pre-made finger puppet sets.  But it is easy enough to make your own on lolly sticks or socks and some googly eyes – then your toddler is also practising those great skills learned through crafting: fine motor skills and creativity. Here are 6 easy ways to make puppets with household materials.

What does your baby get out of it? An entertaining story-telling session! The puppets bring the story to life for him, and reinforce vocabulary.  My little H also loves just trying to grab the puppet when it moves up and down in front of him.

Learning taking place:
Toddler: memory, sequencing and speaking skills, fine motor skills, creativity (creating own endings and different voices for characters)
Baby: vocabulary, story language, grasping skills

7. Mr Tickle

T still loves a tickle. He especially loves a chase and a tickle!  When we play this game, he is presented with a tickling hat”,  I call
him “Mr Tickle” and it is his job to tickle me or the baby in different places.  I had to model how to tickle gently at first, and now he has the hang of it.  We take turns so he is the tickl-ee as well as the tickl-er.

Learning taking place
Toddler: turn-taking, fine motor skills, listening/concentration skills, vocabulary of body parts
Baby: sensory awareness, vocabulary

8. Action Songs (that involve body parts) and Fingerplay

actionsongs

I believe that body part action songs or rhymes involving finger play are the best to share with babies and children, as they will get to know their body so well over the next few years and will use it to understand so much. Our bodies are an instant, portable tool for telling stories, singing songs, investigating, exploring, counting and communicating.   Here are our favourite action songs (involving body parts) and finger play rhymes:

Head, shoulders, knees and toes

I am The Music Man

Incy Wincy Spider

This is the way we wash our…

If you’re happy and you know it, touch your…

Clap your hands and wiggle your fingers (tune of bobby shaftoe, supply different actions involving body parts eg tap your knees, nod your head, etc.) repeat line x 3 then sing “now we’ve made a pattern”!

Wind The Bobbin Up

There’s a Spider On Your Head (arm, knee etc.)

One Finger, One Thumb, Keep Moving

Tommy Thumb

I have this amazing book at home called Okki Tokki Unga, with a great collection of action songs and rhymes.  We keep it with the instruments and get it out daily for a bit of fun!

Learning taking place:
Toddler: memory skills, sequencing patterns (language, tune and actions), speaking skills, gross motor skills, auditory processing skills
Baby: visual tracking, auditory processing skills, vocabulary of body parts and actions

9. Reading books and filling in the gaps.

This is a game we’ve started playing to help encourage T to try saying new words.  I read some simple, familiar books, and miss out words so T can fill them in.  This works well at H’s bed or bath-time – it’s easy to fit in then and has started to just become part of the routine now.  I read the books to H and T “helps” me.  It has really encouraged T to try saying new words, and H loves being read to, so everyone’s happy!

Learning taking place:
Toddler: speaking skills, vocabulary, memory skills
Baby: vocabulary and grammar, visual tracking, sensory awareness, (especially if feely book), hand-eye co-ordination

10.  Hide and Seek

hideandseek2

No explanation needed, I am guessing? I know this is an obvious one, but I have to admit I needed a friend to remind me how much they love it! H just loves being taken around the house for a ride :-).

Learning taking place:
What they are both learning really is how to have fun by playing games together, it’s that simple! I found this interesting article that explains exactly why Hide and Seek is such a popular game with all children:

11. Sensory Memory Basket/Tray

This is another one of my all-time favourites.  I haven’t met a child who doesn’t  enjoy this game.  And in my book,  it’s never to early to start playing memory games.  I believe that if you can help a child build their memory, listening and concentration skills, they have the building blocks for a life-time of learning.

All you need for this one is a tray, some baby-friendly objects and a muslin.  (We used a shallow basket as we do not own a tray). You can use any dish really, as long as it is easy to see all the items.

Choose 3-10 objects (depending on your child’s age and ability) and put them on the tray together, naming them.  With younger children, I tend to go through each one a few times and get them to repeat the names.  With older children, after naming them, I give them 20 seconds to look at them.  At home, I cover the objects with a muslin, get him to close his eyes (no peeking!), and remove one object with the muslin, then ask: “what’s missing?”.  When I have revealed the object, I get him to show the baby so he can explore it with his fingers and mouth.

Learning taking place:
Toddler: speaking skills, memory skills, vocabulary, turn-taking
Baby: visual tracking, vocabulary, sensory awareness

Well, that’s the end of this list.  I am sure we will come up with more games as baby H gets older, and is able to access a wider variety of activities.   I hope some of these work for you too!

What games or activities do you use to entertain two under-threes? I would love to hear any new ideas.  In my book, there can never be too many ways to keep these two occupied! I love all the games on this list, and so do the boys, but it’s nice to try new things.  Post below in comments if you have any to share!

If you are new to the blog, and have a young baby, you might be interested in my post on low-prep games for babies under 1, using household objects here. or these four hide-and-seek games for babies.  If you are interested in the reasons play will benefit your child, check out this post too.  And if you  would like to build your baby’s fine motor skills, here is my list of fine motor activities using common toys and objects.

Have a fantastic week everyone 🙂

Marianne  x

21 Autumn Activities For Under 5s

autumn2

Who else just LOVES Autumn?  It’s always been my favourite season.  Not only does it bring with it the excitement and promise of a new school year (freshly sharpened pencils, newly laminated name tags above pegs and all those happy little faces ready to learn!); but it is also a lovely time to be outside – the air is cool and fresh, the trees and ground are colourful, and there are lots of treasures to be found for playing, counting, sorting, discussing, exploring and creating with.

Autumn Treats For You!

With New Person Day approaching, I have been getting together all my favourite Autumn activities on my Pinterest boards (scroll to the bottom of this post for the links), so that I have an instant treasure trove of activities to dip into once the baby is born.

I have also made this list to share with you. It includes my own ideas and some of other mum-bloggers (just click on the links to their sites to see full explanations). I’ve divided it into rough categories by age, so that you can just scroll down to the bits that apply to you. I hope you find it useful.  If you have any other brilliant ideas that you have tried at home I would love to hear of them and am sure other readers would too – just share in a comment b.

At 37 weeks pregnant, with backache, headaches and all sorts of other aches (!), I think this will have to be my last pre-baby post…I am not good at forcing myself to relax…but my body is telling me I need to now!  So I will have to tear myself away from the laptop keyboard and try and have some “Me Time”.  Wish me luck for the big day, and I will look forward to sharing some baby photos with you!!  For now, here is my list of activities:

19 Autumn Activities For Under 5s

BABIES (6-12M)

1 Make this simple Autumn Sensory Bin from Fantastic Fun and Learning

2 Collect acorns and pop them in a plastic bottle for a simple acorn rattle.  You might want to paint them with a mixture of paints and pva glue for a more colourful rattle.

3 Or  – add conkers, leaves and other autumnal treasures to make a sensory discovery bottle, like these Rainbow Sensory Play Bottles from My Little 3 And Me.  She doesn’t show an autumn bottle on her site, so you would need to use your imagination to create your own.  I just wanted you to see the bottles she makes, as they are really simple and attractive. I especially like the coloured ribbons she attaches to the lid – lovely!

4 Take photos of autumn leaves, trees, squirrels, pine cones and other seasonal things and create a simple Autumn Photo Book to share with your baby.  I would dearly love to do this, but with no time and no energy, I shall force myself to wait until next Autumn…ho-hum.  Let me know if you do one – would love to see it :-).

5 Does your baby enjoy tunnels?  Check out this fun and really simple Autumn Leaves Baby Game from Kids Activities Blog

TODDLERS (12-36M)

6 Collect a variety of autumn treasures on an autumn walk.  Make some home-made shakers (see above link) with your child, and encourage them to make their own creative choices about what to fill them with and how to decorate them.

7 Learn and Sing Some Autumn Songs, like these from Preschool Express, and accompany them with your shakers!

8 Get messy and creative, Painting With Sticks And Leaves (from Feels Like Home Blog)
9 Make some Autumnal Scented Play Dough

10 Try out some pine cone printing/rolling on a tray.  I couldn’t find an example of this online, but just grab some autumnal coloured paints (in separate plastic tubs from your recycling), some paper (cut to size), a baking tray and some pine cones.  Put the paper in the tray, put the pine cones into the paint trays, and let your little one explore!

11 Make some handprints with your toddler using autumnal-coloured paints, cut them out and attach them to a brown paper trunk for an arty autumn tree.  Or you could hole-punch them, thread string through and make an Autumn garland.

12 Make your own pictures together with this Apple Stamping Art Activity from Creative Family Fun.  Happy Hooligans also do this here.  You could use this to make homemade wrapping paper!

13 Go out for a woodland walk and collect treasures for an Autumn treasure basket. Take photos of the items in your collection and save on your phone for a mini slideshow matching game. Look at the picture, find the object (in the basket) to match!  We do this with lots of things already and T loves it!

PRE-SCHOOLERS (3-5 YRS)

14 Go on a Woodland Walk.  Collect leaves and other things. Create an Autumnal Nature Table at home to encourage scientific exploration, sorting/categorising and reading skills. This one here on the Imagination Tree is so easy to create but really inviting.

15 Go on a stick hunt as a family, with some googly eye stickers and make this seriously groovy Stick Family Tree! Wouldn’t this be fun to make? And what a talking point it would make displayed in the downstairs loo!  Thank you to Viki for sharing this on facebook :-).

16 Create a simple Sensory Invitation To Play, using a muffin tin and autumnal spices with this Sprinkles Painting Activity from Crayon Box Chronicles

17 Get into some good, old-fashioned leaf-printing (using a rolling pin!) – simple, easy to follow tutorial at Naturally Educational here:

18 Bring out the creativity in your child, with this Autumn Tree Art using egg cartons from Teach Preschool.  Genius idea, with lots of potential for different creative outcomes.

19 Make some beautiful seasonal coasters, soap trays or bowls like these from Red Ted Art by printing leaves in clay.

20 Set up an Autumn-Themed Train Track with this stunning Squirrel Train Small World Activity from Play Trains.  This does require a bit more prep than the others, and you would need to buy the squirrels and felt…but it is SO beautiful and inspiring I just had to share it.  It takes time and effort to create scenes like this that inspire creativity…but it’s so worth it, to see just how much learning goes on as a result of that thought and preparation :-). 

21 Read some Autumn Books together, to encourage discussion.  I found this brilliant list of books about Autumn Leaves on Clever Classroom Blog, which saved me the trouble of making one myself!  We will definitely be investing in a few of these over the years.

Every Child Is Unique

As I always say, young children cannot be fitted neatly into categories by age really, so the age categories above are merely a guide.  I know for a fact that my T would really dig the sensory bottles on the “baby” list, and the Autumn books and train track play on the “3-5” list.  I hope you and your little ones find some stuff here that you enjoy together.  If you do, feel free to share here or on my Facebook page, and do hit the like and share button at the bottom of this post to share with any parent friends you think may find it useful.

DON’T FORGET: check out the other goodies on my two Pinterest Boards: Arty Autumn Activities and Autumn Cooking Ideas For Kids.  I’ll keep adding to these so you are very welcome to follow the boards by clicking on the Follow (Pinterest) link on my homepage.

Do you know how much I LOVE YOUR COMMENTS? (even the teeny tiny ones)

Don’t be shy and consider leaving one here – you will make my day!

Happy Autumn Everyone!

Marianne x

Taming My Toddler Cave Girl

naughtyniamh

It’s all very well having the time and energy to spend playing and learning with your child, but if you are struggling to manage your little one and their emerging personality, how much playing will you actually get done?

However kind, patient, tolerant, strict, disciplined, experienced or wise we think we are as parents, I don’t think any of us can say we’ve got it sorted when it comes to behaviour management.

Before I had children, one of my colleagues, who was famous at our school for managing challenging behaviour successfully, said to me: “It’s different when it comes to your own kids. They just seem to know how to push your buttons!” I have certainly found this to be true. That’s why I am delighted to present this VERY USEFUL guest post to you. The article is written by my friend, Helen. She is mother to an 18-month old girl, and a teacher, with 8 year’s experience of working in disadvantaged schools in Ireland and London. What she doesn’t know about behaviour management isn’t worth knowing!

If you want to get your hands on some juicy tips for understanding your toddler and getting back that control (even with the most “spirited” of children!), READ ON!

Taming My Toddler Cave-Girl by Helen B

I always thought it would be different….
After 11 years of primary school teaching, I had convinced myself that “when I have my own, I will know exactly what to do when it come to behaviour!” Let’s just say that while my experience has certainly helped, having an “exuberant” toddler (or little caveperson as Harvey Karp calls it; but we’ll get to that later), isn’t quite as straight forward as controlling a classroom full of rowdy ten year olds! Your toddler temperament may be easy, shy or spirited, but there will always come a time when behaviour needs to be managed (if they are “spirited”, be prepared for this to be a bit more often!).

One thing that has helped has been taking the same approach with my new cave-girl as I would have taken beginning a new school year. That is to say: do my research, have a clear idea about my rules/standards/expectations and don’t smile until October (just kidding!). I know it is hard to find the time to ACTUALLY READ when you have kids, but a little dip into things here and there (if possible) really helps. You’d never embark on a project or task at work without a bit of due diligence, so why should parenting be any different? If you disagree (or like me fall into a stupor every time the printed word swims before your eyes) then hopefully I’ve saved some time and effort with the tips below. If you are going to read one book, make it ‘The Happiest Toddler on the Block’ by Paediatrician Harvey Karp. He’s the guy who does the most amazing 5 S’s method for soothing little babies (swaddle, shush etc… can’t remember the rest, but it was life saving at the time. Wow, how time flies!)

With this in mind, I set about reading (or re-reading) a couple of different books/articles to see what approaches are out there, that may suit me (and N of course). I coupled this with my own training on behaviour management, mostly inspired by an Australian education consultant called Bill Rogers. They might not suit you, but hey when the screaming in the supermarket starts or your little poppet decides to refuse to eat anything but yogurt, anything is worth a try!!

So here, in no particular order is what I have learnt…

UNDERSTANDING BEHAVIOUR

Communication is the key. Emerging language skills mean challenging behaviour in toddlers is often borne out of the frustration of not being understood.

Toddlers are like cavemen. A parent’s job over the years will be to “civilise” their child, teach them please and thank you, toilet train them etc.. we also need to help them to develop impulse control (i.e. don’t hit!!).

• Toddlers are beginning to move from the small world of home and immediate family into the wider world and with this awareness comes a desire for independence (and control).

• Believe it or not, children LIKE boundaries. It helps them with a sense of control and makes them feel safe. It is our job to help them feel safe and give them these boundaries.

Children respond extremely well to reward and positive reinforcement (praise etc). Behaviour management is not just about sanction.

understanding your child is vital. Toddlers can misbehave when tired, hungry, teething, over stimulated, hurt, injured, embarrassed. This is why, despite what I am going to say next about approaches, the most important thing is not in any book and relies on your instinct as a parent.

MANAGING CHALLENGING BEHAVIOUR

There is a big difference between understanding why a particular behaviour is happening and letting your child “get away with blue murder” as my mum would have put it! So even if they are tired/hungry/ ill we still need to show them the way…

• Harvey Karp says that behaviours can roughly be grouped into three types. Reminding myself of this really helped me, especially when I felt like over reacting to the orange ones! Traffic light behaviours: green light are those lovely things you wish they did all the time; orange light are the annoying things like the nagging, dawdling, pestering and so on and red light behaviours are dangerous or disrespectful or aggressive acts that require immediate action.

• The number one most rule in behaviour management is: CONSISTENCY, CONSISTENCY, CONSISTENCY! Being tired really, really (really) weakens your resolve, so it can be tough to stick to your guns, but without being consistent you might as well not bother trying any technique at all.  So you need to make sure you enforce:

1.  Consistent standards. Decide what is acceptable and what is not.  It is best to discuss this with other caregivers, so you are all on the same page. There is no point in me getting aggrieved with N about screeching and daddy laughing for example.

2.  Consistent consequences. Would you have the same consequence for a red light behaviour as an orange? Again this should be a joint decision. If N hits or bites someone what happens? What if she throws food? Once you decide on the consequence (time out, loss of a treat/privilege, ignoring, etc.) for a particular action, this needs to happen every time – not just when you are more tired or annoyed! The older your child, the more power you can give them by letting them negotiate the consequence with you (NB not at the time, but at a calm time, in advance of any issue).

Follow through. If you say there is a consequence for something, then it has to happen. For example if you say : “If you do that again we are going home” then you have to be prepared to go home if the behaviour doesn’t stop. You’ve got to mean it! They learn to recognise an empty threat really quickly.

• Don’t underestimate the power of a quiet voice. At school, a good teacher is the one who rarely raises their voice. If you shout all the time children will a) shout louder too and b) just stop listening as it becomes part of the everyday clatter. N nearly jumped out of her skin the other day when I raised my voice as she tried to hit another child, she hadn’t heard it before, so boy did she know that I meant it! Bill Rogers talks about controlled severity. This is the idea that the less you use it, the more effective it is.

• Positive consequences work too. This is especially for ironing out those annoying yellow light behaviours. This can be as simple as a bit of praise when your little darling finally shares, right through to special time (the Americans call it “Time In”!) with mum or dad, or a special game. Try not to make it food based all the time as this is setting up a pattern (negative associations with other foods, behaving just to get sweets etc.). It’s a bit too deep to get into the whole intrinsic versus extrinsic reward thing here but there will come a time when you want them to do something not to gain a reward but to feel proud of themselves.

Ignoring is also useful for yellow light behaviours.  I feel like the little annoying things are designed to break you more than the big ones. By ignoring a bit, you stop yourself getting wound up and your toddler learns that persistent low level misbehaviour doesn’t get them attention.

PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE

And now for some fun and embarrassing stuff to try. This is more preventative to stop issues emerging at all, or getting worse when they do…

• Toddler-ese is your toddler’s native tongue! Use short phrases, repetition and mirroring to help your child understand their feelings. You are a spokesperson for them, especially when they are upset, as the part of their brain for words shuts down.

• As your little caveperson finds it difficult to communicate, try doing it for them, at their level. The Fast Food rule is where you say for your toddler what you think they are trying to say – just like at a fast food restaurant, where they repeat back your order. You are showing that you understand and respect your child. Try to reflect some of their emotion in your voice as you do this (but don’t go over the top!). You state their feelings as well as the issue and you do it in a really embarrassing way using simple cave language. Who hasn’t tried to leave the park only to be met with the rigid buggy baby? We often will try to explain in adult language but what HK suggests is more like “No leave! no leave! N no want leave. You love the park!” then after you have calm, explain why… “We need to go home for tea…” I have found this method incredibly successful. I’m still not sure if it is because she is bemused by me or because she genuinely feels more empowered and respected! All I know is that it works.

Help your toddler express their feelings by giving them a method. For 12-24 month olds teach them to say “No” (even though we might regret it later!). When she is mad show her how to vent by stomping her feet and shaking her head. As she gets older this should progress to practising faces. “Show me your happy face…sad face…”. Find pictures to support this. Make a feelings book to refer to. Enrich this by using more words to describe similar feelings.

Be a sports caster. Connect with your child by broadcasting what she is doing: “You are mad, you are shouting out loud, your face is really red, you wanted raisins and now you are mad at mum”. Also great fun when they are happily doing things “… and now N is running down the corridor with the toilet roll, it has fallen… can she rescue it… “ etc.

Give toddlers choice: if you have to leave the park, let them choose what to do when they get home, let them choose from two meals and they are more likely to eat one of them, let them pick which trolley to sit in in the supermarket. This empowers them and gives them more of the independence they need.

Act the idiot. There is nothing better to help a child feel safe and secure (and build their confidence) than to know that other people can be silly, make mistakes, not understand things either. Don’t be afraid to pretend you have tripped over, have a race and loose, sing the wrong words to a song, be weak, pretend to be confused, forgetful etc (for any of you expecting number two this should come pretty easily!).

All in all, it is about loving and connecting with your child and showing them the way really. I love the idea that we are ambassadors. We go to a foreign country (Toddlerland) and build good relationships. We throw parties, give aid (food, love, toys, kisses) and show respect. But we’re not pushovers – when there is serious conflict, we put our foot down!

If you found this article useful, show your appreciation by sharing, liking, tweeting or pinning.  Or if you have any other thoughts to share about your own experiences in “Toddlerland”, comment below.  We all love a good discussion :-).

15 Fun Ways To Play on a Rainy Day!

PicMonkey Collage

Boy is it WET outside today. But every rainy day is an opportunity for fun, play and learning in my book! I found myself trying to come up with a quick list of ideas for activities for T and then I thought I may as well share them with you! So here is a super-quick post of indoor and outdoor rainy day activities that I have literally written over breakfast (so sorry for lack of photos and shoddy punctuation – will tidy up later!) . Hope you find it useful :-).

1. Make some playdough! Recipe here: http://www.k-3teacherresources.com/play-dough-recipe.html

2. Get out some paints and paper and have fun getting messy! Splatter painting makes great “rainy” pictures (flicking paint-filled brushes with fingers). Athough this may be best done outside!

3. Take rubber ducks and boats to the park and float in puddles 🙂

4. OR (for older kids) make some boats and float. Foil makes great instant boats. Otherwise, plastic tubs from the recycling box. Supply older kids with a range of materials to make their boats.
Go outside with your boats and some little plastic people/animals and test them for a simple scientific experiment. Which floats the best? Why? Which holds the most animals? (If you have the book Mr Gumpy’s Outing, this is a great one to read before you go out!)

5. Get your wellies on, go on a Puddle Hunt and have a good old splash in some puddles!

6. Raid the recycling box and larder and make some simple shakers out of plastic bottles and pasta/rice

7. Sing some favourite songs with your homemade instruments

8. OR try YouTube for some new songs. We like Barefoot Books Songs (type into youtube) – they are great for actions and getting some of that energy out!

9. Make an obstacle course inside using cushions, boxes, tables, blankets. Combinations of Cushions and plastic boxes make great ramps, stepping stones and balance beams. Tables and blankets or blankets over the back of a sofa make great tunnels :-).

10. Read a book about minibeasts or look at some on google images together. Go outside on a minibeast hunt and take photos with your phone. Come back inside and talk about what you found. For older kids – draw pictures of them and label. Or make a paper plate minibeast (ladybirds, snails and spider paper plate crafts can all be found on the internet easily) using paints/collage pieces.
For toddlers, have them find the minibeasts in the photos on google images or in your mini-beasts book!

11. Duplo/Lego: give them an age appropriate challenge (build a tower of 3 bricks, build a dinosaur/fighter jet/number 6)

12. Get out the puzzle box and reward with stickers/treats/marbles towards a treat for completed puzzles!

13. Get out some clothes for your toddler to dress up in. Hats, scarves , glasses and shoes are the most fun. Then get out the camera and get some snaps to save for their wedding day speech!

14. Go to the library and find some information books or stories about wet weather. take home, snuggle up in your cosy book corner (or build a den and read together!

15. Easy messy play: grab a large baking or serving tray. Pour some flour (or corn-flour and water to make GLOOP!) in and let them play. Add cars little people or cutlery and let them explore.

Right, must go and grab my wellies…we are gonna go for number 3, 5 and 14.
Woohoo!
If you have any questions, just comment here – wrote in a rush so maybe haven’t been very clear.
Have a fun day everyone!

Marianne