Saturday, May 26, 2012

Toddler Time

Everyone knows that toddlers lack the self-control of adults. Good thing they're little and so stinkin' cute, right?

 I encourage my toddlers to learn the basics of self-control by giving them boundaries and teaching them to stay there until they have permission to do something else.

When Eliana was 12 months old, I started blanket time. I would put her on a special blanket, turn on a music CD, and give her a few books or toys to play with. A timer would let her know it was time to be "all done!"

We did blanket time with each of our four biological children. Gabbey and Lyssie didn't come to us infants, but we still did blanket time with them once they were home a couple of months.

I have found, however, that in our current stage of life--with three toddlers---that it is more difficult to keep them focused on playing on their own blanket than it was with our older children. The toys or books on the blanket next to them look more inviting then the ones on their blanket and they have a harder time obeying.

So while I do still use blanket time occasionally, I have found two alternatives that work nicely, teaching self-control while keeping tiny hands busy for a few minutes. :)

The first alternative to blanket time is couch time. We have three toddlers and three couches--so this works perfectly for us. I put each little one on a couch, give them 4 or 5 books, and ask them to "play quietly and STAY on your couch". The only issue I've found with this alternative is that sometimes, after sitting quietly for a few minutes, my perfectly well-behaved at all times munchkins will find great joy in dropping their books on the floor, one at a time.

The second alternative to blanket time that works well with multiple children is playpen time. We have two playpens in our master bedroom (Lyssie and Gabbey are sleeping in them currently. YES, Gabbey is doing well in a bed alone for the first time. So proud of our little girl!)

If I am going to be nearby (in the shower or cleaning my room, etc) I will put TWO children in each playpen.

 They think this is great fun.

Seriously. I can say, "Time for playpen time!" and they come running. We pick out some special books, toys, or puzzles and they sit and play nicely for about 30 minutes.

If I am NOT going to be nearby, I only put ONE child in the playpen at a time. They just need more Momma supervision if they're sharing a small space. :)

Lyssie and Gabbey showing Momma their "special" toys. :)

Noah and Ethan enjoying their playpen time.

All four of my youngest children have mastered the art of climbing out of the playpen so the lessons in self-control and obedience are still as effective as blanket time is, but the distraction of siblings playing nearby is eliminated.

If you've never tried this with one of your toddlers and you want to give it a try, let me offer a little advice:

  1. BE FUN. Learning self-control is not a punishment. :) Toddlers will play off of your excitement, so animate your voice and be enthusiastic!
  2. BE CONSISTENT. Try to do blanket (or whatever boundary works well for you and your child) time at least several times a week. Toddlers learn best from repitition.
  3. BE REALISTIC. Some children (often girls!) will find sitting quietly and entertaining themselves enjoyable . Some children (often boys!) will NOT. :) Push them a little past their comfort level and then lavish them with praise for a job well done.
  4. BE FIRM. Fussing, whining, crying, or screaming toddlers are NOT allowed to get up from blanket time in our home. Don't reward their disobedience. Work with them gently to get them to play nicely and THEN scoop them up and praise them.
  5. BE UNDERSTANDING. Godliness is not built through blanket time. If this doesn't apeal to you or work for your family, no harm done. :) It's just one of many ways to train little ones for obedience.
Have questions about blanket time or other toddler training techniques? Ask them in the comments below. If  I don't have the answer, I have some great readers who can also offer their insight and encouragement. :)


  1. Great post! We've used blanket and playpen time with ours. I find that it works well keeping a toddler busy while homeschooling older children.

  2. This is a great approach that I also use, but without the boundary of a blanket, though I think that's a great idea and will try it with some of my daycare kids who need to learn more control than they are learning at home.

  3. When you are first teaching this to a child, my son is 1 year, do you stay with him and just keep putting him back on the blanket if he leaves it, until he learns that is what he is to do? Or do you punish for getting off once he knows that to get off is disobedience? What if he throws everything off the blanket and then just fusses? I guess at least he's still on the blanket, but can't get off until he calms down?


I welcome any and all comments as long as they are Christ-honoring. Please let me know what you think!