It was a Sunday morning in January and the weather was grey and wet. It had been raining all night and soon after M had breakfast it started raining again. My heart skipped a beat, our plans to go for a walk in the countryside followed by a trip to the playground was ruined. I went in front of my balcony door lost in thought when M joined me and looked at the rain drops splattering against the window pane. I crouched down close to him and he snuggled in my lap. I pointed at the droplets sliding down the glass and I talked about how the droplets were racing each other. Some of them bumped into others, one of them slowed down, another streaked downwards very fast. He giggled at my comical narration and enjoyed this for a good number of minutes. We then proceeded to fog the glass with our breath and drew circles and lines on it.
This is an episode from when my son was young and we had to stay indoors due to the weather. When he was young, I found it more difficult to brave the weather, dress him up warmly and with good waterproof clothes to keep him dry and take him out anyway. Thus, I had to be quite creative in my ways to keep him occupied and entertained.
When planning my days and activities I found it useful to keep in mind the following aspects:
Confidence and Independence
A 3-year-old is developing in such a way that he / she seeks to master any kind of task in the most independent way. It is easy to visualise how eager a toddler would be to experiment and take on new challenges in order to test their newly attained physical skills and confidence. They will also rebel if they believe that the adults around them are opposing their self-expression and decisions. Obviously, this is not a conscious process, it is a stage in their development when they are forming their sense of self and asserting themselves and their identity as something separate from the adults who take care of them. This is why at this age it can be very easy for children to throw tantrums and to get stuck on something especially when they hear the word NO.
As adults we need to verbalise and validate our child’s internal processes by explaining and making sense for them what is happening around them. Thus, it would be a good idea to explain to your child what will be happening, what is expected and to divert their attention away from any unwanted behaviours or activities.
For example, I will explain to my son that we are staying indoors, that we will play, read a book, have time for something messy, have a snack and even watch a movie. I would also give him options, options which are acceptable to me, such as “do you want to play with a ball or with your toys? Do you want to help me prepare pasta or soup? Do you want to read this book or that?” In this way you are setting limits but also giving them a choice.
The Physical Aspect
At the age of 3 children have mastered their bodies in a way that they are confident to climb on furniture, to run around, to balance on one foot, throw a ball, etc… thus children find it very engaging when you play physical games. Physical games and ‘Rough-and-Tumble’ also help with their proprioception- the child’s sense of its body and physical space, with boundaries, with self-control, emotional regulation, attachment and bonding, and the reduction of stress through the release of the hormone cortisol.
Games to Play: Races, throwing soft balls, pillow fight, tickling and wrestling, yoga, dancing, etc…
In my next blog we shall explore further the types of activities which you can do with a pre-schooler according to their areas of development and learning.
Abigail Church is a Humanistic Integrative Counsellor who works with adults and children through counselling with Willingness. She can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 79291817.