Keeping a 3 year old productively busy & happy
I grew up in a household where my father had minimal participation in our upbringing except for, may be, providing for the family. Naturally, I feel very lucky now that my husband is able to look after all the basic needs of my son, like brushing his teeth, bathing, feeding and putting him to sleep. But my 3 year old is much more than basic needs. He needs attention. Lots of it. He not only needs engaging activities to do, but someone to engage with. These times are especially hard for him when the only people he gets to see is his parents and his cats. So when he gets through all his toys, puzzles, books and chasing our cats around the house, he is anxious for what’s next. And that, I find, is very hard to keep up with.
In the beginning, I was determined to spend at least 30-40mins everyday trying to get him through some educational activities. But as time passed, getting through a day without a tantrum or a meltdown is considered success. Still, both me and my husband try our best to take it one day at a time and keep our eyes on the goal which is to get him physically and mentally exhausted so he gets good sleep and stays happy.
What is working so far
The onset of spring brings warmer weather which means going for long walks on a nearby trail is back on the charts. There is nothing more fun than collecting stones and wild flowers to a toddler. This gives him an opportunity to be outdoors, run around and learn on the go. Back at home, we still try to keep a 2 hr cap on ‘screen time’. He has a few TV favorites (he loves cocomelon on youtube) and his tablet has a few educational apps that help him learn alphabets, numbers and very basic geometry (Khan Academy, Monkey Preschool and Toca Boca are some of our favorites). We do art and dance sometimes and reading is an everyday bed-time activity. But other than that, we try and involve him in home chores like cleaning, laundry and even cooking. The other day he helped with tossing a salad, making an omelette and whipping up cake batter!
Tipping Point and Hindsight
We all hope for a well-behaved child who listens to instructions while you try to teach him a new activity. As curious as he may seem to learn, sometimes he just won’t be interested. It’s hard not to get frustrated when that happens. But the best way to cope is to let it go in that moment and move on to another activity. Sometimes, screen time will bleed over and a lot of times there will be a mad mess. What matters, at the end, is that just being around you, watching you doing your thing, and absorbing everything around him — is going to keep your child happy and healthy. There is no need, then, to get worked up if he doesn’t do his worksheets, or plays too much, makes a mess or doesn’t eat his meals. Just as long as we, as parents can maintain a positive, learning environment that will make the child feel safe and happy, we are all doing a fab job.