In all situations ask: what would a toddler do?

Sidewalk Chalk

A little while back, I was asked to advise adults and parents on how to increase enjoyment when playing with sidewalk chalk. Excited with the new project, I began intensive research and deep analysis. Eventually my research led me to do a focus group with highly-skilled toddlers who have been leaders in the sidewalk chalk industry for quite some time. When I shared my findings with my clients they said that the findings were “cutting edge” and “deeply relevant” and really pushed me to publish the findings. So for the first time ever, I’m sharing them with the wider public and hope you enjoy.

  • Take Control – One of the first things I noticed about the toddlers’ game plan was to immediately take control of the pavement. Adults are seen as “unprofessional” and “incompetent” when dealing with sidewalk chalk, so the toddler needs to take control. The rules, game, format and time frame are not to be decided by any adult and only by a toddler.
  • Fly By Game Plan – In order to achieve maximum enjoyment, toddlers create games on the fly. Games and rules are made up on the spot and can last for as long as deemed necessary. Adults find this “fly by” approach a little frustrating and very confusing. Therefore, my advice for the adults and parents is to leave it to the professionals. Toddlers enjoy the “fly by” approach because they’ve perfected the science of letting go and being in the moment. That is priceless advice for adults in general and when playing sidewalk chalk in particular.
  • Pain is Gain – I have never found a game played by toddlers that involved sitting and lying down. All games of toddlers involve running, jumping, dancing, somersaults, flying, bouncing and even spinning. Even if they get a little tired and out of breath they keep on going and going. Adults are also confused by this massive amount of activity. Adults are used to sitting and staring and find somersaults challenging and bouncing difficult. After pondering the differences I concluded that toddlers see pain (being tired and out of breath) as part of the game, as having fun and as increasing strength and endurance while adults see pain as pain. Due to this short-sightedness, I advise adults to see pain as gain and part of the game.

These examples are only part of the findings from our focus group and I hope to continue to share more of our research. In the meantime, I invite you to share some of your findings and research from highly skilled toddlers that you work with: How they play with sidewalk chalk, some of their games and anything else you think might contribute to our cause.

Remember, our research has shown that adults are deeply in need of the secrets behind toddlers’ success and achievements; specifically in the area of happiness and fulfillment. With that in mind, we’d love to hear about your findings and anything else you’d like to share!

Life lesson of a toddler #32: Let go, focus on the present moment and play with sidewalk chalk.

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I’m sure you’ve noticed that adults don’t like to work so much. People thank God for Fridays and dread Mondays. When the weekend rolls around everyone runs to freedom with the hope of never having to step back into the office again. Lottery tickets are bought with the dream of achieving this very purpose. Even for a one-in-a-billion chance of winning, the few dollars are worth it if it means never going back to work.

While this sounds normal for the adult world, it is entirely foreign in the toddler world.

Nothing makes toddlers happier than working. Clean up time is a song, pre-school is a pleasure and helping out in any way is an absolute dream come true.

When adults have to go grocery shopping or make a trip to the bank, it is a necessary errand. When toddlers hear of such an outing they ask, “can I come?”

Recently Maayan has accompanied me on various errands – and she is so happy to do it. When I ask her to come grocery shopping she lights up. When I say, “let’s go to the bank” she jumps with excitement into the car. Anytime I do anything, she is filled with joy and gratitude to come with me.

Now imagine that I’d ask an adult to come grocery shopping with me. Imagine I’d ask an adult, “hey, do you want to come to the bank with me?” They’d think I’m crazy and start running in the opposite direction. Very, very fast.

But not toddlers. It’s pure joy and totally fun. No task is a burden and no errand annoying. Everything is enjoyed & appreciated. Fridays are as fun as Mondays and weekends are as great as everyday of the week.

Toddlers seem to live the life that adults really want to. They enjoy their work and love their activities.

The secret is to live like a toddler: with open eyes of gratitude and wonder for every activity that you can do.

Life lesson of a toddler #31: Be grateful for your work and appreciate the wonder in being active and productive.

Adults have schedules, deadlines, appointments & meetings. Adults have watches on their wrists, on their walls, on their phones, in their cars and in their heads. Adults seem to have less and less time as they keep watch more and more. While adults are busy and rushed, toddlers have all the time in the world.

Toddlers might have watches but they don’t look at them. Toddlers might have clocks in their kitchens and bedrooms, but they don’t notice them. Parents and siblings might even try to have toddlers notice the time. And they can try all they want, but toddlers won’t notice, because they have all the time in the world.

Like most parents and adults, we have schedules, meetings and clocks. Like all toddlers, Maayan couldn’t care less.

Sometimes in the mornings if we’re running a little late for Maayan’s preschool, we try to get Maayan to get ready quicker. We say things like, “Come on Maayan, you don’t want to be late.” Or “If we leave in a few minutes you’ll have more time at preschool.” Maayan listens, but she is in no rush. She takes her time, does what she needs to do in a calm and collected way. Maayan, like royalty, is totally together with what she needs to do to be her best self everyday.

In any situation if we’re running a little late, Maayan is never phased to hurry up. Time seems to be a reality only to adults. Toddlers seem to be entirely unaware of time, and that seems to work in their favor.

While adults have quotes to help them stop and smell the flowers, toddlers are smelling them all the time. Oblivious to time, toddlers are calm, happy and enjoy their lives.

Because Maayan can’t be rushed, in the moments where I would be – I can’t be. I can’t rush because Maayan can’t be rushed. In those moments, I stop realizing the time and I’m calmed. I relax because Maayan is relaxed and I no longer have to stop to smell the flowers – because I’ve stopped.

The truth is that we have a lot more time than we realize. Maybe we should stop paying so much attention to the time and everything that reminds us of it. Maybe we should live more like toddlers and have all the time in the world.

Life lesson of a toddler #30: There is no need to rush, you have all the time in the world.

Snuggle Time

Recently, Maayan and I have been doing a lot of quality time snuggling & cuddling. With happy and loving eyes says to me, “Let’s snuggle.” How can a father say no?

Prior to going to sleep, in the afternoon or even when just waking up are all fantastic opportunities for snuggling. I told Maayan that she’s getting really good at snuggling. She said, “yeah“.

Snuggling is a very important activity for toddlers. It consists of hanging out, cuddling up, relaxing and enjoying your family.

Snuggling can be done at anytime of the day. Many people worry that they don’t have enough time in the day or that they should wait until they’re on vacation. That myth can be laid to rest my friends, because toddlers have proven time and again that snuggling and cuddling can be done at anytime of the day or week. All it takes is a few minutes.

Another misconception about snuggling is that you have to be a professional. I’ve often heard from adults who say that they don’t invest in snuggling because they’re not good at it or that it should be left for the professionals. Someone even said that snuggling is only for toddlers and cannot be done by adults. Once again, that is only a myth and is not based on any real evidence. In fact, all of the toddler’s research show that you don’t have to be a professional to snuggle. Anyone can do it. No matter what your level or age, you can snuggle and you will reap major benefits.

The proven method for most effectiveness is to just lie down next to your toddler or someone you love. Turn off all cell phones, computers and TV’s. Smile, relax and enjoy.

Life lesson of a toddler # 29: Cuddle up & Snuggle with someone you love today.

All by myself

I’ve noticed lately (or maybe for a while!) how often Maayan says that she wants to do things by herself.

Opening the door, pressing the elevator button, getting in the car, opening the milk, the orange juice, the mail, clicking the “call” button on Skype, taking in the groceries, sweeping the floor, doing the dishes, talking on the phone, writing a note, throwing a ball, doing yoga, turning the key, pouring the water, getting the cup and shovelling the snow.

I can’t speak for other parents, but personally I feel how tremendous this is. A 4-year-old wants to do things by herself, as difficult as it may be.

Many things are not easy for a toddler to do. Pouring water or milk is a little heavy, the car is big, the door is big, the sink is high, the keyhole is small, the snow is heavy and the broom is too big. Despite all the challenge and difficulty in a 4-year-old doing these things, Maayan has a drive to just do it.

Independence is a tough thing for a parent to give, but a crucial and essential thing for a toddler to receive. They must do things by themselves. They must grow, they must learn, they must become the “I” word: Independent.

Adults seem to have it backwards though. Adults see success as when everyone is doing things for them. Having an assistant to make them coffee, a personal driver to drive them places, hired help for the kitchen and laundry.

Why do adults want others to do things for them while toddlers want to do things all by themselves?

Adults would benefit a lot from getting out of the “adult” mindset and stepping into a fresh and clean toddler mindset. Not to rely or depend on others to get things done, but to do it yourself. Not to ask your assistant to make you a cup of coffee, but to get up and make it yourself. Not to wait for the world to serve you. Instead, you serve the world.

As soon as adults start seeing success in serving others and stop seeing it as others serve them, we’ll be living life on a whole new level.  We’ll stop being people who wait and complain, who whine and don’t shine. We’ll start to be doers, movers, thinkers, innovators and creators. Yes, we’ll be like toddlers.

Life lesson of a toddler #28: Don’t wait for things to happen to you. Do it all by yourself.

Of Castles & Princesses

Maayan went to see the Canada Games a few weeks ago. She was treated to see the figure skating. The figure eights, the jumps, the spins, the grace – the outfit. Maayan took one look at these skaters and said, “They look like a princess”.

Everything seems to be within the context of royalty, majesty, princes and princesses. Even today we went to the library which is adjacent to a very big building. Maayan took one look at that building and said, “It looks like a castle”.

There is this innate vision within toddlers to see something magical within the practical. An inherent sense of amazing within everything they see. A building is a castle, a figure skater is a princess. Life is amazing & filled with wonder. For a toddler, the natural state is a miraculous one. Civilians are all royalty and every building a castle.

We don’t know for sure, but at some point adults begin to move away from the sense of the magical. Getting degrees and jobs, paying bills and mortgages, feeling pain and frustration in the world. Adults see buildings as buildings and skaters as skaters – if adults even look. Adults are always busy, always doing, not always looking up to see a bigger picture.

Toddlers don’t live in a different world than adults do, they just see it differently. They interpret what they see to be magical, wonderful and inspiring. Adults also interpret, but without focus and work, it’s often less than magical or miraculous.

Adults have a lot to learn from toddlers. One of the most important is to remember that we’re always interpreting our lives and what we see. It is not the situation that is different but in how we define and interpret the situation. Adults need to be aware of the fact that we’re always defining our reality, and that it’s not always in their favor. Adults would look at a building and say, “So? So it’s a building. It has a function, end of story”. Why not look for the amazing and the miraculous? To appreciate the architecture, the form, the beauty – the castle that only a toddler sees.

The truth is that all of life, every single detail is absolutely a gift and a miracle. A leaf, a breath, a hug, a smile, ice skates and buildings. They’re here for us to enjoy. We’ll be able to when we live like a toddler.

Life lesson of a toddler #27: See everything as magical, royal and beautiful. Buildings are castles and skaters are princesses.

It’s not easy to get up in the morning. Hey, we’re just waking up, feeling heavy, a little dizzy, wanting another five minute of blissful sleep, where’s the coffee already!

This is all a daily occurrence for people – unless you’re a toddler.

There are a number of very inspiring ways how toddlers wake up. First of all (as long as they go to bed on time and sleep through the night) they wake up happy. Every morning, my wonderful daughters are just happy. Our 18 month old Yarden gives an initial cry, but that’s just to get out of the crib. Once out, it’s go time. And they’re all smiles.

This morning Yarden woke up earlier than usual, about an hour before Maayan around 6am. As soon as I picked Yarden up she smiled, looked at her sister and said, “Maya!”. That’s right, we’re happy to be up and we’re sharing the joy.

Maayan has also developed a little routine. Since the fall (when it’s still dark out at 7am in Halifax), she waits for the sky to turn colors. She wakes up by herself, turns on the lights in her room, puts her head back on the pillow and watches the colors change. “Look, it’s changing colors”, she says. As soon as it’s bright enough, she gets up and says, “It’s day time now”.

Happy. Relaxed. Enjoying the beautiful sky. Soaking it in. Saying hi to anyone in the room. This is how a toddler begins their day.

Adults have a thing or two to learn from toddlers. Too many adults wake up like the world is on fire. Rush out of bed, throw down the caffeine, worry about work.

I think too many adults wake up like chickens with their heads cut off, while toddlers seem to be gracious little Queens of an empire.

While it’s true that thank God many adults wake up early, exercise, take time to themselves before they give it to others, we’re waiting for it to go viral. It is so crucial to begin one’s day happy and relaxed, giving some serious quality time to yourself.

Imagine how different everyone’s day would be if they began it by waking up a little earlier (which also means going to sleep earlier), going for a walk outside, focusing on the amazing blessings of our lives, thinking about our goals, our dreams and how we can make it happen today.

Instead of waking up in a craze and daze, let’s wake up early with joy & gratitude. A colorful sky can do wonders to a person who loses themselves in the grandeur and the beauty. Soaking the blessings in. With that, we’ll be living a totally inspired and amazing life because we’ll be living like a toddler.

Life lesson of a toddler #26: Go to bed early & wake up early. Wake up with joy & gratitude. Go outside and appreciate the brilliant & colorful sky in the morning.