It’s not too early to try toddler science activities with your little one! Don’t think of it as education. Instead, think of it as new ideas for having fun. You’ll be teaching new words and showing off neat experiments. Have fun with your child even if they don’t seem to get it. They are soaking in information all the time. All of these activities can be done with everyday items and they are quick to setup, making it easy to whip out some toddler science activities any time you’re looking for fun things to do with your kid.
It’s the middle of dinner-prep, or it’s the middle of the grocery store.
You saw it coming a mile away, or it came right out of the blue.
It’s the same tantrum that always happens, or it’s something inexplicably new.
Whatever the case may be, you have a toddler in meltdown mode. What now?
Here are 5 things NOT to do and what to do instead.
1. Don’t make it about you.
When your child has a meltdown, she is expressing big emotions that she has a right to feel. She is not manipulating you, challenging you, or punishing you. In fact, it may have nothing to do with you at all. Even if the meltdown seems like a response to something you did or didn’t do, your child’s emotions are all her own.
Don’t get defensive, don’t feel guilty, and don’t get angry. Focus your attention on your child in distress. She needs you now. It’s not about you.
2. Don’t get sucked in.
Your toddler needs you to be calm instead of angry, frantic, or confused. A toddler’s meltdown can be so BIG! Huge emotions come pouring out! And often the meltdown comes when you’re not feeling balanced yourself. You might feel your own emotions swell as you get pulled into the emotional vortex your child is creating. You might have the urge to yell back, to argue, or to sit down and have a cry yourself.
But you’re the bigger person here, and you can wait to fall apart until after you’ve cared for your child. She needs the safety of your strong, calm presence. Take a big breath and find your inner source of stillness. (And don’t forget to take that minute to fall apart later!)
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3. Don’t belittle the feelings.
This situation matters to your child, whatever the cause may be. Toddlers’ problems are often seen as trivial. But what is happening for her is serious – it’s exactly as serious as it looks and sounds. A toddler in meltdown is a human in distress. Don’t mock her feelings, try to brush them off, or try to explain them away.
4. Don’t try to fix it.
An emotional meltdown can be stressful for anyone nearby, but resist the urge to try to make it stop. This sends the message that there’s something wrong with your child’s emotions. Your child may think there’s something wrong with themselves.
You might feel tempted to “give in” if you had been withholding something. You might want to try to distract your child with funny faces or a promise of something enjoyable. Even a focused effort to sooth your child may come off as trying to brush away the emotions. Your intentions are good! But remember that it’s okay to express big emotions, and they don’t always have to be fixed. They can just be.
When you’re both ready, here are 63 ideas for things to do together!
5. Don’t walk away.
Given all these “don’ts”, you might have the urge to walk away until your child calms down. Don’t do that, either. Big emotions can be scary for toddlers. They need to know you can handle it and that you are a safe space to express these emotions. Stay nearby – in touching range, if possible. This closeness is valuable for your child, even if she doesn’t seem to appreciate it in the moment.
What CAN you do?
- Stay calm. Big breaths. Be still. Talk gently.
- Acknowledge the thing that went wrong if you know what it was: “You wanted those cookies, and I said no.” Make it a simple statement of the facts.
- Give language to the feelings, at the toddler level. “You’re mad! So mad!” or “You don’t understand what happened,” or “You got so frustrated about that!”
- Sit quietly nearby or touch your child gently if that helps her feel connected.
- Say something about your presence and acceptance. “I’m here with you,” or “I’ll sit with you while you cry,” or “Mama’s here,” or “I’ve got you.”
Let your child direct the end of the meltdown. She may hop right up and be ready for the next thing. She may relax into snuggling for a bit.
Be thankful that your toddler trusts you with her big feelings. Be thankful that you two can weather these storms together.
The Parenting With Connection ecourse is my crash course for parents ready to make an immediate and lasting change to a joyful, cooperative, respectful relationship with your kids. Learn more here about doing the work to become a positive parent.
Trust me, I love hashtags. Hashtags bring people together on Instagram, and I use a ton of them!
I use hashtags related to my kid, hashtags related to my motherhood, and hashtags that connect the way we live our lives together.
But I just can’t bring myself to use the #boymom hashtag.
People are basically obsessed with the sex and/or gender of children. From the day you announce your pregnancy, everyone wants to know what genitals your child has. Which, let’s face it, is a little weird. Okay, a lot weird! Parents are unable to choose a name for their child without knowing the genitals. People can’t buy clothing or toys for the kid without knowing the child’s genitals. People plan on whether to have another child based on the genitals of the last one. It’s just a mess.
Because of all this anxiety and obsession over children’s sex and gender expression, I hate to add to the noise.
Extra Reading: Try this great book, Gender Neutral Parenting: Raising kids with the freedom to be themselves by Paige Lucas-Stannard (affiliate link).
When I’m connecting with other parents, I can connect with parents of kids of any gender. There are no universal girl traits or boy traits. When I do connect with a parent experiencing something similar to me, it’s the experience that’s the same, not the gender of our children.
I use tons of hashtags on my Instagram. I use #unschooling, #homeschooling, #kidsoutside, and #peacefulparenting to describe fundamental parts of our lives.
I use #pinkhairdontcare, #fatpositive, and #momblogger to describe myself and my identity.
But my child’s gender is not fundamental to our lives.
My child’s gender is not part of my identity.
Gender is a box. It works for some people, I suppose, but I find it incredibly limiting. I’m not going to hang my identity on my child’s gender. I’m not going to box my child into a gender stereotype.
I am not a #boymom. Just mom will do, thanks.
Story building with children brings imagination, creativity, and exploration into your family life. Childhood is full of these things! As a parent, you want to facilitate more of them for your child, and you want their world to be magical.
Stories are fertile ground for nurturing imagination and creativity. The shows your child watches and the books they read provide building materials for their inner worlds.
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Another way to help them out is to story build together. Storytelling might use a story your child already knows. Story building with children starts from nothing and grows into a story.
You don’t need any tools to start story building with your child. You can start with “Once upon a time…” and go from there, using only your imaginations. You can ask your child questions to help guide the way, like:
- Who is this story about?
- Where does this story take place?
- When does this story take place?
- What happens next?
You can try different methods to share in the story building.
- Your child adds a details, and then you do, and then they do, back and forth.
- Each of you could play a different character in the story, making the story decisions for your character.
- You could do the scary parts while your child writes the jokes.
Using Story Stones or Story Cubes
Notice: Product links in this article are affiliate links. If you buy through them I get a small commission at no extra charge to you. All opinions are my own.
If you are a little bit crafty, you can make story stones to aid in your storytelling and story building. Story stones are small rocks that have an image painted on them. Collaborate with your child to choose images for the stones. Perhaps magical elements will work for the kinds of stories you want to tell, or perhaps you’ll use imagery from your real lives. Find hand-painted story stones on Etsy or on Amazon.
For the non-crafty version, try Rory’s Story Cubes. These come in 3 different sets. 9 cubes per set, 6 images a cube, and you’ve got 162 images to help inspire your story building with children.
You can use story stones or story cubes in creative ways:
- Lay out 10 images and try to rearrange them into an interesting story.
- Pull one image at a time from a bag and figure out how to incorporate the new image into the story.
- Lay out all of your images and try to group them into themes, then tell the same story but with each different theme.
The Versatility of Stories
Use stories to problem solve – When a discipline issue or conflict arises, invite your child to story build with you. Tell a tale about someone in a similar but fantastical situation. What solutions can you come up with together for the hero of your story?
Use stories for transitions – Tell stories during the times you have to get through to get to something else – driving in the car, waiting in line, gathering gear to leave the house.
Use stories to connect – Share stories together during regular connecting moments like bedtime or dinnertime.
How do you use stories in your family?
It’s easy to be a grumpy, grouchy parent. I know I am more often than I’d like!
But kids are inherently playful. They approach everything with fresh eyes and a joyful heart. Children learn through play, they relax through play, and they process their big feelings through play.
(Links in this post are affiliate links. If you buy this book, let me know what you think of it!)
The book Playful Parenting is a primer on tuning in to play with your child. I participate in a lot of parenting communities, and this book is one of the most recommended by positive parents. Understanding your child’s need for play and becoming a playful parenting is a crucial part of reducing a lot of parenting struggles.
What kinds of play are we talking about? Everything from peekaboo games, telling jokes, playing pranks, telling funny stories, wrestling, role-playing, potty humor, sports, card games, races and contests, and so on.
Playful Parenting includes suggestions for:
- Games to play
- Solving specific problems through play
- How to play when you don’t find it fun
- Making time for play in a busy schedule
- Reframing or redirecting play you don’t approve of
Playing with kids gives parents better communication, emotional insights, and a greater connection. It gives kids security, love, confidence, better judgement, and an emotional outlet.
Play is a discipline strategy in the positive parenting toolbox. It creates a strong foundation for leading your child and for diffusing tough situations.
Playful Parenting is itself a playful book, full of humor and great anecdotes. You’ll be challenged, but you’ll also enjoy reading it.
Have you read Playful Parenting? What did you think? What other books would you recommend that ALL parents read?