As parents, at a time when home became even more important, we realised that we needed to get ourselves ready for a soon to be, very busy toddler.
As a teacher, now mum, I also realised that I had a new growing interest for child development (the psychology degree may have something to do with that!) So I found myself upgrading my teaching qualification and researching the best ways to support my growing toddler at home.
What I learned is that, from a learning perspective, the relationship between the adult, the child and the environment is a three-way deal. Not only do children learn from the adults around them, but they also learn from their environment, meaning that the space needs to be prepared in a way which gives them freedom to move and learn (1)*. This means that the adult needs to take a look at their child in that environment and adapt it to suit their growing needs. Basically you need to be prepared!
Of course, between work, home and everything in between, being prepared for a fast-growing toddler can feel slightly overwhelming.
However, after a little more research, and trial and error, what I found was that there were few simple changes that I was able to make to my home and routine, which made a HUGE difference to his independence and confidence.
SO HERE ARE MY TIPS FOR PREPARING YOUR HOME FOR TODDLERHOOD:
1 | Take a step back and watch
Before changing anything, take a few minutes, hours, days to just watch your growing baby move around your home. By taking the time to observe where they go, what they do, how long it takes them and what fascinates them, you will be able to learn what it is they need from their home (you may be pleasantly surprised...!)
2 | Make it safe
You may already feel quite prepared here, as it is likely you have installed baby gates and cupboard locks. So to give them even more freedom to move around your home, try lying on the floor, so that you are at the looking at the room through the eyes of your soon-to-be-moving-infant. With a sensitivity towards small things as soon as they are moving *(2), it is amazing what they can find!
Nido tip | Leave one drawer or cupboard unlocked in the kitchen to satisfy their need for opening and closing. It will also come in handy to keep their cutlery in, when they are learning to set their table later on.
3 | Take it to their level
From the furniture, to the activities, even to the height in which you hang artwork in their room, making sure everything they need is child-sized and within their reach, means that they will have greater freedom to move around their space, without having to rely on an adult to help them. This in turn will develop their independence and confidence.
4 | Give them everything they need
For greater freedom, when you set up an activity make it self-rewarding, by giving them everything they need to complete it independently. From a jigsaw puzzle with all the pieces, to a pouring activity which includes a sponge to mop up inevitable spills, beautifully presenting activities with everything they need on a low-level shelf, will encourage your infant to choose and complete the activity without your help, when they are ready. This will not only boost their self-esteem and intrinsic motivation, but also their ability to concentrate too.
5 | Make it beautiful
From a young age, infants appreciate routine and order, as it gives them extra time to learn and fewer reasons to be frustrated*(2a). Although freedom is the goal, at home it may be difficult to present every item they want to play with all the time in an orderly fashion. So to help bring order and beauty to your home, try rotating the activities on the shelf, to only include those which they have enjoyed playing with recently, and keeping others out of reach for the moment. Then present each one attractively on trays and in baskets, to make it easier for them to choose from.
As they learn about their world through their senses*(3), they will also enjoy exploring a range of natural materials in the home, including furniture and activities. By hanging beautiful pictures of realistic scenes at their eye-level, you will also be helping them to appreciate our beautiful world.
6 | Slow down
Educational research shows that following your infant through their routine and giving toddlers uninterrupted time to play is highly valuable to their natural development *(4).
Between other children, dogs, cats, work and housework, making time to follow your child may sometimes be difficult. However if you are able just to pull back a few extra minutes from your busy routine, to slow down and give your toddler the time they need to put their shoes on the wrong feet, brush their hair backwards, or walk up and down the stairs three times before leaving the house, it will make a huge difference to their independence. They also enjoy following you as you do the housework too!
And that’s it! For me, these six simple changes to our home, not only made me feel more prepared sharing our space with a busy infant-toddler, but they also gave me the time to enjoy him, as I spend a lot less time saying “no” and alot more time watching him grow (rhyme not intended!)