Thursday, October 22, 2015

Toddler Table Time: How to Get Started

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I've posted before about some of our favorite Table Time activities, but today I'm talking about how to get going with Table Time. Table Time is a specific time of day you sit down with your toddler and help them learn to focus on a series of activities at the table. This is a fantastic way to teach your child how to concentrate and explore without loosing interest. It's also a great way for you to give your toddler some always-needed undivided attention (especially if you have other little babies at home - we do Table Time during my newborn's morning nap). And lastly, this is a perfect intro to homeschooling if that's something your foresee on the horizon in your home or just want to test out. 

{ start short }
Keep Table Time short at first. Start with ten minutes, and add on time as your toddler shows ability to stay at the table. Using a timer to signify the end of Table Time is a good idea if your toddler is a whiner; it helps him to understand that Table Time is over when the timer says so, not when the toddler says so. As a guide, my 13 month old started with ten minutes a few times a week. He's now 27 months old and does 45 minutes twice a week.

{ start fun }
At the beginning, your only goal is to get them to stay at the table for the duration of time you've decided on. If you need to swap in a new activity every ten minutes to keep his attention, do it! If he needs you to show him how to do all the different activities, do it! Your goal is to have fun and keep him engaged at the table.

{ keep it special }
Have a set of activities and supplies you only use for this time. Set them aside in a space that your toddler can't get in to. Most of our Table Time activities are things that our toddler news my help for anyway (paints, markers, stickers, play-doh, harder puzzles, etc), so it makes extra sense for us to store these up out of his reach.

{ time it right }
Table Time probably wouldn't work well right before lunch or nap time, or right before bedtime. You want your toddler to be fed, well-rested, and not over-stimulated. We do Table Time in the mornings after my toddler is done with independent play time in his room, which comes right after breakfast. So he's fed, well-rested, and ready for some face time with mom. My newborn is napping during this time so I'm (usually) able to give my toddler my uninterrupted attention during this time.

{ add in teaching }
Once your toddler is getting the hang of staying at the table, decide on some things you want to teach your toddler and start working those in. For example, start with colors. Pick a color, and point out that color in each of the activities your doing. The blue crayon, the blue stickers, the blue Play-Doh, etc. The next time, pick another color. Other ideas: letters, numbers/counting, sounds, textures, same/different, sizes.

{ vary who picks the activity }
This helps your toddler get used to not always being able to do the exact thing he wants to do. Start slow by introducing the idea that "mommy picks the first activity and then you can pick the rest". I made up a laminated sheet with pictures of all the activity options so my toddler can just point and pick (instead of me getting all the bins down and him digging through each bin because oh-my-lanta we would be sitting there doing that all morning!). This is the current sheet I'm using:

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