Things My Three Year Old Loves

13592205_10153719898923059_5651370052460487932_nPlaying in the park.  Nothing pleases him more than heading to a local park and finding a lot of other children there.  Like many novel situations, he stands and watches for several minutes before determining whether or not something is safe.  Once he’s sure, he dives headlong.  He treats making friends the same way.  He watches the other children for a while, walking right up to a group and listening in.  Once he’s gathered intel, he decides whether to move on to a different group of children, find a solo playmate, or engage in whatever activity the first group decides upon.

Back and neck massage to help him nap. Since giving up milk at nap time, for months we’d pretty much given up nap time because even attempts at “quiet time” failed.  One day I was too tired and desperate for my own quiet time, so I invited him on the bed for a back rub.  He loved it so much, he fell asleep.  Now every day I’ve been offering the same during quiet time.  He doesn’t always fall sleep, but I can get a quiet break for up to an hour for fifteen minutes of back, neck, and leg massage. So worth it.

13512014_10153693760728059_5127652802662483956_nPainting with vibrant colors.  We explored tempera paints for the first time together and used it as a chance to talk about color theory. He adored it and wants to do it again!  (We’re starting the bidding for his debut piece, “Roads, Space Rockets, and Flowers” at $30,ooo.)

Watercolor spraying with an old sheet hung up outside.  Now that it’s summer again, we can drag out the spray bottles, watercolors, and old white sheet for creative play.  Leave it out in the rain to wash it away and start again, or put it away and add more layers.

Access to percussion instruments.  Bang bang rattle clang ding and dong.  Nothing like helping a child find his voice than providing him with copious amounts of percussion instruments.

Playing with his babydolls.  Sometimes he cuddles his babydolls (Callie and Alejandro), sometimes he puts them to bed, and sometimes he walks them around the house in their tandem stroller.  He asks often for assistance in clearing a path for the stroller and pushing it over obstacles.  He wants to be a good daddy to his “kids.”

13510861_10153700899978059_766190641590540333_nAnything to do with cars and other vehicles.  Still obsessed, but after putting all of his non-stuffed toys into the same place in the living room (instead of in places around the house), he’s been far better at keeping track of his toys, and in putting them away in their bins.

Making boffers.  Ok, he likes watching me make boffers for his sister’s 16th birthday party, and picking up the unfinished ones to play with.  We have several started as PVC pipe and pool noodle foam, now to move on to applying the many colors of duct tape we bought.  We’re making swords, staeves, daggers, and a couple of short swords for the three year olds.

Cuddles, lullabies, and story time.  Who doesn’t like these?  But as a group, they’re ubiquitous to the pleasures of being young and tiny.  Three year olds are still in many ways babies, though they won’t be for much longer.  Bask in all the toddler kisses and snuggles you can, because they make life sweeter by the minute.  One of the latest finds at the library was quite adorable and charming.  Dear Tabby by Carolyn Crimi features an alley cat who works as an advice correspondent to the local animals of Critterville. They send in letters full of their woes (and a small treat as payment), and she writes back with her sage wisdom. Definitely worth checking out.

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Toddlers: What to Show Them When They Watch TV

Cal and the SealA couple of years ago, my cousin asked me when her first child turned two, what shows were good for little kids to watch.  She was most concerned (beyond the usual issues of violence, etc.) about showing him single shot or long shot videos where the scenes don’t jump back and forth within a matter of seconds.  She wanted something he could look at, ponder, and comprehend.  At the time, I was raising a pre-teen, and couldn’t think of what to say that was very useful.

Now that I have another little one in the home — and because of my technophile household I can’t keep him from seeing screens in the house for two years — I have a better answer for other parents wanting to slowly introduce their young ones to television or film.

Real-Time Kitten Cams (and other animals)

Kittens and other small animals are quite attractive to toddlers, and they’ll focus on them for some time.  Seeing a video of baby animals in real time, without editing, avoids all media distractions normally found in other videos.  We recently watched a chick being hatched (with help from its human parent) that would not have been able to hatch on its own.  I sat riveted for far longer than the baby, truth be told.  Right now, as I type, we have a kitten cam up from a litter of half dozen kittens who are being fostered through MEOW rescue, where we adopted three of our own cats.  See the Kittens of the Shire now while you can!

Zoo and Farm Animal Videos

Though you might have to scout around for ones that are done well with a steady camera gaze, videos from zoos, farms, and people with adorable animals can provide an enjoyable screen experience for your child without a lot of the intensity of motion, music, and mania from children’s shows and cartoons.  Sit Down With Cubs from Woodland Park Zoo shows a lioness and her cubs in their den.  It’s slow, relaxed, and runs at a natural pace.  The video is 28 minutes long, so you can watch a few minutes, and stop, then come back to it later if need be.

Musicals and Old Films

The slower frames and longer shots of old films and musicals provides a good introduction to both taking in information from a screen, and also enjoying classic films.  One my own son is enjoying these days is the title song from Singing in the Rain.

Period Dramas and Older Shows

While most families adhering to the two year suggestion for toddlers might not want to watch anything like Downtown Abbey or Star Trek: Next Generation with their youngest, we find they’re generally good at taking their time with each framed shot, have several scenes with intellectual discourse, and do not possess many adult themed taboos for little children — violence being my biggest concern.  (We also occasionally watch “safe” anime shows such as Silver Spoon on Crunchyroll.)  These shows are a good introduction to television without overstimulating the child, and allow the older members of the family to get in some much-needed  entertainment outside of peek-a-boo and nursery rhymes.