The more time you spend helping your toddler make sense of his world, the more he’ll get out of it. From everyday activities to special outings, there’s so much you can do. And discovering new things together means you’re having fun too! Here’s how…
How you use your time is key to having an enjoyable family life with little ones. Whether that means finding an extra 10 minutes to make sure that mountain of clean washing gets put away, or organising a basket in the lounge to store all those library books so they won’t get lost.
Getting organised means you’re on top of things and your little one will be getting the best from you because you won’t be run ragged, so you’ll have a happier, better behaved child. You’ll find that once you have a routine in place for one part of the day, it’s much easier to implement one at other times.
Let him be responsible
Whether it’s getting him to put away his toys, pick up his clothes or simply choose what snack he wants, giving your toddler responsibilities is an important milestone in raising a confident child. Accepting responsibility is an important life skill and it’ll also teach your little one to accept changes in life. At the same time, you need to accept your responsibilities as a parent and set a good example for your children to follow.
Get your tot socialising
Children learn so much from their peer group. Playing with children his own age will teach your little one about socialising and interacting with other people, and being with slightly older children is exciting and gives him something to aim for. Next time you’re at the nursery door, start talking to one of the other mums. If you become friends, your child can make friends with her child. As a nanny I’d see the same nannies out and about every day, and before I knew it I had a network of good friends.
Give him boundaries
You need to start putting boundaries in place for your little one as soon as he can understand them. He may not appreciate it from the start, but boundaries need to be there to keep him safe and help him get on in life. You also need rules in place to ensure that the boundaries are observed.
Of course, as well as enforcing rules and boundaries you should also make sure you encourage him and give him plenty of praise and rewards for good behaviour. You also need to make sure you don’t restrict him too much. You still want to let him fall occasionally and have to pick himself up.
Cut the technology
Don’t get me wrong, technology can be great for toddlers, especially with helping them learn new skills, but you need to put limitations on technology time – don’t get seduced by it. You don’t want your toddler learning about throwing and catching a ball from a DVD, he should be outside doing it. Technology encourages self-contained play and can stop him interacting with other people.
So, you need to hit that off button and get him learning by interacting with you and the rest of the family. Try making a promise that you’re going to keep the TV off for half a week. It might seem hard (and you’re going to have to do it too, mum) but prove you can. Rather than watching TV, play a learning game together instead.
Relax with your toddler
How each family relaxes is unique to them. But what’s important is that you all take time together to switch off from work and worries, so they aren’t cutting into your life. At home on the weekends, try to create that feeling you get when you’re away on holiday. This family relaxation time will have a big effect on how you function as a parent and your toddler will pick up on these vibes and relax, too. It’s about giving yourself permission to just relax together. Laughing together, playing silly games. Nothing else.
Get him sleeping well
It’s vital that you make sure your child (and you!) have enough energy to do all the other things on this list, and the only way that’s going to happen is if you make sure you both have enough sleep. Ideally, toddlers should get a minimum of 10-12 hours sleep a day, including naps, until they’re 3 years old.
Sleep is something that all too often goes missing in our society. Because parents are under pressure to work harder and longer (particularly during the tough financial times we’re experiencing at the moment), they go without sleep, and that can sometimes mean their children end up getting less sleep, too. The thing is, toddlers survive without it, so we think they’re OK, but they’re not. Lack of sleep leads to behavioural problems and bad health, so make sure your little one gets enough.
Jo’s top tips
- “Repetition is important. Sing the same songs, recite the same nursery rhymes and rattle the same rattle over and over. He’ll remember and eventually copy what he’s been taught.”
- “Rewards don’t have to be expensive. Most little ones are thrilled with a sticker or a picture to colour in.”