Remember how just a few months ago you were encouraging your child to take his first steps? Now you wonder what you were thinking! Once on his feet, a toddler seems unstoppable?a force governed by natural laws you didn't know existed until you became a parent.
Your toddler's near-misses may leave you breathless. The best way to handle the daily challenges a toddling toddler presents is to keep in mind that the development of a child's coordination is a mighty work indeed?one requiring intensity, perseverance and a strong will on the part of your child. Think Olympic training.
Though small, a toddler is as determined as the most muscular athlete. She's constantly challenging herself and concentrating with every fiber of her being on achieving her goals.
You may wonder when your child will learn to be more careful, to remember the small step between the living room and the kitchen that he trips over on a regular basis. Remember that when one aspect of a child's growth is undergoing rapid development, it takes a while for other areas to catch up. God gave your toddler a drive to master his body and make it work. That drive is so focused and compelling, it may take a while for his mind to catch up. Eventually your toddler will learn to look before he leaps?to anticipate a couple of steps ahead of the one he is about to take.
In the meantime, here are ways to meet the needs of your busy toddler:
Allow plenty of time for practice. Think twice before popping your child into a backpack or stroller. Use it only if he's tired or the scene is crowded. A freewheeling toddler-style tour of the zoo can be a lot of fun for both of you.
Find safe climbing opportunities. Take your child to the playground or park where she will find stable and accessible structures to challenge her coordination.
Play movement games. Traditional games like the Hokey-Pokey, Mother, May I? and Red Light, Green Light focus the child's attention on isolated movements and encourage his starting and stopping abilities. Older siblings or neighbor children can be wonderful leaders of this fun, but serious, training.
Use self-control exercises. Refine your child's awareness of her movement with challenges such as carrying a cup of water without spilling. Start with a cup half full. Demonstrate how to carry it by using two hands and keeping your eyes on the water. Walk very slowly, exaggerating the care required not to spill. Give your toddler a turn.
Encourage quiet times. Even the busiest toddler needs to relax and unwind. When he's cranky and frustrated by his own limitations, encourage him to curl up with a picture book and his own personal trainer?you.
Writer, educator, mother of 11
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1999 by the author or Christianity Today/Christian Parenting Today Magazine.
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