Cha-Cha-Cha-Cha- Changes…

Change is on my mind today…the season’s changing (and the weather actually seems to be changing, too), your children are changing, the world is changing…and don’t forget that clocks are changing soon, too!

I had a FANTASTIC call last night, catching up with a family who’s been dealing with BIG changes lately…moving, not just houses, but to an entirely new country…new home, new language, new culture, new ways of living…it’s been quite an upheaval. (And though they do admit it’s been a lot, they also emphasized that after feeling so stuck for so long, it felt good to engage in action…I feel that and am envious of it…and in anticipation of my own action soon (RIE in the Wild)).

You know who seems to be doing the best with all of the craziness? Their 3 year old. You know how I know? His Mom reported that for 4 days, she didn’t even have to unpack his toys…but after that, she recognizes that he has the same energy and expectations as he did when they were living here in LA. She felt the pressure to be sure there were activities at the ready, otherwise, he’ll make his own activity…and she won’t like it! He’s also acclimated to the new house (a challenging staircase, a big bed, instead of his crib) and some of the new people in his life, chatting away with abandon and surprising and awesome sophistication…and here’s how you know he’s really back to life as normal…he’s started to push long-established boundaries again.

One thing they’d ‘put to bed’ several months ago was a reluctance to eat dinner (or even a solid ‘go’ at eating dinner)…followed by later and later requests for food…especially, what do you know?…right before bedtime! A few months ago, we talked about strategies including inviting him into meal preparation, or when that isn’t feasible, inviting him into the meal planning before dinner…so that he has some ownership/active participation in what is on the menu and on his plate for dinner. Also offering beverages, instead of food, after dinner…brushing teeth a little while after dinner…and of course, letting him know at dinner that the ‘kitchen is closed’ after dinner…and then sticking to it.

And a few months ago, these strategies worked. They set the boundary, included him in the conversations about the boundary, and then stuck to the boundary. The midnight snack requests ceased…until right after this move! One thing I didn’t mention, that came to me today, is that he may be testing old boundaries in this new space to see if they still stick. He may also be using limit testing to make sure his parents are still engaged and connected…that his parents are still his parents in this house or in the last one. We also discussed the possibility that he may simply be snacking because that’s kind of the family’s MO when it comes to meals. And I wondered if he might be pushing this particular boundary because his parents have less mental resources to devote to boundary setting and limit holding right now…when you are still figuring out where the grocery store is, how to convert your currency, what days the garbage gets picked up, how to set up your wifi, what you are going to do for employment…etc. etc. etc….you have less brain space for boundaries. Toddlers feel this!

But then, like in my conversation last week, we realized that this child might, too, be going through a growth spurt! Never forget to consider ALL of the domains when it comes to behaviors…mental, emotional, social AND physical!

Change was already on my mind though, even before getting to live vicariously through this family’s epic and still evolving journey of change. It’s October, which for LA means, we are starting to get more consistently chilly nights and (sometimes) relatively cooler days. The light is shifting and changing. It really feels like Autumn is upon us. It’s my favorite time of year.

One of my favorite Fall activities for toddlers is to snag some of those smallish gourds that you can find at just about any grocery store these days and dry them out.

If you’re in a hurry, you can dry them in the oven on a low, low setting (170⸰)…well, I mean it does take 12-24 hours this way, but then you’re done. But you can also simply leave them in a well ventilated space and allow them to dry naturally. Back in my relative youth, it sometimes actually got chilly in October/November and the center I worked at had heated floors…oooh so nice for the baby classes….and the gentle heat from the floors would dry them out. What happens is the gourds dry and the seeds inside do, too, and they turn into homemade rattles. (Keep an eye on them, though: sometimes they dry nicely, but sometimes they get moldy!) With your older toddlers, you can spend some time playing with them as rattles and when you’re done, you can take them outside and break* them open for your children to explore the insides. From there, you could experiment with making homemade rattles in bottles, jars, paper towel rolls, etc. Boom: activity! :)

*Wear goggles/safety glasses and be careful!!

I also like going on leaf walks, collecting a variety of leaves and other bits found in nature to bring home and examine, and incorporate into outdoor play.

In talking with families last week, I got some Halloween-themed activities for toddlers:

  • Painting pumpkins
  • Dry ice in warm water (up high until most of the ice has evaporated)
  • Making potions (you can either make edible ones out of yogurt, chopped berries, granola, etc. or inedible ones like this or this)
  • Treat hunt…like an easter egg hunt, but for (healthyish) treats or small toys…or even just hunting for the ‘eggs’ alone, with nothing inside! Amazon has Halloween themed “easter eggs”

In following one parent on Facebook, I also saw that she made a green soup (spinach and kale…I usually go for broccoli or zucchini), and I thought you could also make orange soups from butternut squash or pumpkin…so much of Halloween is about sugar, but it doesn’t have to be.