Categorized | Motherhood, Toddler care

Enabling play

Posted on 02 December 2015 by Kristrun

ToddlerToddlers are fun, demanding and sometimes difficult to understand. They can be loud, messy and most of the time have a very short attention span. But at the same time they are so cute – expressing themselves in a unique way – coming up, and coming out with the most amazing things!

Most parents handle this beautifully – others struggle. This article will not solve all your issues but I have made a short list that might help in gradually encouraging your toddler to entertain herself, and in turn, increasing the peace.

  • Toddlers are not small adults. Most of them will make no distinction between their physical or emotional feelings. So most of the time you need to try to predict what is going on and figure out if they are hungry, tired or just upset about something. Reasoning will rarely work. Distract and get food in, or distract and find something else to do often works a lot better than explaining or arguing. In fact distracting is my favorite tool in my toolbox!
  • Allow and create an environment to play. It does not need to be complicated – put toys on the floor , sit down with your toddler and start dressing dolls, building Lego or blocks, driving cars. They will follow. You may need to be with them to begin with but they will gradually play by themselves. Once they get going – don’t stop them – don’t interfere in the game – let them talk to themselves and just bide your time. Gradually the time they can play without your input will increase.
  • Create play environments to your advantage. If you need to do some cooking, create a cooking play area in the kitchen with a bowl and a big spoon and some chopped veg. If you need to send some emails or work on your computer, create a “desk” for them with an old keyboard and some post-it notes.
  • Keep toys tidy and in themed boxes. You don’t need much, but keep the blocks together, and the dolls and dresses in the same box. If it’s all muddled up it’s not as easy for them to get going – they may mix it up eventually as a part of the game but then try to store it away as organized as it was in the beginning. Of course, even better to turn this into a game also with your toddler and encourage this habit!
  • When you set up the toys – use different rooms. A toy becomes a completely different toy if you put it outside – or in the bedroom or living room.
  • Old handbags, luggage, notebooks, keyboards, envelopes and old phones are endless resource for play. Mine have played “travel” for days and days. Make sure it’s all safe of course – remove old batteries and so on. Remember they are always copying adults. Shop play is always exciting and even more so if you bring out actual groceries and household items and REAL money in mum’s old wallet. Spend a bit of time on labeling and the game can go on for days!
  • Be around to help little fingers with the things they can’t work out – but let them come to you. Don’t interrupt them when they are trying to do things on their own, however much you want to jump in and help. One problem resulting from having domestic helpers in Hong Kong is that children have assistance on hand constantly. Let them try and do things themselves – that’s how they learn and gain a sense of independence.
  • Keep it simple – complicated toys need more manpower.
  • There is no right and wrong in play. Don’t stop them if they are not playing “correctly” with something – like using a shopping trolley as a bed for their teddies, for example. Leave them be.
  • Less is more when it comes to toys. A packed playroom full of dozens of toys can actually be a bit stressful for a small child and does not encourage play. Rotate the toys – put most of them away and get a few out at a time. Next week, put these away and take something different out. You will be amazed at how suddenly a toy they ignored in the crowded room suddenly is the best thing ever!
  • Don’t be tempted to immediately go out and buy everything which your child loved at someone else’s house. This is just novelty. Create your own novelty with the point above ^^
  • When it’s time to tidy up – let them help you and praise them for helping out – even if they only manage to put back a few things. That will gradually change.

Last but not least – enjoy spending time with your toddler and treasure those simple moments. They don’t expect much from us – sometimes just a cuddle here and there, for us to be around, to be picked up from school when they least expect it – or to sit down with a book and read. They don’t need much entertainment – they need a cuddle and a play much more than a stressful trip to Ocean Park.

Related: How to choose right local daycare?



B.Ed, M. Ed. (Iceland, HK) C.E.C.E. (HK)

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