10 Ways to Enjoy Your Young Children Each Day
Nov 06, 2015 08:17AM ● Published by Audrey Sellers
By Leah Spina
Parenting babies and toddlers keeps you crazy busy each day. But how can we ENJOY our children in the diaper chaos? Here are 10 ways you can slow down in your everyday routine to enjoy your little one.
1. Morning song. Each morning when I rip open my children’s curtains to let in the sun, I try to always sing a cheery song to start the day. The mother is the heart of the home and what better way to set the tone than a merry heart and tune. Sometimes I need it more than them after a sleepless newborn night!
2. Changing diapers. I was changing my baby’s diaper a few months ago, like a mad woman, to get one more thing done. But suddenly I noticed that she was in rapt attention, studying my face and movements. I felt so bad. How many diaper changes had I not given her any eye contact or interaction? From then on, I tried to make diaper changing a special moment with my baby. I make myself slow down and look at her with a smile. Sometimes we go over animal sounds or new words. Sometimes we just play silly games. Now diaper changing is one of my favorite times, instead of just another task to knock out.
3. Read a picture book out loud. I try to read at least one picture book a day to my toddler and baby. They get affection by snuggling in my lap or by my side on the couch, and I try to revel in their smell, baby skin and this fun reading moment.
4. Car rides. When I back out of the driveway, I look back in my rear view mirror at my two little darlings, strapped in their car seats, and we talk about the weather! (Otherwise I’m thinking of all my to-do’s! Ha!) I note, “Oh, look guys, it’s raining! That’s my favorite weather!” or “Look at how sunny it is! What a happy day!” Now, even if I forget, my toddler will chime from the back, “Mama, look what a beautiful day God gave us!” Car trips can be a great time to enjoy children, instead of a here-to-there duty.
5. Go outside. Sometimes when caring for young children all day, you can feel isolated in your own house. Nature offers renewal and calms even the fussiest baby. Each day, even in the heat, my toddler and baby follow me outside to a patch of shade in our front yard for a few minutes. I throw down our “special” blue blanket to sit on. We look for bugs, watch cars drive by, pick out our favorite house on the street and tell stories.
6. Car seat kiss. Strapping children in car seats can become routine and tiresome, so I try to make it a special moment. After I snap the last snap, I kiss my child’s little cheek before moving to the next child. It helps me pause and appreciate my two little angels in the middle of a long day.
7. Relax after meals. My toddler knows the word “relax” like the back of his hand. It’s a word I try to use after mealtimes to cultivate a loving, welcoming home life. After we finish a meal – and baby/toddler mealtimes can be chaotic – I smile, “Hey guys, I have a GREAT idea! Let’s go RELAX in the living room!” We all melt like slugs into cushions on our leather couch. The children grab their favorite blankets. Sometimes they play with toys, sometimes they ask for a book, but most of the time we just silently relax individually.
8. Wake up slow. I try to slow down and enjoy the morning routine, instead of rushing through it. First I pull the smiling wordless 17-month-old baby out of her crib. I don’t dress her or fix her wild night hairs. I just kiss her and hug her. She staggers down the hallway half asleep to burst open the door to my toddler’s Batman room. We take our time getting him dressed then file back down the hallway to the nursery to choose an outfit for the live Cabbage Patch doll baby. My toddler loves to put away her dirty diaper and I try to kiss their little foreheads at least three times before breakfast.
9. Happy mealtimes. Mealtimes – no matter how simple the menu – can be an excellent time to enjoy your children three times a day! We always start with a prayer and then I try to make an effort to discuss one happy topic, whether it is a story about my toddler obeying or the best part of our day. If you are in the silent baby stage, just try to STOP and look at their dirty face and big eyes and remember how blessed you are to share meals with a tiny person!
10. Taking out or picking up the mail. When we have a bill to put in the mailbox, I choose a child to take it out. If it’s Esther (17-months) turn, I show it to her and she nods incessantly back, thrilled to have a job. I hand her the envelope and remind myself the moment is more important than the welfare of the envelope. She toddles out the front door so excited she often trips at least once, crushing and dirtying the envelope. I pull her up to the mailbox, and let her try an average of five times to figure out how to turn the letter so it fits. Her favorite part? Banging the mailbox door shut. When she helps me retrieve our daily mail, I hand her a piece of junk mail to “take to Dada!” She proudly trots back in the house and smashes it on his desk yelling, “DAH! DAAAAAH! DA!” the entire route. Yes, it would take half the time if did the mail myself. But I would lose the magical mail moments we share each day.
Takeaway: I believe small moments in parenting young children help busy moms slow down and smell the roses along the way. Otherwise these little years can fly by in physical caretaking and we will think where did the time go? Let’s not just survive these years, let’s ENJOY them! What ways have you found to slow down and to enjoy your children?
Photo via Flickr.
Leah Spina is a former journalist of a national newsweekly turned stay-at-home mom to three children, age five and under. She lives in the Dallas area with her husband, David, and is a speaker to mom groups and conferences. Her new book Stop and Smell Your Children: Laugh and Enjoy the Little Years helps parents to enjoy, not just endure, the little years by changing their parenting perspective. Visit leahspina.com to sign-up for Leah’s free weekly parenting blog and video. You can also follow her on Instagram (leahthespina) and Facebook. When Leah is not burning macaroni and cheese, she enjoys singing Italian opera, riding horses and drinking inordinate amounts of Starbucks coffee.