Empower Your Toddler With a Visual Schedule

Have you ever thought about the sheer lack of control toddlers have over their day?  They are typically told when and what to eat, what to wear, how to act, when they can be loud, when to be quiet, when to sleep, when to wake up…the list goes on and on and on.  We literally control every single aspect of their lives.  Is it really any wonder that toddlerhood often brings tantrums?  At this time in their life when our growing babies are yearning for ever-increasing independence, most parents are yearning for compliance.

If you have been around me at all, you’ve probably heard me utter the term “respectful caregiving.”  Respectful caregiving involves viewing babies and children differently than the mainstream and it warrants its own blog post (or many blog posts!) with details and examples.  That post is in the works!  In short, what respectful caregiving means to me is viewing children as whole people from birth.   While this includes many things, a few of them are: including them in age-appropriate decisions and day-to-day happenings, explaining everything that is going to happen to them, treating them the way you would want to be treated, and accepting and empathizing with their feelings.

One way to put respectful caregiving into action is to provide your toddler with a visual schedule of their day.  Knowing what is happening “next” helps young children make smoother transitions through the day and gives them a sense of control over their lives.  Stella thrives when she knows our plan for the day.  This is especially true if we are going to be doing something out of our normal routine, but even on the days we are staying home, she does best when we talk about what we’re going to do.  For all of these reasons, I decided to create a visual daily schedule for her.

I totally obsessed over how I wanted to do this for waaay too long instead of just getting it done so we could start using it!  I’m pretty detail-oriented (obsessed?) about certain things and that can be a blessing at times and a major pain at others!

Anyway, I used Pages to create an 11×17 document for the layout of the day.  I had it printed in Holton at Marketing Concepts — it is great quality and the price was very, very reasonable!

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I used Google Image Search to find clipart, created the activity/routine cards in Pages, and  printed all of the the cards on photo paper.  I laminated everything, cut out the activity cards, and applied Velcro dots.  I laminated an extra 11×17 sheet of paper to store and display the activity cards that aren’t in use. I will probably have to use the back of it, too, because there are at least twice this many cards!

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Here’s the finished product:

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I forgot to print a “Breakfast” card!  Grrr!  Of all the cards I made, I forgot the one that starts our day!  Part of me wanted to use an entire sheet of photo paper and a laminator sheet for ONE card (there’s that obsessiveness!).  Don’t worry, I talked myself out of being so wasteful and decided to just wait until I have something else to print and laminate 🙂 Until then, it WILL drive me nuts!

I anticipate Stella loving this!

DIY “Little Helper Stand”

I’m continually amazed by my husband’s ability to make pretty much anything 🙂  Check out this awesome Little Helper Stand he made for Stella so she can stand safely at the counter to help with things she loves to help with like cooking, washing dishes, making coffee, and other fun activities.  He found the plans in the October/November 2013 issue of Handy Magazine.

Side view of the stand.

Side view of the stand. It is adjustable so we can continue to use it as she grows taller.

Back view.

Back view. Excuse my messy countertop 😉

Parenting with Empathy and Respect — it works

I know that gentleness and respect “work.”  It’s the foundation upon which I ran my infant/toddler classroom and the way I now interact with my own one year old daughter. Sometimes though, in the midst of a difficult situation, I overlook the obvious.  It’s nice to be reminded through interactions, like this one, of the power of empathy and respect:

Stella had a fever before bed last night (teething), so I gave her some Tylenol.  She has been HATING taking it.  I had to give it twice the day before (which is a lot for a mom who RARELY gives meds!) and she cried and got very worked up both times.  I had to put the syringe in her mouth with her resisting.  I kept telling her it was yummy (even though I tried it and it was disgusting) and tried to make a game out of it by pretending to drink it myself — “Mmmm!  It’s good!  Look, Mommy’s drinking it!  Here, you try!” — but it just made her more upset.

Last night, the same thing was happening, but then I realized that she could see right through the tricks (duh).  She knew that I was being fake and dishonest with her and she was probably feeling very unheard.

I stopped and said, slowly, calmly, and kindly, “Stella, I know you don’t like the way this tastes and you don’t want to drink it.  You have a fever and your teeth hurt and I have to give you medicine.  It will help you feel better.  Will you please take this medicine?”  She looked at me for a moment and then reached out for the syringe with a cringe-y look on her face (like she knew it was going to taste bad) and she put it in her mouth.  I pushed a little out and she swallowed it, made a “yucky” face, and turned away.  I said, “Thank you for taking some of your medicine!  There’s still some left.  Will you take some more, please?”  She did the same thing over and over until it was gone.   I said, “You took all of your medicine!  Thank you so much!”  She looked at me with a big smile.  I picked her up and she laid her head on my shoulder — a stark difference from the day before when the medicine-giving ended with a teary-eyed, distraught one-year old and a mommy who felt the same.

She totally didn’t want to take the medicine, hated the way it tasted, but was cooperating because I empathized with her and gently invited cooperation rather than trying to force compliance.  Wow!!!