Perhaps you are wondering how you can provide your toddler with developmentally appropriate activities he is missing out on.
I am a mom and I know just how much pressure is on you to be perfect, I know how hard it is to raise little kids, and I know that your energy source is limited. It’s even worse when you have a bored preschooler on your hands due to COVID-19. You may not have the energy to do extra activities with your preschooler, and I want to let you know that is okay. Developmentally appropriate activities are not the priority. They are supplemental.
Let me explain why I am so wary about so-called “developmentally appropriate activities” based on my own experience.
With my first child, I filled almost all of his time with “developmentally appropriate activities.” But this sapped all of my energy, leaving me with no energy whatsoever to set and uphold limits. So he did learn his colors, numbers, and letters remarkably fast, but he had a lot of behavior problems. He was needy, whiny, and wouldn’t play at all unless I was there providing him with an activity.
This is because I was so narrowly focused on certain areas of his development that I ignored the most important area, his social-emotional development. By giving in to him, I was being permissive and neglecting his need for rules and structure.
Additionally, by filling up all of his time with activities I was limiting his ability to develop initiative. This is a main developmental milestone for preschoolers. Children who take initiative actually plan for themselves what they are going to do, make up their own games and initiate activities with those around them.
What can you do differently?
You can avoid my mistakes first by being authoritative and setting and upholding proper limits with love. After this foundation has been laid, you can engage with your child in activities that center around their development. Preschoolers are developing pretend play skills, so you can encourage this by providing them with simple, open-ended materials. This allows their imagination to be free and unlimited in its scope.
Next, you can promote their development of initiative by using what is known as serve and return. Your child offers you a serve by inviting you to interact with him in some way, and you return their serve by engaging with the child on their own terms.
This child-led interaction ensures that the parent doesn’t do all of the initiating, takes over during play, or ignores or punishes initiation attempts. Instead, it gives the child space to learn how to take initiative and positively reinforces their initiative-taking.
So in sum, there’s no need to stress out about planning activities for your toddler, no need to become a helicopter parent when your kid is just learning to walk and talk. Just let him take the lead and you will be promoting the social-emotional development that is crucially important at this age.