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.
Your toddler doesn’t have a lot of language skills. Sharing their big feelings is hard. Here’s what your toddler would say to you if they could. These simple, powerful sentiments will touch your heart.
You are the most beautiful, most perfect person in the whole world.
I look up to you. I am in awe of you. I think you are perfect. I am grateful for you. You are the most amazing thing I have ever seen.
I need you with my whole being, so much that it hurts sometimes.
I have a lot of tough times as I navigate this new, huge world and figure myself out. I need you by my side every step of the way. I rely on you, look up to you, and seek your guidance. Even when it looks like I’m pushing you away, I am always asking for your love.
When we are disconnected, I am confused, and I think it’s my fault.
When things go wrong between us, I am scared, and I don’t know what to do. I don’t have a lot of tools for figuring out conflict, and I’m afraid things will never be right again.
When I want your attention, anything will do.
When I react with glee or mischief even though you yelled at me or pushed me away, it’s not because I’m mocking your anger or trying to manipulate you. It’s because any attention will do, and I don’t know how to get a different kind.
I forgive you. Tomorrow is a new day, and I am ready to enjoy it with you.
I’m always ready for things to be right between us. Even if today was hard, tomorrow I need your love just as much and I’m ready to show you my love the best I can. Let’s start over!
For fun day ideas, try 63 Things to do with your 2 Year Old.
Additional Reading: Toddler Meltdown – 5 Things NOT To Do
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.
Instead, reach into what you know about life and about your child to find the place where you can empathize. For example, you might find that, yes, it is rather frustrating when you’re not allowed to buy what you want from the store. Or yes, sometimes it is heartbreaking when the person you most love is busy doing something else. You don’t have to say it out loud, but finding empathy within yourself will change how you see your child’s meltdown.
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.
Playfulness is a cornerstone of my parenting philosophy. Playful parenting makes potentially difficult moments with a child into moments of fun instead.
Playful parenting makes potentially difficult moments with a child into moments of fun instead. <Tweet this.>
I wrote about parenting through play back when Dylan was an infant, and that value has stuck with me as he’s turned into a toddler.
Sometimes it saves my butt!
The other day I was using the bathroom, and Dylan locked me in. Part of our babyproofing was to put a lock on the outside of our upstairs bathroom. Dylan isn’t a baby anymore, and now he can reach and operate the lock. Oops.
So here I am, locked in the bathroom, and I have two choices.
One, I can try to break the lock. It’s a little hook and eye, so I could probably manage to tear it out with enough force on the door.
Two, I can get Dylan to unlock it for me. I could ask him to do it, but frankly, he doesn’t very often just do what I tell him. He probably thinks he’s very clever and funny for figuring out how to operate the lock. He’s probably not very inclined to unlock it. I could start yelling, demanding that he let me out. That probably won’t work, it might be very upsetting for him, and it wouldn’t be very pleasant for me either.
The option that remains is using play.
When I make up songs for Dylan, my go-to tune is Where is Thumbkin. We have played a lot of hiding and finding games while singing:
Where is Dylan? Where is Dylan?
Where could he be? Where could he be?
I don’t see him, I don’t see him.
Where is he? Where is he?
I sing this song when we play hide and seek. I sing it when we are waiting for someone to come visit us and Dylan is having trouble waiting. I just change the name and apply it to all kinds of situations. Sometimes there are extra verses working in where the person is when they are not with us.
Honestly, it didn’t even occur to me to try any other method. When I heard Dylan lock me in the bathroom, heard his laughter, and heard him run away from the door, my first instinct was to laugh.
I burst out laughing. Then I let a moment go by to see if he might actually come unlock me all on his own. Then I started singing, “Where is Issa? Where is Issa? Where could she be?”
By the time I got a stanza finished, Dylan came scampering to unlock the door and swing it open to exuberantly “find” me.
Playful parenting to the rescue.
And then I removed that lock from the door, of course. Some games work best if you only have to play them once!
What ways have you found to work play into your parenting?
Wooden toys are beautiful as well as functional, inspire creative play and open exploration, and are simply a joy to have around. If you’re looking for wooden toys for toddlers, here are some of my favorite discoveries.
Wooden Marble Run
Edit: Oops, this product isn’t available any more. Try this one instead.
This wooden marble run from The Wooden Wagon comes with 26 unfinished beechwood blocks and 5 colored wooden marbles in a storage tray.
Drop the marbles in and watch them slide and turn.
This award winning toy is simple, ageless, sturdy, and always fascinating for little ones to play with.
EverEarth uses renewable rubberwood and wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, water based paint that is safer for kids and the environment, and 70% of their packaging is recycled paperboard.
Besides all that, they make beautiful toys.
The Musical Triangle Flip brings 6 musical options to little musicians. One side has a xylophone and two spinning wheels with sounds. The other side has a drum, washboard, and a spring back clacker.
Dylan got this toy as a gift recently, and he loves it!
The sorting set lets you explore colors, shapes, sizes, matching, and sequencing, plus open ended possibilities. Dylan loves to build towers with the well-made, fun to handle blocks.
While I’ve only chosen one for this list, Melissa and Doug make a number of quality wooden toys for toddlers that are well-priced.
Etsy is another rich source for unique wooden toys for toddlers. You can find beautiful, creative toys while also supporting small businesses.
This rainbow stacker really captures my imagination. I really love the bright colors and the imprecise curve to each layer.
You can use this toy to learn about colors and size sequencing, as a prop for telling rainbow stories, lining up the pieces on their sides to be a colorful winding road for cars, and anything else you can dream up.
Little Sapling Toys in Cedar City, Utah, creates beautiful wooden toys for toddlers from maple hardwood. They plant a tree through Trees for the Future for every toy sold.
This wooden faces memory game is a delight to look at and hold in your hands. The 24 engraved tiles show 2 each of 12 different children’s faces. I like that the children are of different races.
The tiles come in a drawstring bag and include instructions for 5 different games. Of course there are plenty you could invent yourselves, as well!
Here is my favorite toy on this list!
The sorting bowls set is a Waldorf-based toy. It includes 6 bowls in beautiful, pastel colors and 3 little hearts in each matching color.
A set like this makes learning colors, sorting, counting, adding, and subtracting a peaceful, soothing activity.
This charming city skyline block set is perfect for imaginative play.
It includes 19 pieces – buildings, cars, trees, and monuments – made from eco-friendly rubberwood.
Plus, these blocks have a secret surprise! They glow in the dark! For extra fun, turn off the lights and enjoy the glowing windows of a city skyline at night.
Safari Jumble Puzzle
These adorable animals from Petit Collage are hand-cut from FSC-certified natural beech wood.
Each of the 9 whimsical animals is an individual joy – alligator, giraffe, elephant, hippopotamus, and more.
There are so many ways to play with them! They stack creatively, and they all fit together as a puzzle inside their wooden tray.
This domino set will amaze and delight you and your child! It’s made up of 100 water-painted wooden parts, starting with cute little bow-tied penguins.
The set includes obstacles for inventing a creative domino path – stairs, bridges, doors, and more.
The bright playful colors will please your little one, and the handled storage box will delight you for ease of clean up.
A play kitchen is a classic for pretend play, but the newfangled plastic variety leave something to be desired.
The Gourmet Chef Kitchen from Hape is made from Baltic Birch plywood with a child safe paint finish. The contemporary style kitchen includes an oven, stovetop, cabinet/fridge, hutch, sink, and rotating dials.
You can round out the kitchen experience with wooden play food, as well.