Who I Am and Why I Love Toddlers
In addition to my duties as a Default Mom to my own family, I spent 35+ years as a Montessori directress (teacher). While I worked with children from 18 months to 12 years old, two-thirds of my career was spent with the youngest members of the school community. I directed (taught) a class of twelve Toddlers (18 months to 3 years old). It was my calling and my joy.
When asked to direct a Toddler environment (class), my first thought was, “Uh-oh! Diapers!” My second thought was, “At last! A chance to get in on the ground floor of child development.” The first three years of life are where the foundations are laid for the future, and I loved the idea of supporting these little ones during their most formative time when everything is new.
An important part of my job was to help, guide, and counsel parents
Help has arrived. I have created a series of posts, which will show up on a regular basis, to help you in your life with your Terrific Toddler.
Today’s Topic: Routines and Rituals
Imagine you suddenly find yourself in the middle of the hottest new dance club on a busy night. The lights, the sounds, the strangers pushing around you, everyone moving to a rhythm they understand–but you don’t.
This is what daily life is like for a toddler. Toddlers are on sensory overload all the time. Life comes at them at full volume and they have no way to control any of it. Sometimes it gets to be too much.
The best thing to give your toddler is a daily routine, so your child knows what’s happening next. I’m not talking about a rigidly-structured schedule. I’m talking about a predictable sequence of events. Here’s an example of a predictable routine, from a toddler’s point of view:
Every morning when I wake up, I go to Mommy and Daddy’s room to snuggle with them. Then we change my diaper. Then we get dressed. Then we brush my teeth. Then I eat breakfast. Then I go play with my friends at the gym while Mommy works out., etc.
What I’m emphasizing here is the “this-happens-then-this-happens” nature of the routines. Toddlers need to know what is going to happen next. Change is not something exciting to them. Each day needs to follow a general pattern, a rhythm.
But What About Change?
Life is unpredictable, but most of us follow a general routine in our days. If your child is going to have a change in routine, take the time to prepare your child for it. For example, “After you play today, we’re going to Nana’s house to eat lunch. Nana told me she got strawberries just for you.” If you are calm and confident about new events and changes, your child will be, too. As long as you stick to a regular rhythm, your child will learn to be confident when change happens.
What are Rituals?
Remember my daily routine example? It included a ritual in it–the morning snuggle. Toddlers really love a ritual.
Typical rituals toddlers enjoy are those around the big routines, like nap time, bedtime and bath time. At nap time, your child might need to follow a ritual:
Mommy closes the blinds and puts on my nap music, I get my lovey and get in bed, then I kiss Mommy. Then Mommy says, “sweet dreams!” and closes the door almost all the way. The ritual and details need to be the same every time.
The Bonus for Parents
The upside of rituals and routines for parents is that they make your toddler feel confident, and a confident toddler is usually a happy toddler. Knowing what’s going to happen next reduces anxiety and makes the entire day much smoother for all concerned.
You can do this!