We are so excited to introduce a new series on Kimmy & Bear today. Lindsey from Swiss Lark (a new favourite blog of ours) will be guest posting for the next 5 weeks. Lindsey did her AMI diploma 10 years ago and then taught for six years. She is now a stay-at-home mama to Coco but writes her Montessori Monday column on her blog. We love the topics that we talks about and are so excited to have Lindsey exploring a number of Montessori topics on Kimmy & Bear over the next 5 weeks. (Not sure what Montessori is all about? Here Lindsey explains it.)
Today Lindsey gives us her Montessori tips for toddler playtime.
Getting a group of toddlers together to play always seems like such a good idea. Toddlers are cute, and putting cute things together is never wrong, is it? Well, actually, yes. Toddlers’ psyches and development are different from older children. Quite different. And if you approach their play date as you would for more mature children, you’ll be disappointed and the toddlers will be a mess. That’s not to say you can’t have a successful playtime with toddlers, but it requires different preparation and expectations.
Toddlers are often described as parallel players. Their extent of being social goes about as far as playing next to another toddler, but not with them. When planning a toddler playtime, you can expect toddlers to size each other up with a suspicious look upon meeting. Resist the urge to push them together or give them something to do cooperatively. It’s probably not going to happen.
Sharing is not their strong suit
Toddler playtime might best be organized as a BYOT event, as in “Bring Your Own Toy.” If the event is hosted at one toddler’s house, and all the other toddlers come rushing in, touching their toys, it’s going to be traumatic for the hosting toddler. However, if each toddler brings their own toy, and proceeds to play with it next to another toddler, that would be a pleasant and acceptable arrangement for the toddler psyche and phase of development. Be forewarned: If one toddler loses interest in their toy and sets it down, they will not tolerate another child picking it up in their wake.
Toddler attention spans are inconsistent and tend to shift rapidly from one activity to the next. If you provide a nice area inside to play with toys, it probably won’t last long. But, toddlers are crazy for being outside. They love practicing all of their gross motor skills – walking, jumping, running, stumbling – without interference. A large place to play outside makes just about every toddler happy.
Let Them Fall
Toddlers are so unstable, that it’s tempting to be there for them every minute in case they should fall. Don’t. They need to learn their own limits. Make a point of taking your toddlers to a place that is reasonably safe, but not entirely without appropriate risks. An appropriate risk might be a very short slide or short, deep steps up to an enclosed play platform from which they cannot fall. Many toddler play structures are perfect for this. Sit on the bench with the other moms and relax. Let the toddlers do what they can do on their own, with the exception of swinging, and always use a bucket swing they can’t fall off of.
Toddlers are extremely capable given their age and lack of experience in life. They are eager to do things for themselves and when we slow down, we can let them. Plan to leave 20 or 30 minutes early if you can. If you show your toddler slowly and without talking how to put on their own shoes or flip their coat over their head and swing both arms in, they’ll amaze you with their tenacity. Give your toddler time to be independent and leaving the house can be enjoyable. Nothing in the universe is more dreadful than a rushed, stressed toddler.
Have you had a successful toddler play time? How many toddlers were involved? What worked and what didn’t? I would love to hear.
Want more Montessori posts? Visit Lindsey’s blog, Swiss Lark. Here are some of our favourites: