One of the greatest joys of toddlerhood is their ability to see each fraction of each activity with new eyes and no preconceptions. The innocence a toddler applies to every experience makes each part of that experience special and unique and just as important as every other part. This can be a huge asset to a savvy parent.
Once, long ago, when the babies and I first went to the mall, I came up with a little game we could play on the ramps on the way to the Playland. As we approached a ramp, I would look at the kids – one holding each hand – and say, “Ready? Ready?” If the ramp inclined, we’d rush up shouting, “Up up up up up up up whee!” If it was declined, “Down down down down, whee!” I didn’t know it then, but I was setting myself up for long-term success.
For little children, lack of experience places emphasis on everything. They don’t yet know that the Playland is the main event and that everything else pales in comparison. Since every segment of their life is a new adventure, every anticipated journey provides just as much joy as the last. If we, as parents, continue to advertise what’s coming up next as a new and profound experience, our toddlers will follow suit. So that when the time came for us to leave the Playland, I no longer had to worry about the tantrums that plagued our walk back to the car the first few times.
“Okay, babies, it’s time to leave.”
“But the ramps are next. Don’t you want to play the ramp game?”
Yes, they did want to play the ramp game, and off we went. When we ran out of ramps, of course, another tantrum threatened to break out, but we were at the doors.
“Look, girls! Puddles! Don’t you want to play in the puddles?”
Yes, they did want to play in the puddles, and off we went. Getting into the car? Another possible battle.
“Look, babies! Rocks! Pick a rock to take home with you!”
And they picked a rock and off we went. When we arrived home – home, of course, being a place where they know there’s nothing quite as fun and new as what they just experienced – I offered them handwashing in a bathroom they don’t normally get to use. Inside we went. Then I was able to appeal to their physical needs and offered them water because they were thirsty and a video to watch because they were tired.
In this way, we had a tantrumless transition from Playland to home.
Now, I’d love to take credit for the idea, but, the truth is, it never would have worked if toddler minds were not so open, so trusting and so excitable. It’s important never to forget that the things we adults take for granted as being boring, or being just part of the journey to get to the fun, a toddler will find new and exciting – if we let them.