“You get two big windows of opportunity in your life to do stuff like build castles, step in puddles, watch Sesame Street, and just plain play: the first when you are a child, the second when you have one. Don’t get too busy or wrapped up in the grown-up stuff to miss it.” These words of wisdom are from Jana Murphy’s book, The Secret Lives of Toddlers. We’ve added six more ideas of fun things you can do to really connect with your precious little person and treasure the time you spend with your toddler.

1. Pause. Connect. Play

One on one, focussed attention is a rare thing these days. We are so used to checking our phones for updates, news, social feeds. Even small kids are smart enough to realise when they don’t have your undivided attention. By disconnecting from our technology for a while, we can be 100% in the moment. We realise it’s difficult to switch off, but even a Nano second spent looking at your phone that just beeped, will send the signal to them that there is something (or someone) more important contending for your attention. Instead of checking Facebook, why not log into life, connect with your own littlies and start playing?

2. Laugh a Little

When last did you laugh right out loud? Play horsey or climb under the make shift tent with your toddler. Put your silly hat on and just forget that you’re the rule enforcer for a little while. There are so many battles to fight each day and rules to obey, your little one will love the fact that mum or dad can also be silly every now and then. Use funny names or words to encourage them to start talking, while also making everyone laugh. You can invent your own words that only family members will understand – It also strengthens the family bond if you have a secret word for something that nobody else uses.

3. Run Around the House

There are few things toddlers love more than hugs and cuddles. They love physical attention and the classics are always a safe bet; hide & seek, gentle wrestling, a good old game of chase followed by a thorough tickle and of course, dancing to upbeat music. This is where mum or dad can also get a good work out by lifting, swinging and piggy backing your little cowgirl. It’s a double whammy, you burn some kilojoules, and your toddler gets rid of excess energy. If the weather is good, take it outside and have a picnic afterwards.

4. Hit the Floor

If the weather’s not looking great, just take to the floor. Build a high tower with blocks or play Lego. You can start doing basic jigsaw puzzles and share in your toddler’s delight as they start getting better at fitting the pieces together. Sure, floor play is great for fine motor development, but the main thing, as with all these activities, is that it’s time spent with you.

5. Go Bake a Cake

Why wait until it’s someone’s birthday to do some baking with your toddler? Sure, it will be messy and no, your cake won’t look like something Insta-worthy (unless you #nailedit), but time in the kitchen can truly be time to treasure with your little one. The delicious smells of vanilla or cinnamon, the powder-like texture of flour and the sticky sweetness of caramel will be the ingredients of a sensory experience that will later bring back wonderful memories of happy times with you.

6. Reap the Rewards of Special Rituals

Small children love predictability. It makes them feel safe and content when they know what to expect next. So, use your existing bath or bed-time routines to create special rituals for them to look forward to. It might feel a little boring to you, but toddlers can listen to the same story every night without growing tired of it. The more animated your voice, the better. This is not just precious bonding time, but also how you create book lovers, good readers and children eager to learn later at school!

Many child care experts suggest you only have to spend around 10 minutes of quality, one on one time with your child, to fill his or her ‘love cup’ and prevent a variety of behavioural problems. Most of them also agree that children are mostly happy and content when they know that they’ve got your attention. That sounds like a worthwhile investment in peace and quiet (and your sanity!) So, take some time, treasure your toddler and remember, this precious time won’t last forever.

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