Picture this with me: it’s 10:00 a.m.
Your children (and consequently, you) have been awake since six. You’ve already had breakfast, then they played quietly (or at least cooperatively) with trains and other various objects which now litter the floor. You just barely finish stacking the last breakfast dish when mayhem erupts.
The foul scent of a soiled diaper wafts across the room. The creator of said scent is throwing cars in the corner. The older two children are fighting over a box—a box of all things! The baby is crying on his playmat, probably ready to nurse and nap.
Sound familiar? Me too. This chaotic image is a typical scene in my home at one point in the day or another. Life with toddlers and preschoolers is pandemonium at times because: tiny people who cannot accurately pinpoint or verbalize their needs. But the day doesn’t have to be one train wreck after another.
Life with toddlers and preschoolers is pandemonium at times …but the day doesn’t have to be one train wreck after another.
I’ve found that a little proactive planning and staging the next activity can drastically improve the flow of the day.
What do I mean by “staging?”
Staging can be defined as “
Think of staging as the “scaffolding” of your day, a support that directs the kids from one thing to another. Or if you prefer the retail analogy, think of it as “selling” or suggesting your planned activity to the children.
Think of staging as the “scaffolding” of your day, a support that directs the kids from one thing to another.
The idea behind staging the next activity is really rooted in anticipating what the children will need or what you will need in the upcoming block of time. Make a simple plan. Then take a couple minutes to present that step in a way that will appeal to the tiny people.
What—exactly—do I mean by staging? Here are some examples of what it might look like:
- If the kids have been playing creatively for a while, listen for the game to escalate in tone. When you sense that the play time is starting to self-destruct, lay out a quiet activity for them to seamlessly hop to. Place puzzles on separate blankets in the living room. Put paper and paints on the table. Get out a special book you haven’t read in awhile and be prepared to stop what you’re doing and transition them to the couch for a snuggle and a story.
- If the kids haven’t eaten in a couple hours, take a minute to prepare a snack before they ask for one. Make it interesting or include an exciting nibble. Either bring it to them or set out a “picnic” on the living room floor.
- If you need ten minutes—just ten minutes, please!— to slap some makeup on or change into “real” clothes, announce that it’s movie or device time.
- If the kids have already been playing quietly or reading nicely, but they’re ready for something more interactive, lay out a family game on the living room floor. Set out props for dress-up to catch their attention. Toss over a couple boxes from the Costco shop and brainstorm all the wonderful things you could create from them. Suggest a game for them to play outside or get everything together to take a little surprise hike.
Generally I try to direct my kids to switch off between a “wild” game (hello, pillow
fort fight) and a quiet activity that allows their bodies to rest but engages their brains (puzzles, coloring, workbooks). However I feel the need to add that I only stage on days the kids are having difficulty finding their own harmonious past times. If they come up with creative free play on their own, I never interfere. 😉
I believe that children feel more comfortable with some structure to their day. Knowing that Mommy has thought out what is down the road for them has a grounding effect on many kids. When they see something that has more appeal than their current activity, the dreaded “I’m bored” tantrum is beautifully bypassed.
It might take a few minutes to think through and prepare what should happen next in the day, but the payoff is great. Staging can truly transform your day.
What about you? Do you ever set out activities to engage the children? How does “staging” support the flow of your schedule? Comment below and tell us about it!