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Toddler - Week #74

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Week 74: Making Choices And More!

By Jodi L. Kelley, edHelperBaby

           I've always tried to balance Evan's free play with structured activities. We try to sit and read books; I set him in his highchair to do art projects and try to include other things like music. But this week was the first time he has actually asked to do a structured activity! He was in his chair and had finished eating when he began to whine. Now whining is nothing new around here! There's been so much development in the area of language, and yet the whine is still the most effective form he uses! Anyway, I thought he was crying to get out of the seat. I do tend to leave him in there a little after he's done-it's the only moment I get to clean up the dinner mess! But then I noticed he was pointing (the other effective communication form) to his sister who was in her arts and crafts area. She was finger- painting, and sure enough, that's exactly what Evan wanted to do, too! I was thrilled that he had actually requested to make an art project! And perfect timing- he was already messy from dinner, and bath time was next anyway!


Creating Good Readers
           Choice is important when it comes to reading. A good way to encourage your child to read is to give her a choice between several different books. This is actually a great behavioral technique for lots of different situations. You eliminate the possibility of getting a "no" response when you ask a "this one or that one" question. And giving your child a voice in deciding which book is read allows her to be more connected to the book. Don't be surprised if she decides she wants to read all of the choices!


Book Of The Week:
           We went to a book fair this week and this is the book Evan chose:

        Time for School, Mouse   by Laura Numeroff

       This is a new one by Laura, but you may already know the mouse! He's the same cute little guy from If You Give A Mouse A Cookie . In this one, he's looking for his homework for school. This one that we bought this weekend is a sturdy board book. I'm not sure what drew Evan towards it to make him choose it, but I was glad for many reasons. One, I was thrilled he chose this author because I have all of her If You Give A ... series, from the mouse getting the cookie to the pig getting the pancake! They are fantastic circular stories where the character starts out getting one thing and needs another as a chain reaction. In the end, the character ends up needing the first item he started with, thus implying the whole circle will start again! I was also happy Evan selected a hard, sturdy book so he could carry it around the rest of the fair without me worrying the pages would rip! At home, I showed him all the other books I had from this author, and I was able to let him choose all week which one he wanted to read.


           I decided this week was all about choices! After we read If You Give a Pig a Pancake , we made pancakes together. It's an easy cooking activity to get little ones involved with because you can throw the powdered ingredients and the water into a Tupperware container with a tight lid and just let him shake away. I then let him choose his own mix-ins-strawberries, blueberries, bananas, and even a few little chocolate chips. Of course, he wanted to throw everything into the mix! Evan was then able to even help me pour the batter onto the griddle.       

       I also let him choose when doing his artwork. I usually just give him one paint cup when he finger- paints, but this time, I let him have quite a few of the little cups of color and go to town! Sure, it was a messy week, but it was lots of fun, too!


Rhyme Time
           Okay, you will think I am crazy for this one...but it popped in my head as we shook our pancake mix. As we were shaking it all around, I thought of Harry Belafonte's tune Jump in the Line, Shake Senora (maybe it's because I just recently watched Beetlejuice again)! But here's what I sang as we walked in a conga line shaking our Tupperware filled pancake mixers!       

        Shake, shake, shake your pancake mix

       Shake it all around

       Mix, mix, mix your pancake mix

       Mix it up and down

       Work, work, work your shaker

       We gonna make pancakes

       Work, work, work your shaker

       We gonna make pancakes       

       My pancakes gonna be bananas

       Yours is gonna be too

       We're gonna eat them up together

       I tell you that's what we're gonna do!       

       Jump in de line! Mix your pancake batter (Okay, I will do that!)

       Jump in de line! Mix your pancake batter (Okay, I will do that!)

       Jump in de line! Mix your pancake batter (Okay, I will do that!)

       Jump in de line! Mix your pancake batter (Whoa, Yeah!)


Evan's Opinion
           Crazy as that song sounds, Evan loved it! He thought it was so much fun, and I even had the little beat playing on my computer to get the full effect! He was bobbing his head and shaking his pancake mix maraca! What other kid can say he danced in a conga line before he was even two years old! He loved his pancakes, too. I find my kids always love the food more if they play a part in cooking it. My daughter recently made American chop suey for dinner. She fried the ground turkey under my watchful eye, boiled the pasta herself, strained it, and helped make the sauce. She normally eats like a bird, but this evening she ate two whole bowls full of it! I'm not sure Evan would have had any issues eating pancakes anyway, since he likes to eat, but he had fun mixing it and then throwing in all the choices of fruits and chocolate chips!


You're Probably Wondering.....
           "How much control do I give my child?"       

       Does it seem like you are putting him in charge if you always give him choices? It may sound like that to some people. I know my father-in-law would gruffly say, "He should do what you tell him to do!" and of course, to some extent, this is true. But if you are clever about the choices, he will be doing exactly what you want him to do.       

       Here's the thing-to me, control is the biggest fight you can get into with a kid. A simple request from my twelve-year-old to help me with the dishwasher can quickly become a huge power struggle. If I need my twelve-year-old to help me with the dishwasher so I can get Evan in his pajamas, I'll give him a choice-does he want to load the dishwasher or wrestle the alligator into his pajamas? He's seen me do that task; he'll choose the dishwasher every time! Everyone wants to have control over his own life, including your toddler.       

       I can give my little ones choices, too-especially when I want the "no" response to disappear. For instance, if I want Alice to eat breakfast (which is something she tries to skip in favor of painting a new masterpiece) I will ask her if she wants a yogurt or a fruit cup. If I want Evan to sit with me to read a book, I will show him a few choices and let him pick one. Kids can pick their clothes out, choose food options, and more.       

       If you have hang-ups, like which clothes you want him to wear or you care about things like matching, then select the choices for the child. I could care less if the outfits match, so I will let Alice and Evan pick right from the closet. But if you care about those things, choose two outfits that are acceptable to you and then allow him to choose from the choices.       

       The same thing can be done for food, which is especially helpful if you have a picky eater. Involve the child in packing his lunch. Evan often chooses which fruit cup he'll bring to school. He loves the little mandarin oranges and picks them almost every time! Now, there is a balance here, too. I'm not running a little diner. When we sit down to dinner, my children are not running the show, requesting pizza instead of the dinner cooked for them. Well, they might request it, but it isn't happening! They can make choices like whether they want catsup on their meat or gravy. You get the idea.       

       It's a fine balance. You want to give some autonomy and allow for individual power over choices. But you cannot let the child feel you aren't in charge. Limits allow a child to feel secure and safe under the care of a strong adult. Giving choices does not mean being a push over. When you say it's time to leave, it's time to leave. You might ask if your toddler wants to walk to the car or get a piggy back ride, but you've decided it's time to go to the car. Sometimes, that means we aren't walking or piggy back riding but rather I am carrying him kicking and screaming to the car!       

       Thanks for choosing to read another one of my articles!


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