Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Cuddling with my sweet son

I am thankful for so many things. This is a great time to stop and think about the little things that we take for granted. More than 1 out of every 5 people in the world don't have access to clean water (some sources say 1/3). I have running water inside and outside the house and multiple grocery stores that sell clean water. Around 1 out of every 3 people don't have enough food to meet their basic nutritional needs. I have a kitchen full of food, an extra freezer in the garage, multiple grocery stores and more restaurants than I could count all locally. 1/4 of the world population doesn't have sewers or adequate housing. I have a house with plumbing, air conditioning/heating, electricity, and so many things that many others will go their entire lives without.

I love that smile!

This is also the time of year to focus on family. I have the privilege of having two amazing kids. I love them, but the really cool part is that I really like them. They aren't just relatives, they turning into really cool little people. They make me smile and laugh every day. They also exhaust me and ensure I won't ever find my sanity again, but hey, that can be fun also.

He's silly and has the best laugh ever.

I love that they will sit still and listen to books. I love that they enjoy doing art. I love running around chasing them and seeing them gain confidence. I love when they give hugs and the best part is when they say, "I love you." I like watching them play together and eventually I'm sure they will be able to do so without getting injured. I'm constantly amazed with the things they learn and connections they are making in every aspect of their lives.

She keeps us smiling and on our toes with her antics.

The person I am most thankful for would have to be my husband. He is loving, smart, and has also lost his sanity. He is an amazing father who is involved in every part of our kids lives. He works hard to provide everything we need and more. He makes us all smile and is one of the best people I know. I am so lucky to have him in my life.

 An intense game of ping pong

Monday, November 21, 2011


Everyone tells you the importance of giving toddlers choices. It's important for them to feel like they have control or they will take control in areas you really don't want. What they don't tell you is how to do this without regretting it.

I want you to think I'm too cute to cause trouble.

Give only a couple of choices and make sure that you are open to them accepting either choice. "Do you want to clean up your books or blocks?" They get a choice and you are perfectly happy either way. If you ask, "Do you want to clean up?" They could easily answer "no" and you wouldn't be happy. We try to limit the questions they could answer with no, because it's really annoying.

Me, annoying? No

I have heard so many parents give choices they aren't acceptable. "Do you want to hold my hand or walk by yourself in the parking lot?" I have yet to meet a toddler that should be allowed to walk by themselves in a busy parking lot. A better question would be, "Are you going to hold my hand or do I have to carry you?" While your preference is clearly for them to hold your hand, either option is acceptable. 

We call this the reading couch.

I should admit I used this on my husband (then my boyfriend) for almost 2 years before he caught on and turned it around on me. "Are you going to do the laundry or the dishes while I'm gone?" The trick with adults is not to over use it. Then they catch on and tend to get upset that you are treating them like a child. haha

It does work well most of the time on children though. There are still times when nothing works... welcome to having children. It's also important to know when to pick your battles. You don't want to wear pants in the house, not a huge deal. You don't want to wear pants when it's 40 degrees outside, that's a battle I will win.

Not the easiest way to go around

I can't tell you how many times a day I say things like, "It's dinner time. Do you want broccoli or corn?" While it works most of the time, the rest of the time the conversation goes something like this:
Me: Do you want to read books or play with trains?
Child: No
Me: Do you want to build with blocks or play in the kitchen?
Child: No
Me: Those are your choices, which would you like: blocks or kitchen?
Child: No
Me: Are you being obstinate?
Child: No

Yes, my children could both use the word obstinate correctly before they ever turned 2. Some days are better than others.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


It is important for all family members to have responsibilities to help keep the household running. We believe in starting them young, like as soon as they are mobile.

We start with simple things that they are interested in doing. All toddlers love to fill and dump, well, everything. This can be the first step cleaning up toys. We keep all of the toys sorted so they are easy to put away, even if they aren't always neat. All of the puppets go in one bucket, the balls in another, etc. When you cheer and put things away toddlers are usually happy to help. They do need constant reminders to stay on task and each task must be broken down as simply as possible. You can't tell a toddler to clean up and expect something good to happen. You can tell them to put the stuffed animals on the shelf or the food in the kitchen and expect better results. We tell them what to do with each individual toy and cheer when they do it correctly. This is an extremely slow process, but one they need to learn.

Cleaning up a puzzle

As soon as the kids are capable we let them get dressed. This started with shoes and then they learned how to put on socks, pants, underwear, and shirts. By the time my kids were two they could completely dress themselves. Granted this takes around 30 minutes and we often don't have time for that. They really only practice this skill on the weekends. We help them on weekdays so that we can actually make it out of the house on time.

Those aren't your shoes!

The next job we gave the kids was pushing in their chairs after meals. They love to do this. It's simple and one (or in our case two) less things the adults have to do. We then added putting their dishes on the counter when they are finished, pulling out their chairs, and wiping down the table. They are so excited with each new job and we just keep slowly building our expectations so that it becomes habit.

Silly boy at meal time

There are many other jobs they do around the house as well. After they wake up, they put everything back on their beds. They take off their shoes and socks as soon as they get in the house. They help scrub during bath time. They spray water bottles and use a squeegee on the windows outside. They use spray bottles to water plants. They help cook whenever possible. They put food in the dog's bowl. I love seeing them help around the house.

I can pull the wagon.
What are some jobs your toddler does around the house?

Sunday, November 13, 2011


Many people think it's too difficult to teach toddlers Science. While my kids know the words for many things in nature, which is clearly Science, toddlers love to learn more. Many parents and teachers start with teaching how things grow. I have done this an it is an excellent set of lessons. Planting, watering, and seeing something grow is always special. The only issue is this is not a fast process in the life of a toddler. Seeds that sprout in just a couple of days are considered fast for adults, but if you have spent any time with a toddler you know they move much faster. A better fit for this age is teaching Physics.

This is the point where parents and teachers think, "I hate Science. I don't know Physics." You are forgetting, it still needs to be on a toddler level. We are talking about forces, velocity, acceleration, and reactions. These are all things you know. These are also things that kids will start experimenting with even if you don't do anything. All you have to do is provide the materials and vocabulary. In fact, you already have the materials and your toddlers are already learning Physics, so you really just have to talk to them about what they are doing.

Ride on toys are perfect for Physics. It doesn't take kids very long to figure out why it's more fun to go downhill than up. This is a great time to talk about acceleration and gravity. Kids (most often boys) will also want to crash. This offers different lessons if they are crashing into a wall or crashing into something that will move or fall down. In addition to talking about not crashing into people, we discuss velocity, transfer of energy, and reactions. These "lessons" keep the kids attention and they are much more likely to remember this new knowledge, than to remember to water a plant once a day. Bring out the toy cars and trucks for small scale versions of all the same lessons.

Balls are also great Physics toys. Rolling, bouncing, kicking, and practically everything else a child will do with a ball is a clear lesson in Physics. A train set is always a favorite and learning that if you go too fast you won't stay on the track is a tailor made Physics lesson.

If you want more formal lessons that you set up and initiate, rather than just following your child's lead, that can be fun as well. Set up an incline plane (ramp) and mark how far different toy cars will go before stopping. Why do some go longer? What if you cover the incline plane in carpet, sand paper, aluminum foil, or grass? What changed? Why are the answers different? What if you add more force (pushing rather than letting the car go at the top)? Kids love coming up with ideas to continue experimenting and even with short attention spans will play this game for a long time.

The other day my daughter set up a game that was an even better idea. She placed some cars on one end of the table, all facing the edge. She then took a truck to the other side. This is one of the trucks you can pull back and let go and it propels itself. She would let it go and when it hit one of the cars, that car would fall off, but the truck would stop in place. I immediately started talking to her about a transfer of energy. I also realized what a perfect set up this was and felt silly that  toddler came up with it when it had never even occurred to me.

In most of what we do, I follow their lead. This guarantees a level of interest and even if they act like they aren't listening, I later hear them teaching their babies or stuffed animals the same lesson. They say the best way to prove you know material is to teach it, so I love seeing them playing in this way. I hope this gives you some ideas for easy Physics lessons you can do with toddlers.