5 tips to make the most of the precious toddler years

ah, toddlerhood.

challenging, glorious, chaotic, magic filled, stubborn to the bone, beautiful, fleeting, toddlerhood.

i was a nanny for several years before i became a momma. five years ago, i graduated from the university of utah with my b.s. degree in human development and family studies with a child life emphasis. (the field of child life focuses on decreasing the stress of a medical experience for a child...more on this in a minute.) i worked at a preschool for a few years as well. i've volunteered at primary children's medical center for years with the child life team. i wanted to share some wisdom i've acquired from these experiences when delicately meshed with the day to day realm of motherhood.

one // tell them WHAT to do, instead of what NOT to do.

this is one of the most revolutionary things i learned while in college and working in a preschool. i realize that i has the potential to sound nutty, because i laughed myself when i first heard it. however, it works. it is truly a game changer in your parenting and caring for a young child. so often we can fall into the trap of repeating "don't do that" or "stop doing this". it can be easy to forget little souls benefits tremendously from a simple, "hey, let's do this." for example, if you little one is running, isn't of losing your cool and yelling, "don't run!" you can gently remind them "hey, let's walk instead please." giving them an option is a huge comfort to them and clearly states what is expected of their behavior.

two // quiet tantrums with humor and redirection.

many times i've resorted to silly dancing antics in an effort to make miss s laugh so much that she forgets what she is mad at and can direct her attention elsewhere. redirection is one of my favorite tools in my arsenal of tricks. and laughter? we really can fix so much with humor.

three // involve them every chance you get; foster autonomy everywhere you can.

erik erikson is one of my favorite developmental theorists. he believed that we all go through stages, or crises in life. the first, from birth to one year is a trust versus mistrust dynamic we must all make peace with in our world. the second is autonomy versus shame and doubt. autonomy is basically self confidence, their faith in themselves. this is why toddler are so determined to do every little thing without our help. ;) when you can foster autonomy it builds up a strong, secure base that will last them through their childhood and well into adulthood. let them climb into the car by themselves, even if it takes a few extra minutes.

four // follow their lead.

sookie is my sensitive and emotional gal. first and foremost i remind myself (often!) to throw the rules out the window and listen to what her heart is telling me. it has never lead me wrong. i had blueprints in my head of what i wanted our parenthood story to consist of, and honestly? from day one i have made it important beyond all else to follow her lead. even if that meant going against decisions i thought were set in stone. go with the flow is a fabulous mantra here. and yes, it is perfectly fine if you have to remind yourself of this several times a day. chant it, over and over and over, until it is written all over your heart.

five // play.

kids learn through play. they discover truths about the world, they find the depths of themselves, they grow confidence in their physical and mental abilities. when adults join them in creative play, it immediately improves the quality and duration of play. when you use your imagination as a parent, it increases the scope of your child's imagination as well. one of my favorite quotes is jean piaget's "play is a child's work."

i would love to end this with lyrics from a song i am obsessed with right now, kate earl's one woman army. to me it is a gorgeous love letter to motherhood. :)

never knew what i was signing up for
knew it was hard
but not this hardcore

what i do, i do for you the best i can
build a life for you with my own two hands

i hope these tips have helped you! i was reminded last weekend of the tremendous power and beauty in the simple act of women supporting women, and i knew i had to finish up this post and publish it this week. in all honesty toddlerhood is hard, it is one of the most challenging things i've done in this life. however i really believe you can embrace the whimsy of it all and hold onto your sanity at the same time, all while building a safe and wondrous world for your child.

happy friday! :)

also, don't forget that google friend connect (gfc) is over as of july 1st. however! you can follow a happy girl on blog lovin' so you don't miss a post! :)
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hello monday: little darling.

hello monday.

hello overwhelming news over the weekend. back to back. and then, waking up on sunday to find out my great uncle has gone on a new journey and passed on. please keep his family in your thoughts and prayers.

hello precious life. this is all so big and we are all immensely lucky to have it, even just a glimpse in the glittering sun.

hello blue skies and spring catching our attention with her flirty eyes.

hello to playing dress up on saturday night.

hello to women lifting each other up. what is more beautiful?

hello to a ridiculously easy (and adorable!) craft of heart knee patched leggings. thanks to small fry yet again for inspiring my motherhood. (even better? the leggings were $1.50 at target. score!)

hello to norman the bulldog who stole my soul this weekend. i've wanted a bulldog for several years and he only cemented that fact firmly. :) i would name ours duritz after adam duritz of the counting crows. norman was rescued from a neglect situation by some sweet people and is getting a second chance at life in georgia. can i get a hallelujah for second chances?

hello to moving things around the house and consequently finding fresh ways to attack emotional cleansing in my heart.

hello to the magnificent (spring) playlist i've created on spotify titled, "little darling (it's been a long cold winter)"

hello, she is my sunshine. always, always, always. & forever.

* linking up with lisa leonard's series hello monday

what are you saying hello to this week?

embracing where we are

(as she sits on the edge of the tub, waiting patiently as i brush my teeth)

s: why are you here?
me: what?
s: why are you here?
me: in the house, in the bathroom...or something else?
s; why are you here?
me: (thinking, okay, let's have a philosophical discussion with this wise, little mind.)
well, honey girl...i think a lot of the reason to why i'm here is to be your mommy.
s: oh. and to love the new house?
me: yes! to love the new house and all the new adventures we will have here! to love the old house and the memories we had there too. and to love everyone.
s: yes! i'm just full of all the silly lessons.

seriously? ha.

(one of my favorite shirts that belongs to our girl
in our new laundry room
i've never had a laundry room and it is deliciously fabulous! 
happiness always wins)

right now is a beautiful place to be.

it is golden girls late at night. (um, i truly don't remember them being so stinking hilarious.)
it is exercising my creative (and thrifty!) bones to make this house a home.
it is organic, juicy, granny smith apples sprinkled in an abundance of salt.
it is wanting to live more intentionally.
it is discovering new music that stirs my soul.
it is falling back into old melodies that soothe my ruffled feathers.
it is floral prints invading our lives and slides, many, many slides. :)
it is wondering if i am crafting a bold enough legacy.

my loves are sleeping softly beside me. whimsical fairies decorate sookie's pajamas, hearts and stars explode out of their wands. the whir of the fan is a gentle coaxing that i too should fall into dreamland in the near future. the circus tent in the corner of our bedroom makes me laugh. that is one of the many things so sacred in my heart to have a child, our child, in this house. the opportunity to encourage imagination is everywhere, in every corner of every room. right now, the stillness all around is welcome and foreign all at once. during the day around here, chaos runs rampant. and oh how i live to dance around in the chaos, but the quiet is beautiful in a different way.

we moved into our new (to us) house a week after my gallbladder surgery. these two huge happenings did this back and forth dance for several weeks on the precise timing of it all. oh... wow! it was a little bit of insanity, all of the not knowing details of the timeline. surgery, moving, our girl turned three, a superbowl combined with a house warming party, sookie's dinosaur unicorn party; it was large chunks of life all smashed together.

all three of us jumped right into the beauty and hilarity that is three years old. it is my favorite already. :)

it continues to amaze me each and every day, how my body is heartbreakingly defective in her most basic chemistry, and yet it was able to grow this girl, and fuel her to blossom. it is SUCH an honor to have this gift.

please share in the comments...
what are you embracing right now? :)