Teaching a Toddler – Colours

Well August has been a terrible month for us. We have been sick with an awful cold that neither of us could seem to get over and a growing boy who is testing every fiber of my patience and the boundaries we have given him. For a kid who is only 18 months old he sure is acting like he has joined the ‘terrible two’s’ already.

Needless to say all my usual planning, prep work and routine has gone out the window and has been replaced with a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants attitude and way to many grumpy days. Although to be honest most of the grumpiness has been from me and not Mr B, oh whom I kidding, all the grumpiness has been from me ūüė¶

Anyhoo, spring has sprung down here in Australia and I’m determined to get over my grumps and move on.

We did get round to doing some afternoon activities. Our¬†theme this month was all about colour, which was great cause everywhere you go you see colour. So every outing was a chance to reinforce what we were learning at home. Throughout each activity I pretty much just let my son do whatever he wanted and while he worked/played I would talk about the colours and what he was doing. Most of the activities were about fun and playing rather than about dedicated learning ūüôā

Monday: Colour Wheel

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This was pretty easy to make. I took some plain paper and divided it into 8, then took some colour markers and coloured in the triangles. I then cut smaller triangles out of the scraps, coloured them in with the same colours and attached them to pegs with some tape. Since these activities only get used a couple of times they really don’t have to be very fancy or long-lasting. He loved this, but I think that may be more due to the fun of putting pegs on paper that the matching colours together.

Tuesday: Bicarb and Vinegar (OUTSIDE!)

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This activity speaks for itself and was lots of fun. We’ve done something like this before but it never gets old ūüôā All you need to do is add some food colouring to some vinegar and mix it with bicarb of soda then stand back and watch…or in my son’s case, get messy. I should warn you to put on crappy clothes as the stupid food colouring stained everything, which I knew would happen but I wasn’t prepared for him to literally sit in the middle of the path and then pour vinegar all overs his legs.

Wednesday: Colour paper tubes

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I took 5 pieces of coloured paper and¬†tore them in half. One half I rolled into small tubes and just taped them closed while the other half I tore into 3 more pieces and scrunched them up into little balls. I then taped the tubes to our pantry door and placed all the little scrunched up pieces of paper into a small basket. We had lots of fun talking about the colours and placing the right colours into the tubes. I’m not sure Mr B understood that the colour of the tubes is what I was referring too as he still can’t identify colours but he can say all the right words, so we are half way there ūüôā

Thursday: Matching sets.

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This is really easy to play and lots of fun, I walked around the house picking up different coloured items and putting them into his basket. Then I set out some butchers paper (seriously invest in some if you haven’t got any yet) and picked out items from the basket and asked him to match them to a colour. This really didn’t work at first but I think he got the concept by the last week although I wasn’t expecting him to get them all right at all. If you do this activity make sure you choose items that are predominantly that colour otherwise your kid might not get what you are asking of them.

Friday: Drawing

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Drawing is pretty new to us, even though I have exposed Mr B lots of times, he still hasn’t got the hang of it. I do all my prep work while he has his afternoon nap, that way I can put away other toys and it’s all ready for him. I drew small squares in different mediums (markers, crayons and pencil crayons) and gave him markers to try to match the colours. It was really fun and he loved scribbling everywhere, we have tons of sheets of butchers paper which I just stick to our coffee table with some tape so it doesn’t move while he is drawing.

Reading:

Reading is really important to me and my husband so we want to nurture a love of books in our children right from the start. When our son was first born my husband would read to him every night and we have kept that up ever since.

During the month we include books to our reading time with the theme we are doing at the time. Our local library is great when it comes to finding fun educational books however they are mostly for older kids and have a minimal range for young kids which is disappointing. But we love to challenge Mr B so we’ve introduced books that require him to sit still just a little longer and try to concentrate a little more, which are just a bit above his level. This means we’ve done a mix of difficult library and easy home books this month so he didn’t get frustrated with reading time.

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Teaching a Toddler

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Teaching a Toddler

So recently I’ve been inspired by some great teachers turned moms to be a bit more proactive with what I’m teaching Billy.
Once he hit toddler-hood I never really felt like I was doing enough when it came to teaching him even the simplest things like animal names or colours etc.

I started small by creating ‘invitations to play’. These were basically little scenes I would set up each night using the toys we already have. Mostly these were just things like a little farm or the train set and I would build the same little scene every night or whenever I was doing a little cleaning up. It helped me make sure I was rotating our toys regularly and keeping him interested in his toys.

Now that he has turned 15 months I have decided to up my game a bit and do more structured games/lessons. He is way to young to do anything for longer than 10 minutes, so I have kept the activities really simple and most importantly if he isn’t interested or doesn’t ‘get it’ I don’t push him or try force the game. Mostly I have to try to remember that this is not about me and my need to control every situation (I’m a way to much of an A type personality). The other thing I keep in mind when is that at this age repetition is key, so we reuse, redo and recycle most of our activities.

I have chosen to do a different theme every month. Not really for any other reason but the fact that it gives me a guideline so I can think up ideas, activities and outings.

Personally I like routine, I enjoy planning and packing what we will need the night before and that feeling of being on top of my day before it’s even started. If I forget or don’t do it for a few weeks I can see the difference in how I react to situations and how I feel a bit overwhelmed and seem to be a bit more short-tempered with everyone.
I try to menu plan every Sunday night so it’s pretty easy to know which snacks I’m going to pack and what we will be having for breakfast. Our day can start anywhere from 5:30 -7 am, although 7am wake up is very rare, we then have breakfast and have a play with whatever I set up the night before. Pretty much everyday we try to spend the morning out of the house, we are part of a few playgroups in our area and we meet up with some amazing other mommy friends that we’ve made. If we have nothing planned we might just head down to the part of go into town for a coffee. By about 12:00 we are home having a small lunch and heading to bed for an afternoon nap. I’ve been really lucky with how we do naps and B pretty much always sleeps for 2 hours (on really busy days it can be 3 hours). When he gets up from his naps we cuddle on the couch for about 15-30 min either watching ABC2 or just sitting together quietly while B wakes up fully. Then it’s on to our activities (which I don’t put any time limit/expectations on) and after that I start on dinner or if that’s all prepared already I might do some work while B plays independently. We generally have dinner at 6pm and its straight off to bath and bed afterwards which usually means B is in bed no later than 7:30.

This routine works for us and I try to be really flexible with it, it may not work for you or your child. Before he was 1 yrs we never really had a set routine I would always just take the days as they came or see how we felt. Some days I can tell we should just be having a day at home or he may be having so much fun in the back yard that we don’t end up going anywhere or doing anything else. But now that he is a bit older I have noticed that routine seems to suit him much better and he naturally fell into eating and sleeping at the same times everyday so I worked this out around him rather than try to change what he was already doing to suit me.

Is that really what I did?

I have the joy of having some amazing¬†mommy friends in my life. ¬†Some have kids the same age as my own, some that are older and some that are younger, which means they are a treasure trove of great advice and they always help me to not make the same mistakes they did. I love watching them interact with their kids, hearing the many different approaches to discipline and the many different ways you can show each individual child love.¬†Watching them really helps me to see how I interact and treat my own son and I couldn’t be more grateful for them all in my life.

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However over he past couple of weeks I noticed something I do that is not helping the development of my son at all but I know no one has ever mentioned it to me  or pulled me up on it.

I’m a hover mom! Yip that’s right I hover wherever we go and even at home, my poor child can never learn something new or try something on his own without me being there watching, so called helping and even doing it for him.

Mr B has been an introvert from the day he was born and he has been my velcro child from day dot. So I’m not really talking about how he interacts with others or how long it takes him to meet new people or feel comfortable in the places we go and the playgroups we attend. I’m so very happy to facilitate that side of him and slowly help him to learn how to make his introverted personality fit the situations we find ourselves in, the other more dominant personalities we encounter or especially the larger groups we attend.

What I mean is that he just has to look at me while he is trying to figure something out or learn something new and I am at his side in a flash telling/showing him how to do it and very often it’s resulted in me doing it for him and him no longer wanting to play with the item or try on his own.

Argh how annoying would that be?
I never wanted to be a lazy mom and I was so careful to not be neglectful and I do try really hard to treat my son like I would any other person I come into contact with. I think its valuable and important to make sure I don’t dismiss children or the way they feel, even if I think he is being petty or silly. I’ve always wanted to be really supportive of him and everything he wants to do. We practices attachment parenting and neither my husband or I believe in letting a child cry and we don’t think it’s a good thing for them to do.
But what I’ve done instead is go in a complete other direction and not let him grow and learn on his own. I notice it more and more as he is getting older and as he is able to do more things and it’s really making me step back a bit and let him be.

Thankfully I’m not to late to change my hovering ways. Instead of rushing to his side when he can’t climb off something or can’t figure out how to complete a task I have a few techniques I have had to use that I’ve had to teach myself:

  1. I tell him I’m coming, count to 5 and take a breath
  2. I walk over and I ask him if he needs help (although if he is on something high I move close to him straight away to prevent any accidents)
  3. (depending on his level of stress) I talk him through the task and support what he needs to do.
  4.  (once he achieves his goal) I celebrate with him

For example the technique play out something like this:

He climbs onto the bed and can’t get down so he usually starts to call me or express frustration (which in his case comes in the form of throwing something he has in his hand or lying face down):

  1. I count to 5 and ask him if he needs me.
  2. I sit on the floor below where he is trying to get off the bed and I ask him if he needs help getting off.¬†(I try and be really specific with my question so I know what he is trying to do), I usually try and do this until he responds to me in some form. He is old enough now (16 months) to say yes or no to a question I’m asking him and I find expecting and answer from him tends to stop the outbursts of frustration and bring him back to the task at hand. This may be different for your child so just try a few different things until you find what works for you.¬†
  3. I explain to him that he needs to lie on his belly and slide off or just keep sliding off on his bottom if he wants to get off the bed. I also usually say something supportive like ‘it’s okay mommy will catch you if you fall’. I try not to sound rushed, judgmental, frustrated or change my tone of voice too much and most of the time manage to keep a soothing tone if I can. Pick your moments to teach though, sometimes we are rushing out the door and it’s easier to just pick him up, there will always be another time to teach him with patience.
  4. Once he has managed to get down (sometimes this can mean holding my hand or jumping into my arms in this example) I give him a cuddle, high five or clap hands for him and say something along the lines of “you did a great job trying to get off the bed, I’m so proud of you for not giving up”. I try not to use general terms like ‘good boy’ or ‘well done’ because I don’t want him to look to me for praise at every turn but I want him to feel proud of his achievements and his ability to try ¬†instead of searching for acclaim from others.

It’s been a hard pill to swallow, I hate looking at what I do and realising I’ve been messing up. But I guess that’s all part of being a parent ¬†and it’s not like I can’t change my behavior and or that I’ve done¬†irreparable damage.

In fact, for me, that’s exactly what being a mom to this little man is all about. Evolving, changing, growing as he grows and making sure I check myself all the time. I don’t want to ever be the kind of mom that ignores her kid or neglects his needs and growth but I also think its really important to not over do and hover over everything he does and every interaction he has with other children. He needs me but he doesn’t always need my help, and that’s ok too