Intentional Living with Toddlers & Preschoolers

Whew! We just survived 8+ days of stomach flu in our home—it was as much of a nightmare as you can imagine it would be (have you ever held a 12 month old over the toilet at 2am while she vomited up chunks of hotdog? NOT a pleasant experience). Luckily (I guess?) I was the last to get sick so was able to nurse everyone back to health before getting taken down by the bug myself.

Praise God for good health and a fresh start to this week!

As I mentioned earlier this month, my word of the year is FAMILY. It was a particularly rough fall for our family, filled with a lot of mom guilt on my end. I am pregnant with our fourth, and first trimester never goes well for me: I always get hit hard with prenatal depression and all day nausea/sickness. As a result of living in survival mode from September though mid-December, there was A LOT of TV watched in our house (in fact, it feels like that was pretty much all we did). For the new year, I’m trying to reset our daily routines and the unfortunate TV norms that our family has all too easily settled into.

1. Free play & “me play”. The first step to watching less TV is simply turning off the TV. Somedays this is easier said than done, but dispite my 3 y/o’s persuasive push-back when the screen goes black, I’m holding firm. Independent play is strongly encouraged in our house (we value open ended toys—I love the Waldorf and Montessori toys sold by Bela Luna toys), so usually after a few minutes of fussing the kids find an imaginary world to get lost inside. As Fred Rodgers said, “Play is really the work of childhood.”

But it’s also import that I join them in their play sometimes. My plan for the next few months is to take breaks between each chore (ie. after cleaning up the kitchen in the morning, after doing my daily laundry, after doing my daily deep cleaning of a room, etc) to get on the floor to play with my kids or read some books for 5-10 minutes. It’s a sad truth, but for me its really easy to get sucked into the todo list for the day and “forget” to make time to play with my kids.

2. Trying out homeschooling. My 3 y/o just dropped her nap. As a pregnant mother of three kiddos ages three and under, I initially met this loss with lots of tears (on my end). But actually, having DD1 not nap has enhanced our days. Now, from 2:30-3(ish) we get to have one-on-one quality time; “special time” as she calls it. We have been using this time to try out homeschooling, as that’s something we’re discerning right now, and it has been a beautiful blessing that we both look forward to every day. I’m following old versions of Seaton’s Pre-K Early Literacy book and Religious Education book, so homeschooling takes very little prep work on my end (in other words, it’s not some fancy, Pinterest-inspired science project).

3. Increasing the amount of (high quality) reading we do. I’m ashamed to admit that readalouds were an unfortunate casualty of my first trimester struggles. When I fall into these dark pits of depression, the classic symptom of “loosing interest in activities once enjoyed” seems to hit hardest in the areas of reading and writing (hence the hiatus from blogging this fall). My two oldest, particularly DD1, love reading the board books we have but could really benefit from having some more stimulating picture books. So this spring I’ll be ordering more books from the library, using the awesome picture book lists I’ve discovered in “Twenty-Six Letters to Heaven” and “A Mother’s List of Books”.

4. Daily outdoor time. We live in Pennsylvania where winters are YUCKY. It’s easy to fall into the trap of staying inside all day, every day. That said, I’ve noticed we’re all happier and more relaxed when we get some outdoor time each day. This past fall I learned about Denmark’s Forests Kindergartens. I was so inspired by this way of raising children, and now I also feel like I have no excuse to not get us outside! I’m also hoping to start doing more family gardening this spring and summer…did you see the announcement today about the new book Joanna Gaines wrote with her kids, “We Are the Gardeners”? I hoping this will be an inspiring, “high quality” read for me and my kids that will get us ready for the warmer weather!

5. Setting limits and boundaries for the kids (in order to preserve my own sanity). While I am building in pockets of quality time with my kids through out the day, I am simultaneously working to set limits and boundaries for them. Since DD1 is no longer napping, but because I still need to nap everyday in order to keep my prenatal depression in check, as soon as the 2 littles are asleep DD1 gets 30 minutes of TV while I get a 30 minute nap on the couch in the room next door. This is of course followed by our homeschooling “special time”, but she knows that if she wakes me up during this time she will lose the privlage getting to stay up during nap time.

So these are the ways I am planning to be intentional with my kiddos these next few months! Am I missing anything, or is there something you do in your home to be more intentional with your family?

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