If you've got a toddler that just won't sit still or focus on an activity for any length of time - congratulations! You have a normal toddler! One of my favourite things to talk about is how to create a calm environment at home and it isn't as difficult as it may seem.
It is possible to create an environment where they will sit and play for some time. All you need to do is make some tweaks to your current set up and consider whether your own interactions with the play space and your child might be impacting their ability to play.
Here are my tips on creating a calm environment at home:
LESS IS MORE
A study by researchers at the University of Toledo in the US found that when toddlers were presented with less toys, they actually played more!
Consider cutting back on the number of toys available to your child and be choosy about what you put out. Go for toys that you know your child loves to play with, with a couple of extra wild cards and then store the rest away somewhere else. We used to keep toys out of rotation under our bed but I've had clients use a wardrobe, cupboard under the stairs or even a shed! You could also use this as an opportunity to donate any toys that your child has grown out of or want to pass along.
SWAP TO TOY SHELVES
The great thing about swapping your toddler's toys to a toy shelf rather than using big toy boxes or bins is that they're able to see what's available much more readily. It's inviting to the child and inspires them to go and explore what's there. It also supports the toddler's strong need for order because they can see where to get the toy from and where to put it back afterwards!
FOLLOW THEIR INTERESTS
Sometimes parents tell me that they've swapped to toy shelves and made less of them available, but their toddler still wants to raid the kitchen cupboards or climb the sofas instead of play. This is totally normal!
But also, if they're not going to the shelves, it's possible that what's there either isn't inspiring them, they're not ready for it or they haven't discovered it yet. Making some tweaks can help with this.
Firstly, consider what they LOVE doing and then do more of it. What have you seen them interested in? If its the kitchen utensils, why not put a few in a basket on their shelf to play with so they're not constantly in the kitchen drawers? Or if it's that they've got an interest for pulling baby wipes out of the packet, why not make a DIY version that they can use and put that on the shelf? If they're trying to slide your credit cards between the floorboards, make them a slot box to play with.
PROTECT THEIR CONCENTRATION
If your child is in a state of flow, protect that! The child's ability to concentrate is fragile and sometimes we can accidentally interrupt them (even if it's just to see what they're up to). It's better for our child if we can wait until they're done. A child that can concentrate can play for longer periods of time - if we allow them the opportunity!
REDUCE BACKGROUND NOISE
Sometimes noise in the background actually distracts our children from being able to play for lengths of time. If the TV is on, for instance, it's likely that the noises and screen will distract the child and break their concentration. Check out this video of my daughter when she was a baby. She's clearly trying to play with the toy in her hand but getting distracted by a TV show that's on in the background. Had the TV not been on, her concentration wouldn't have been broken and she'd have played for much longer. WATCH THE VIDEO
SLOW DOWN AND QUIETEN DOWN
We humans lead busy lives these days and it's easy to rush around getting things done and whizz through life. If you're often rushing around the house and calling to each other through the rooms, it's really likely your toddler will do the same thing too. Slow down your movements and lower your voice level and instantly the atmosphere changes!
HONOUR THEIR NEED TO MOVE
Sometimes though, its not the shelves, not the activities and not the space. Sometimes they simply just need to move their bodies and sitting still isn't hitting the spot. This is your cue to scrap everything, grab your bag and head out to the park or the woods!
One final note...
All toddlers are different. Don't get caught up in comparing them with your friend's little one. Your child is unique and as Maria Montessori said... "Follow the child."