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Toddler Activities, Communication, TV

by Kathleen

Hi Annie

I would like to know more about how to communicate with my toddlers, I have three under three! I tend to have relied on TV to babysit my child while I am busy doing housework and babies and now I am noticing the effects of this, as my older child wants to watch TV a lot of the time and gets angry when I say no.

How do I change this and spend more quality time with my child? I am not even sure what to talk about with my child.

Your advice would be most appreciated.

Comments for Toddler Activities, Communication, TV

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Toddler Activities And Toddler Language Development - Part One
by: Annie Desantis

Hi Kathleen,
Great question. Yes, TV can be very useful and very tempting to use as a baby sitter as you say. And that is fine in small doses. You do need time to have a shower, or get something done without interruptions, or just a bit of time out! With three tinytots your life will be very busy!

I'll talk a little bit about using TV more effectively, and then give you some ideas for Toddler Activities that help communicating with and stimulating your toddlers.

Firstly, choose carefully what you let them watch. Choose interactive, learning programs rather than passive ones. Good old Sesame Street is great, lots of counting, alphabet, mix of real people and puppets, songs and lots of variety. Play School, The Wiggles, programs with real people rather than just toys. Choose programs they respond and react to, singing along, shouting out, doing the actions.

Many of the programs for little children, like In the Night Garden, they love, but they tend to be far more passive and simply watch the colors, sounds and movement, rather than getting involved. Nature programs are good too, as they learn about animals, but some of these can be a bit scary, so your involvement would be better with these.

Definitely do NOT let them watch talk shows, news, sit-coms or programs for adults, and I would not recommend they watch programs for older children unless you are there. Choose educational programs, rather than just cartoon DVDs, but showing the occasional preschool movie is fine.

Try to limit the time in front of TV and use it as reward time for helping to tidy up, or getting clothes on. Keep it as a special thing that gives you a bit of leverage, rather than something they expect for hours in a day. Sadly many people have TV on permanently in their home, so kids absorb a huge amount of negative rubbish, plus miss out on lots of developmental opportunities. As a general rule of thumb, I would not encourage more than an hour of good quality TV in a day - and not all at once.

When you can, watch with them, and sing along, encourage them to do the actions. You can still be with them watching, commenting and interacting, but at the same time folding the washing or doing the ironing. Follow up on what they have watched by making the paper plate mask they made on playschool, or having a teddy bear puppet show. That way you are extending what they are seeing on TV and making it more interactive.

Part Two Follows . . .

Toddler Activities And Toddler Language Development - Part Two
by: Annie Desantis

Toddler activities really are all about play. Play is learning and so important for their development. You can read more about development and learning on our Toddler Development pages.

Toddler language development is one of the major developmental processes between One and Three years old, and this is where your input is vital. Many people think they have to talk baby talk or talk down to toddlers, and this is actually hindering their language development. You may need to explain or simplify concepts, but you want to expose them to lots of different language, not just simple talk.

Toddlers can understand far more than they can talk, and the more you chat away the better. Get in the habit of talking out loud! Just tell them what you are doing, put words to how you feel, read the back of the cereal packets out loud, anything and everything in your world is an opportunity to expand their language. Chant or make rhymes out of words, stomp stomp stomp, I'm grumpy today, or jump jump jump, today's a happy day.

Play lots of role playing games with teddies, or Lego people - simply act out what they are doing, and have conversations with Mr Bear. The kids will quickly join in and play too. Follow their lead, and if they are acting out something, join in and extend the conversation - if they are having a tea party, ask questions:
What kind of cup cakes shall we have? What color icing? Shall we have sprinkles? How did you make the cupcakes? Act it out, cracking the eggs on their heads! Toddlers love it when you do silly things.

Parents forget to have fun and play, we make parenting far too serious. It actually is far more important that you play with them, than them having clean clothes! So long as they are fed and warm, the next most important thing is your interaction and attention.

Get them involved in what you are doing - harder I know with three of them - but the older child can stand on a stool and peg things on the line, and the younger ones can pass the pegs, or hand you the washing. You can easily make learning games out of it - "which is the green peg? Three pegs for Sally because she is three, Two pegs for Sam because he is Two, One peg for Megan because she is one. Pass me Sally's T-shirt to hang up. Can you find Daddy's boxer shorts? Where is the blue T-shirt? Who wears this?"

Lots of questions that get them thinking and figuring things out. If they make a mistake, don't make a big deal out of it, just keep it light-hearted and funny.

Part Three Follows . . .

Toddler Activities And Toddler Language Development - Part Three
by: Annie Desantis

Any cooking activity is a great toddler activity. The tiny one can be playing with the plastic containers, and the older two can be chopping, mixing, stirring, measuring. Toddlers LOVE washing the dishes - put down a towel on the floor to catch the spills. I taught my toddlers to use sharp knives - if they learn properly to tuck fingers under and use small knives, they will not cut themselves. Of course you supervise carefully, but most parents totally underestimate how important it is to let them learn.

Yes they will make a mess, and it does pay to be a bit prepared in advance if you are going to have them help make pizzas, or bake cupcakes. It takes a bit of juggling to take turns, or have a bowl each and they mix half the mixture each. I used to give my preschoolers a range of ingredients, limiting the amount of sugar or salt etc, and let them mix up a pudding by themselves, or make pizzas. We had some surprisingly edible concoctions and they were cooking full meals by the time they were seven!

Toddlers are learning about control - physical control of their bodies - mastering more and more complex tasks, and also mastering their emotions. So yes you will get a few tantrums when you restrict what they can do. The trick is to make what you are wanting, much more exciting! Your voice is key to this. If you are cross and being bossy, they will react by being cross back, and testing you out.

If you pick your moment - either give them a bit of transition time or at the end of the program, and come in very excitedly, turn off TV and "Hey, let's all march outside! Marching Marching One Two Three . . . ."

Follow the leader, or Simon Says are great for older Toddlers - the older one will LOVE being bossy and you can build on her energy and encourage lots of physical challenges, like hopping, skipping, climbing over chairs, under tables as you wind your way outside.

Part Four Follows . . .

Toddler Activities And Toddler Language Development - Part Four
by: Annie Desantis

Other toddler activities that have lots of good learning opportunities, are things like play dough - don't worry about having to have the fancy play dough equipment - collect up anything with a texture - leaves, bottle tops, bark, net from fruit bags.

Different tools, chop sticks, fork, garlic squeezer, potato masher. Use shapes, different sized containers, ice cube trays, egg cups, plastic lids. Encourage them to just experiment rather than having to actually make something in particular. If you start making perfect animals, they will not be able to reproduce what you do, so make rolly worms or different sized balls. Pat, pound, make finger prints, poke, roll, squeeze. Again, put words to everything you do, or sing nursery rhymes while you play.

Paint is another great toddler activity. Use non toxic paint, and lots of different sized brushes or sponges. Make stamps out of cut apple or oranges. let them cut shapes in potato halves and then stamp them onto a sponge that has runny paint in it. Paint the fence or footpath for some big movement painting, or paint to music. Let them tell the story of the painting rather than expecting them to have painted "something". Better to say, "I like all this green, tell me about this part of your painting."

Encourage them to tell their stories to Daddy when he gets home - Don't talk for them, but prompt them - "what did we do with the play dough?" "Who helped Mommy today?" Rather than you reporting to him what they have done, get them interacting and recalling and 'giving a talk about their day'. "Tell Daddy all about your lovely painting." "What did we do at the park?"

There are quite a few of our art activities for children that you can do with toddlers, or modify to manage with three little tots!

Some things might be more suitable when the baby is asleep, or if you get time with the older one on her own. That is actually something that is quite important, but hard to fit in. Try to get some one on one time with each child, preferably each day, but that is hard when you have three under three! One to one attention from Mom and Dad is very important, and as the kids get older you can help them learn to respect 'special time'. Bed time can be one option, where they can have 15 minutes each just before they are tucked in bed, or after teeth are brushed. Dad can manage the other two while you have a quiet story, or hair brushing ritual or as they get older, 15 minutes to talk about anything or do something just with Mom (or Dad).

I hope you've got some ideas to inspire you!

Feel free to comment back,
Most of all, have fun!
Annie D :)

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