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How can you help your toddler cope? Need ideas to keep them busy?

It has become more apparent over the weeks that some toddlers are really struggling with social distancing. It's one thing to teach them that they need to try stand away from other people, but for them to comprehend that they may not see their friends and also that it is not safe to get close to them is really upsetting for them.

They have lost part of their developing identity. They were beginning to socialise, to experience who they are within a group, club and nursery settings. This is where they observe and learn how to try out emotions, tentatively share their ideas and thoughts, learn their value in how they are with others and how they share and care with others.

They would be figuring out what they enjoy, what they are good at, what they find difficult and how to accept and cope with this learning.

Children need consistency of care, love and that they are special. That they are accepted, appreciated and worthy.

But right now, they may be stuck without this modelling of moving on through a day. They still need guidance. I will acknowledge that we (parents) are not teachers and that we are trying our best to comfort and support our children with their emotional wellbeing during this pandemic. Education will fall in place when they get back to nursery/school, but for now, I will confirm that a lot of learning is done through play! Their creative development, morals and values of characters they play with will develop, hand/eye co-ordination, problem-solving, self-confidence boost when they achieve something or finally figure it out - and also when they ask for help. Wow! It is fantastic when a child is able to ask for help.

I have therefore created a list of activities below that you may be interested in trying with your toddler/young child. They can be put in your 'toolbox' for exploring on other days, as they may not fit today's mood or needs but sometimes when you try them or offer an activity on another day they seem to be ready for it and enjoy it!

1. Bath: bathtime can be longer or a play activity. Create your own paint (tub of water, a squirt of baby soap, tiny bit of food colouring, cornstarch and mix together). They can then design and paint flowers and people on the tiles.

2. Toddlers/kids love to 'help' to clean. Put some water in a spray bottle and let them spray the windows/doors/garden table/playhouse/slide and wipe with a cloth.

3. Cosmic Kids Yoga on Youtube is fabulous - they have different character yoga sessions and even one on mindfulness with a puppy, and one about someone being mean. Have a look and give it a go.

4. Put a tent up in the garden for a couple of days.

5. Let them play with dry pasta - let them weigh it and put it in pots and pans and tupperwares. They can extend this to being parent and feeding their teddies.

6. Out in the garden or in the lounge/front room - use the toddler paddling pool, fill it with soft plastic balls and position the little slide so they can slide into the paddling pool. Even their teddies can have an adventure as they slide/fly/rocket into space.

7. Toilet rolls can be stacked to create a tower, or used to create a jumping obstacle...

8. Role play. Pretending to be teacher/mother or father/nurse/policeman/fireman.... talk to them during the day whilst in character..."nurse, I know you are so busy with all the sick teddies today, but it will be really good for you to have a little break and some lunch so that you can be energised to continue your hard work..."

To stay linked to reality I sometimes talk behind my hand when having to talk about a practical matter "I love seeing you be nurse today. When you have finished your lunch, is there anything else you need to carry on playing with your teddies? Do you want some pretend medicine to give them?" This way you are not 'breaking' their fantasy and adventure.

9. Use a tupperware to put some toys in water and freeze overnight so the next day they can try excavate their 'fossil'. To keep them safe you could use a syringe with warm water so they can practice co-ordination, or tools that are a bit blunt like the pumpkin carving tools.

10. Create a den. Try one in the lounge behind the sofa, or in the garden under the table, or under a bush/shrub, in the bedroom, in the bath!

11. Rock painting. Spell out letters of their name to then paint, or do hand prints/nhs/circles/crosses....

12. Collect leaves and/or twigs to create a picture.

13. Run through the sprinkler.

14. Designated 'digging for worms' section in the garden.

15. Create a fairy section in the garden.

16. Become different superheroes on different days.

17. Sand pit/table. Figurines and dinosaurs and pouring.... Also, let them use water on a hot day too!

18. Emotions. Learning to label emotions is very important but keep them to only a few and the example I use is based on the characters from the movie 'Inside Out'. You can then create cards or use toys that are similar in colour to identify/role play certain scenes. I encourage children to think of them having each of these emotions/characters in themself and when sadness is feeling would you help them feel a bit better? This helps them to identify, self soothe and regulate emotions.

I hope some of these ideas are helpful to you and that it refreshes your memories of your adventures and play as a child. If you remember one of your own and are able to, why not share it or play it out with your toddler? And its okay if they aren't ready to appreciate it, put it back in your 'toolbox' and keep it for another time.

Let me know if you have any questions or would like to explore any of the above further.

Take care.


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