When Toddlers Ruin Your Well-Planned Activities

Have you ever thoughtfully planned out an activity, like a craft or made-up game, only to have your child ruin all the fun for you–and maybe even the end result? This was me not long ago.

No matter how hard I tried to compensate for my toddlers’ impulsive, messy, chaotic nature, I usually ended up feeling like the whole thing failed once we were through.

Over the years, I’ve learned that the only thing wrong with my ideas, is my expectations. I love coming up with creative learning activities for my two curious tots and my hope every time was that they would follow instructions this time and everything would go smooth.

What a mistake!

The problem is that children don’t see the world the way we do. And as toddlers they haven’t yet grasped that there is a beginning, middle and end to activities, crafts and games. And they definitely don’t have the attention span to follow through with it. Not patiently. Not neatly.

So, I now have a lot more fun, patience and satisfaction in the end when I remind myself at the start not to have high expectations at this stage. Instead, we focus on whatever the kids are finding most interesting and I allow them to take their time and be as creative as they want in that direction.

We don’t always end up with a colored picture, a finished, recognizable snowman made of cotton or anything that resembles the intended craft. And that’s just got to be okay for now.

I’ve learned that there are deeper, more important lessons they learn through these activities. They learn colors, shapes, the concept of glue, how to cut, how to work together and how to think for themselves and be creative in their own way.

The whole-child-theory, as expressed on PBS website, has this to stay about creativity and self-expression for young children:

“What’s important in any creative act is the process of self-expression. Creative experiences can help children express and cope with their feelings.”

So I’ve adjusted my expectations, and our crafts or projects, according to what they find interesting at the time. Sometimes that’s just a bunch of tiny pieces of paper on the floor. Sometimes that means a bunch of dots or circles, even though we started with a cute holiday card craft.

If you’re struggling with getting your young kids to follow instructions when it comes to fun activities or crafts, try to change your expectations–or get rid of those expectations entirely! When you do this, you give them that freedom they need to express their own creativity and you’ll enjoy the process 100 times more too!

Our homemade Christmas cards, letting the kids place the stickers anywhere they wanted. Mama had a little OCD anxiety, but we went with it!

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