3 Tips to Help Toddlers Survive at Activities Geared for Older Children
I can't even tell you the number of soccer games I've been to where parents who've come to watch their older child play end up on the adjacent playground, chasing a toddler who has had enough or how many concerts at school where parents are in the hall with an unruly toddler instead of watching their older child sing/play/act. Aside from hiring a sitter, how are we supposed to give our older children the attention they deserve, while also keeping our toddlers from spoiling the experience for us and those around us?
Through trial and a LOT of error, there are a few things I've noticed are helpful in keeping my little ones occupied while I'm giving my admittedly NOT undivided attention to my older child. Here are three tips to help you help your toddlers survive at activities geared for older children.
Give them some ownership
My daughter just recently had a choir concert, and it was my 3-year-old son's official job to be our cameraman. He got to have daddy's old de-activated phone to take pictures and videos of the whole event, and boy, did he take his job seriously! He wasn't bouncing on and off his chair like the boy his age down the aisle, and he was proud of himself for doing such a helpful thing. He did get tired of holding the camera up, but I encouraged him to look through them and delete any that he didn't think turned out well, and he was happy to do it.
This works at sporting events, too. Find a job for them that makes them feel important, whether it be keeping score or keeping track of which team had the ball. (Does the blue team or the red team have the ball now? Can you mark down tallies for which team has the ball more?)
For my younger daughter, I try to have some simpler activity for her like a picture to color associated with the activity (there are awesome free printables online for all sorts of activities), whether it be coloring a gymnast to look like her sister or a sports star to look like her cousin, Noah. If she knows she'll get to deliver her colored page to them afterward, she's thrilled.
Reserve special treats
There are a few snacks that we buy ONLY for those outings where we might be fidgety or agitated. My little ones know that they can look forward to some of their favorite treats if they are well behaved, and they often will say to me during our activity “Am I being good mommy? Do I get to have my (insert sweet snack here)?”
If I have time before we need to leave, I try to have them help me pack the bag with a few snacks they choose as well as a few quiet toys or books they want to occupy them.
Let it go
I've taken a cue from Queen Elsa on this one and learned that sometimes, despite your best efforts, toddlers are just not going to be happy with their circumstances. AND THAT'S OK! We just need to let go of the expectation that things will always go as we plan.
I happen to be a believer that kids who are bored will develop patience and a great imagination. Although the whining and general moodiness are not what we hope for and anticipate, we can take comfort in knowing that we've done all we can do and we're working on building character. Timeouts don't have to happen on the “naughty spot” at home all the time. I've been known to give my children timeouts in the middle of Target before. Sometimes, parenting just needs to happen more than that shopping trip.
So, prepare, engage, and when that doesn't work, let it go.
What has worked well for you? Do you give in to your toddlers tantrums more in public to avoid embarrassment? What would you suggest? Tell us in the comments!