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Many times when parents go through a divorce, parenting can seem overwhelming.  It's not easy to always provide the quality of time you would like to spend with your children.   

Knowing the best activities that will bring you closer to your toddler can be daunting. 

If you weren't the one who usually provided the majority of the care for your child, it can be especially intimidating. 

We can help!  We have ideas that will strengthen your bond with your child(ren) and keep you from losing your mind while doing so!


When to do activities with toddlers

The first thing to know about toddlers is that they require their sleep.  This means 10+ hours per night and a nap time during the day.  Not only is this the time their bodies regenerate and grow, but the lack of sleep can cause any child to act completely different than their normal selves.  It doesn't matter how awesome the activity or how patient you are, your child will give you a difficult time that will be sure to ruin anything you have planned.

So, the very first part of planning quality time with your toddler is to ensure he/she has had plenty of sleep.  Also plan your event at a different time of day, other than nap time.

When planning an event away from home, like parties, celebrations or time at the park, try to do so in the morning or following a nap.  If you work all day, don't make yourself miserable by planning "home-away" activities in the evening.  Instead, opt for fun at home activities and in plenty of time before bedtime.  Use your weekends or days-off for activities outside the home.


Don't overschedule

It's not easy to understand, as your child begins to grow and develop, that despite the fact they are able to communicate with you, they aren't necessarily capable of keeping up at the same pace as older kids or parents.  This means that anything you schedule should be limited in overall time since each toddler has a different reaction to overstimulation and physical exhaustion.  Some may get hyper, clumsy or others crabby and tired.  

Don't try to squeeze too much into a small period of time.  Again, this leads to overstimulation and can cause your child to have activity overload.  Instead, choose one activity or a few short duration activities, have fun and make it a great memory for both of you.


Choose activities that are fun

There are three big ideas that will help with toddlers and the activities they love!

1. Fun and consistent

Children are creatures of habit.  So, employ some consistent activities that will contribute to a stable schedule.  It will build your bond with them and give both of you something to look forward to on a daily basis.  These activities could be short (approximately 15-20 minutes), but extremely powerful at offsetting the stress in your lives. 

Call it something specific like "fun time" that the child will understand is daily play time with mom or dad.

These activities with you & your toddler include: reading, hide and seek, play-dough, tag, Pillsbury® cookie baking, etc.  Don't overdo it!  Keep them on task and keep each task short.  It's better to have multiple short fun tasks throughout your time together then one long-duration activity.

2. Mommy's or Daddy's helper

You are your toddler's "most important person".  There is no other person with as much influence over your child as you.  They look up to you and everything you do.  Most kiddo's this age want to be just like you.  So, don't be surprised that they would be thrilled with being your helper.  

Again, don't overdo it.  They can't take on serious tasks yet.  Rather, get them familiar with a chore, cooking or daily tasks.  When mommy or daddy cooks, get them play cooking utensils and let them "pretend" prepare some real food items.  The key is that the food items they use are real food and the mess is manageable.  If you wear an apron, get them a kid-sized apron.  They could sweep the kitchen with a kid-sized broom and dust pan.  

Again, keep the activity about 15 minutes, then have them wash their hands and get cleaned up for dinner.  It gives them a defined end to their chore or cooking time and makes it easier to transition to the next task like eating dinner.

They will begin to look forward to dinner time or helper time because it's time they get to be with you and be like you.  They will be busy cleaning and preparing food, giving you time to get your cooking completed and make good memories at the same time!

3. Fun, Imaginative and Simple Ideas

Toddlers don't need super awesome and expensive activities to have fun.  Keep it simple and be involved. 

Play dress up, make simple crafts, play fun educational games on the computer, pretend play, have a picnic or tea party, color, build a "box" fort.  No matter what it is, show them you are interested in what they like, what they think and how silly they can be with you.  They want you to like them because it makes them feel loved.  They want to be just like you too.  While it's obvious you love them a great deal, sometimes they just need a simple game or activity to know that.


Prepare

Let's face it, while we wish we could spend only quality time with our children, we still have many obligations and errands that need to be done.

Always prepare before taking your toddler to places like the grocery store, doctor's appointments, general errands or birthday parties. 

Don't venture out into the "wilderness" with the idea that your toddler will always behave.  Like it or not, toddlers operate by a completely different set of rules.  Public places and social gatherings are the prime situations and places that elicit tantrums.  These aren't the best places to make a point to your child. 

While you think a screaming toddler in time-out at the car repair shop is fine, most onlookers won't necessarily agree.  While it doesn't mean you should change your parenting style, a little forethought can help you avoid most problems.  So prepare this way:

It's a good idea to plan most of your errands when your toddler is with his other parent.   But when you have unavoidable errands when he's in your custody, he should be with you.  Don't always ask babysitters or friends to care for your child during times you need to go out and get things done.  

It's fine once-in-a-while, like when it conflicts with nap time or if you have numerous errands.  But your toddler will never learn social etiquette if he is never exposed to social situations.  As your toddler becomes more familiar with public settings, you can begin to set clear expectations for behavior and eventually forgo much of what's in the "toddler emergency pack".


-OurDMK.com

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