Remembering back to when my firstborn child went breezing through development – from rolling over to crawling to running; I had always heard rumors of the impending territory that was so apprehensively approached… the daunting “terrible-twos” or the “threenager” scenario. When meaning-well mothers of older children would so generously offer their not-needed reminders to savor this sweet time before toddlerhood takes over my sweetly tempered, newly mobile little one; I would dismissively nod my appreciation for this new news and continue about my playground play.
I am not exactly sure just when my oldest son turned the page from infant to toddler, but I know the exhaustion well. The sleeplessness is on an entirely different level than newborn. The energy required to keep such a haphazardly hurrying toddler from tripping or choking or ramming into something is other-worldly. And, can we get real for a second and talk about THE “potty” word that is on every toddler-mom’s mind? What a nightmare potty-training is! Am I right? Trying to toilet-train someone who barely speaks in comprehensible sentences, juggling a very wet and accident-ridden load of funny-smelling laundry, and smiling through gritted teeth as you engage in war-level negotiations regarding why exactly it is necessary to wash hands with soap after a trip to the commode. Yikes!
Who knew my oh-so-cuddly and squishy baby would so soon turn into this tantruming toddler? Turns out those moms at the park knew what I was quickly finding out: that raising toddlers is grueling business. A territory entirely in its own league of both complexity and beauty. In a nerve-wracking, buckle-up-and-hold-on tight… but also slow wayyyy down, take-in-the-scenery kinda way.
Now a mom of three beautifully busy children- ages 5, 2, & 7 mo., I am inching out of toddlerhood into something new and altogether scary with my oldest, all the while popping a U-turn, circling back through toddlerhood with my middle son, while mentally preparing myself for that final return trip back with my baby girl soon enough. I surely don’t know it all, but have learned so much from my first-hand experiences raising and currently parenting toddlers and young children.
Parenting little ones? Taking the scenic route through toddlerhood? If that’s you, here are a few simply tips to pack with you:
Play all the time. Play all day. Play with loose parts, open-ended things (blocks, crafts, building material). Play outside in nature. Just play.
Engage and attend to each of their senses. Scent. Taste. Feel. Sound. Sight. Through playing, introduce sensorial experiences to your toddlers and help connect them to the natural-world and make meaningful connections.
There is hardly anything that is a greater indicator of future literary success than for a child to be frequently read to as a young child. Demonstrating the joy and interest that can be attached to reading will help your child to create positive connections to reading and life. Build memories around reading good books together and aloud with your child. Being read aloud to also develops vocabulary and grows your child’s background knowledge into a deepened well of content that which your child can dip from for years to come.
Toddlerhood is a land that is incredibly textured. Hills and valleys. Ups and downs. Marked by both bumpy terrain and well-manicured roads – some well-lit, while others darkened. You could choose to be afraid of it, brace yourself for the worst, roll your windows up, and exceed the speed limit without taking any detours or pitstops along the way. Or… you could choose to enjoy it. Slow way down and sing-along to that road trip playlist. Your mindset and how you approach raising toddlers can largely influence what you do and don’t do intentionally while trekking through this region of child-development.
Toddlers can be loud. They can be messy. And they have yet to master the art of empathy and compromise. But toddlers are also SO. MUCH. FUN. They are silly. They are so cute. They love cuddles and they LOVE playing with you. To them, the sun rises and sets on you. And toddlers are filled with so much love. Before they realize they could be “cool” or “beautiful” or pursue accomplishments. Before all of that, they were toddlers. Containing so much goodness and creativity all on their own.
Toddlerhood might not be a familiar or comfortable territory for you, but believe me, you’ll make it through the other end. And, while you may just be getting started where the rubber meets the road, you’ll find there are so many sweet spots along the way. Don’t rush toddlerhood and don’t be afraid of it. Yes, it is hard. Yes, it is exhausting. I am right here with you… three kids deep. But, these sweetly curious little ones are great reminders for us of all the goodness in the world and the future that is coming. I won’t tell you to savor it. That seems trite and sometimes I also feel like eating a ton of ice cream at the end of a hard day with my young children. But I do want to encourage you to be intentional while raising your toddlers. Make memories, extend grace to yourself and excessive loads of patience when possible, and play, provide sensory experiences when you have the energy to do so, and read read read. Keep on keeping on. Enjoy the ride.