9 ways to better engage with your toddler
When you have a baby, all the books tell you that you must bond with your baby, and there are many that share tips and hints of how to do just that, but what about when you baby has grown a bit? The new baby smell has gone, they’re less about the gurgling and more about the ‘tantrums’. How do you engage with them again? Maybe your child goes to nursery; you’re back working full time and feel the only time you get with them is trying to get them up and ready in the morning, or fed and asleep at night. Are weekends a blur of laundry, cleaning and shopping? Maybe you’re a full time SAHM who feels like you’re losing your connection through a mountain of housework and chores. Or maybe you are a Father, who feels that Mama has a great connection, but want one too? (Awesome post for you right here by the way Dads, activities for you and your child to do together!)
My ‘baby’ is 2 already, how can I stay connected and engage with them?
Whether you work or stay at home with them all day every day, it’s so important to engage with your little ones. Make them feel connected to you, and that they are still the most important thing in your life.
It’s all too easy to become a bit complacent when spending time with your children. Checking an email on your phone when they’re talking becomes the norm. Folding towels in the bathroom while they’re in the bath. Sorting laundry while they’re eating breakfast. I get it and I’m guilty of it myself. There is so much pressure on us by society, we feel we have to multitask to enable us to get done all the things we have to do in a day. But how about thinking of it a different way?
By shortchanging your children, by not being focused on them, you are shortchanging their future.
You are actively educating them that it is ok to be only ‘half in’. Half listening, half interested and half present in their lives. By continuing to do this, you are teaching them that this is ok, and what they should expect throughout their lives. I’m sure you can see the pattern here and the emerging results.
So, in an effort to avoid all that doom and gloom, and to help you stay engaged with your children, here are some tips to help you stay connected.
Put your phone down
When your children are talking to you, or playing, put your phone down, play with them, talk to
them, engage with them, ask questions about what they’re doing, and teach them things related to that topic.
Having a phone in your hand every time your children see will let them know that this is the most important thing in your life. This will draw them even more to it, which is why your little ones hold your phone whenever they get the chance. Even my 1 year old pretends to be on the phone. My 2 year old does this while looking at things in the house, unengaged from the actual conversation she is pretending to have. Be present in what you are doing guys!
Get down on their level
Instead of sitting on a chair or the sofa while they’re playing, get yourself down onto the floor at their level. If you can’t get down onto the floor, bring them to the same level as you. This will let them know you’re ready to be part of what they’re doing. If they are used to playing while you do something else, this will show your children that you are joining in with them and they will instantly engage with you and join in with their new playmate.
Colour with them
When you next get out their crayons and paper, join in! Do some colouring with them. You might just remember how fun it is. There is a huge craze at the moment for adult colouring books, why not just join in with your children. You get a bit of de-stressing, they get some interaction with the ones they love the most, you get to engage directly with something they love doing, on their level. They’ll love telling you which colour to use next and and you get to spend some time engaging with your children.
Take a bath with your babies
At bath time, instead of stressing, leaning over the side of the bath and getting splashed and wet through anyway, just run the bath a bit deeper and have a family bath. That way everyone gets to splash, play with the toys and have fun. And it will likely mean that they stay in a bit longer and get even cleaner, and you actually get time to take a bath tonight instead of grabbing a quick shower between their bed time and putting the laundry in. Win win! And for extra points, put on some tunes, turn it up, and have a little shuffle boogie in the bath!
I touched on this in the ‘Bath Time’ suggestion above, but putting on your favourite tunes and dancing around the house is an amazing leveller. Let yourself go, dance like you used to in the clubs (well, ok, tame it a little, your toddler does NOT need to see you grinding like you used to in Reflex!) Show your kids your awesome moves, twirl them around, get them jigging. Baby dancing is the absolute cutest thing to video to show at their 21st Birthday party by the way! My toddlers love dancing, my youngest learned by 12 months how to turn the Sonos speakers on, when she wants to have a dance. They love watching me do my thing and dance around doing my amazing dance moves (well, they laugh, that’s the same thing though, right?)
Getting outside and finding nature is a great leveller. Explore, take a walk, look at the trees or do a little scavenger hunt (try this one here) to find things. They’ll get lots of fresh air in their lungs – to help them to sleep, lots of exercise – to help them sleep, and have lots of fun too. You will also come home with ‘treasures’ which you can either display or turn into another activity by making something out of your finds.
This is especially great if you have fussy eaters! And will instil in them an appreciation of food and cooking for life.
Asking your toddler to help while you’re making a meal, instead of setting them up in front of cartoons while you cook alone, is so much more rewarding for both of you. Get a step or chair set up at your worktop and ask for their help in making todays meal.
With my babies, I find asking them to whisk eggs with a fork is always a winner. Breaking up mushrooms and sprinkling cheese are easy and safe too.
I also find that as they go through a fussy stage, it helps them to re-engage with food. Young children are more likely to eat the meals they had a hand in making.
I love baking, and I want my children to share that love of baking with me. I come from a long line of passionate bakers, so to pass the skills on really is a privilege for me. Go into the kitchen, make a mess and get them passionate about creating cakes!
Taking the time to eat at the sane time as your children can be hugely rewarding. But it makes so much sense and is such a simple thing to do. Think about it, when we catch up with friends, it’s likely to be over a meal. Date night? Meal! Families meeting up on a Sunday? You can bet there is likely to be food involved! Realising this, for me was a huge turning point. It’s so easy to prepare their meal, then clean the kitchen, sweep the floor, fold the laundry etc, (you know, all the jobs which are much quicker when your toddlers aren’t trying to help) all while they’re quietly eating their meal. But when we all sit down together to eat, I’ve found that they eat more with less resistance, there is less fussing and the whole meal is done and enjoyed much quicker.
Eat at the same time as your children from a young age, and they will learn the joys of a family meal as well as learning ‘how to eat’ from their parents. And you will have time and opportunity to engage with your children again while they are a captive audience.
And there is a bonus here too:
If you introduce this when they’re young, and make it fun rather than a chore, as they get older they’ll likely still enjoy doing it, because it’s what they’ve always done.
Make your own Family Traditions!
What ways do you use to stay connected and engage with your toddlers?