Sometimes. Moms and Dads get so bogged down with the routines of the day that they forget to have fun with their children.
In the mornings it’s… wake up, get dressed, eat your breakfast, go to school. In the evenings… eat dinner, jump in the bath, bedtime.
Each one of these activities is a potential disaster waiting to happen. Toddlers and four- year olds will fight you at every turn if they can, because they are asserting their independence and testing boundaries. We start to associate the mornings and the evenings with ‘unhappy hours, because of the tensions and stress they generate.
Why oh why do we need to fight about everything? Why are we not including games and activities in these times? If you stop and analyse what is happening, you might need to relook at the way you are doing things at these busy, routine driven times of the day.
Pre-school teachers are often asked how we manage to get twenty 2-year-olds to do things that moms and dads struggle to do with one or two children. There are three main reasons.
- The routine is so set in stone, there is no negotiating. Everyone goes to have lunch, everyone goes to the toilet, and everyone goes down for a nap. It is just the way it is. Try and cultivate this at home by giving warnings of what is coming next. Little ones cannot tell the time and it is upsetting for anyone to be told to stop what you are doing with immediate effect. Rather say, “When this big hand on the clock gets to six, I am going to ask you to put away your toys, so finish your game by then”.
- When we change the routine at school, we play!!! We make use of transition activities. When it is toilet time…hop like a bunny or creep like mouse. When we go for lunch we sing a song while choosing children to go and sit down. While eating, we recognise children showing great manners. At home you can set challenges such as, I’ll race you to the bathroom. Give choices, would you like the blue towel or the red one? Would dolly like to bath with you tonight? Buy bath crayons and have fun drawing on the bath or tiles with them.
- Making food fun is quite simple and children are quick to eat if you can make faces, snakes, volcanoes etc. Either eat with the whole family present or sit with the children while they eat. Make conversation they can join in with and don’t nag. If the food is not eaten after 20 minutes, simply say that you can see they do not want it and remove it. Don’t offer alternatives or force feed. After a week or so of this calm approach, the children will see no need to play up over food. Children will not starve themselves.
- Teachers are always in control at school and so should you be at home. Children need the security of knowing someone is in charge. Children also want to please…they want to feel as if they are seen and appreciated. If a child is being particularly well behaved at school, they get a shout out and the rest of the children fall quickly into place to do the same. As parents, when our children are well behaved, they generally don’t hear from us. Moms and Dads, this is when they need positive feedback. “Wow, John! I love how well you are eating your supper. Jenny, you washed yourself so well tonight, let’s see that again tomorrow”.
The time with your small children is so fleeting. You will look back and wish you had played more with your children. Dance, sing, play, enjoy doing things together, make memories and don’t forget to HAVE FUN!!
By Megan Hunt, Principal of Junior Colleges Snuggles