In all situations ask: what would a toddler do?

Posts tagged ‘adults’

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.

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.

Before there was me

Today Maayan said, “After Hashem (God, meaning “the Name”, as traditionally said in Judaism) fixed me, I had feet and hands. Then Hashem fixed my sister.”


Although I don’t have the clearest recollection of what my life was like before I was born, Maayan seems to have a pretty good grasp on things. My little 4 year old is pretty comfortable in thinking of life before life and existence before having a body. I didn’t always have what I have, there was a time when it had to all come together and thankfully it did.


What is so profound for me is how simple it is for a toddler. It is somehow obvious to a toddler how things were not always as they are. Maayan loves looking at herself as a baby. She is always saying how, “when I was a baby…”


Toddlers are cool with change. They see it all the time. They see baby pictures, smaller clothes and shoes without laces. They see other babies and older kids and are able to see themselves in context of consistent growth. Even more profoundly, at least in my own experience with my daughter, understanding what life was like before birth is as clear as a clear sippy cup.


Adults are not so fast with change, it’s a hard thing for them. Birthdays, as signs of change, are not fun for adults. Usually their cards are equipped with such phrases as “over the hill” or “it’s all downhill from here” and other references to hills, gravity and falling. Changes in jobs, relationships, presidents and TV shows are not taken with ease. Let alone thinking of life before life.


For toddlers however, change is a given. We didn’t always have what we have. Things used to be one way, now they’re another. At one point there was only me, now there are others. I was smaller, now I’m bigger and my shoes have laces. For a toddler, change is always happening and they’re happy with every move.


Life lesson of a toddler #22: Change happens, enjoy the ride & appreciate all the many gifts along the way.


Always an opportunity

Maayan’s “Good girl” cup (in Hebrew)

Maayan usually drinks from a small little cup that says on it, “good girl”. It’s pretty cute, so we encourage it. Today, when we were about to give Maayan something to drink, we couldn’t find the cup. So we told Maayan that we’ll use another cup today and wait to find her cup for another time. Maayan took it in and calmly said, “ok.”

Putting my foot down, even on something so trivial as what cup to drink from is not always easy. The cup is a bigger deal to Maayan than it is to us. So when we said no and Maayan acquiesced, it gave us enormous pride and pleasure.

When we sat down to eat we gave Maayan another cup, a bigger cup. With a bigger cup comes more juice and Maayan seized the opportunity. Instead of pouring a little bit of juice, she almost filled it to the top.

While this might sound simple or even silly, to me it’s very deep. Maayan, like many toddlers and even more adults, could have been upset with not getting what she wanted. She could have responded to not drink until the cup is found, not to drink at all, not to drink from the cup we gave her, etc. Thank God none of that happened, but any of that could have happened. It happens in board meetings and offices throughout the world: when someone doesn’t get what they want, they let everyone know. Whether it be a stare, a cold shoulder, shouting or name calling – there is a plague of tantrums when we don’t get what we want.

Maayan though, played it cool and lived like a toddler. Maayan saw opportunity in not getting something: the bigger cup & more juice! Opportunity is always knocking & toddlers are always finding ways to let them in.

Life lesson of a toddler #14: The next time something doesn’t go your way, wait it out and keep on looking for opportunity. It’s knocking, just let it in.

Hymn of a childs’ cry

January 25th 2011

Children laugh & run.
Children are fun.
Children are fascinating, interesting, beautiful and then some.
Children make you feel old & also very young.
Children are never done.
To their home, they love to come.
Children often say “yumm.”

Children also cry. They cry a lot.

Children cry if things don’t go their way,
Or if they’re not being heard by what they say.
But children cry mostly for having so much inside of them
that can’t always make it’s way out
in words or phrases, they’re quite young to articulate
very tough to communicate
in a language still new
in figuring out the role of you.

So many things going on:
Like rules of bed time,
no saying “that’s mine”.
“no sweets, no treats”
To eat sweet treats, what a feat
But they can’t and must admit defeat
Not easy when you’re three
When you’ve just begun to be
Just tasted “me”
Newly alive
Feel like going fast in overdrive
excited lives
toys, trucks & bee hives
everything’s sweet like honey
no concept of money
love little white bunnies
always hopping, always bumping
bouncing like balls
run in the halls
draw on the walls
no need to erase
to clean up in haste
No need to waste
everything is in place

Why all these rules
I trust mom & dad
but sometimes they make me sad
make me mad
to go to bed or brush my teeth
when I’d rather eat treats.

Can’t put it all in one piece
Can’t see
the forest from the trees
It’s all new to me
I feel like
I don’t know
but it’s got to go
outside with emotion
feeling commotion
on the inside
I want to cry
I want to shout.
It’s hard to receive
so many rules and laws
like adam and eve
I just want to eat from the tree.
They’re telling me no
I want to go
but no
place to hide
feeling so much inside
but I’m not sure why
& that’s why I cry.

So please listen adults & parents:
Be sensitive to their cry
don’t lose patience
just try
to feel what they feel
& see what they see.
They’re not you & me
they’re 2, maybe three
let them be
let them cry a little.

Feel their newness
see their cuteness
a treasure to trust
a gold mine, don’t thrust
impatience on them
you were once them
do you remember when?
Remember how you hated
all the rules they regulated?
Be them, don’t be you
don’t see what but who
don’t say no
just ask why
do they cry
& you’ll find out why.
When you listen you’ve gained
precious trust
they see that you’re wise
you have a soul on the inside
they love you for appreciating
what they go through
seeing them not you
giving them space to be
a toddler of 2 or three
it can all be sweet if you let it be.
By giving them time,
giving them space and reason
show them they have someone to trust
someone who loves and who cares
someone who dares
to see life through their eyes…

They’re waiting for you
to stop all the whats and begin the who
let them be them
and you be you
together you’ll grow
like a tree with deep roots
with branches of sweet fruits.
All things of the earth need rain
tears flow down
from the sky
way up high
beyond what we see
beyond what we know
to let things grow
you have to let them be
you have to let them cry
If you listen you’ll know why
They’ll tell you I
love you for listening
and letting me be
thank you mom & dad
sometimes I get sad,
but I’m happy I cried…

Life lesson of a toddler #13: We all have a lot going on inside, so cry, it brings joy…

I can read!

January 24th 2011

Today I went to pick my daughter up from her pre-school. As we’re getting ready, Maayan says, “Abbah, look, I can read the letters on my cubby: M-A-A-Y-A-N”. 3 years old, learning letters, letters of her own name – I was singing.

Throughout the day Maayan has been making more and more references to her letter recognition. An “M” here, an “A” there – it’s very exciting. We’re super proud and so is Maayan.

Parents of toddlers are often incredibly proud of these “small” achievements. From colouring in the lines to putting on shoes, from brushing their teeth without asking to recognizing letters. At each of these stages, parents swell with pride, are filled with smiles and tell all their friends & family of these feats.

While toddlers focus on their growth, adults tend to focus on their past. From awards to certificates, adults are always noticing past achievements. Offices & homes are decorated with these things. I say, we start to live like toddlers in two ways: To be totally proud and excited of our achievements and always look to grow more.

Instead of showing someone our University degree, we should say, “Look! Look what I did – I graduated from college!” with the same enthusiasm as a toddler. Remember the first time we drove a car, we should be excited about that every time we drive. So the next time someone comes into our car we should say, “Look! I can drive all by myself!” In fact, try and say “all by myself” any chance you get. “Look, I can ________ all by myself!” With excitement, enthusiasm & always looking to grow, we’ll be on the golden path of living like a toddler.

Life lesson of a toddler #12: Be proud of your accomplishments, especially the “small” ones and live with enthusiasm!

Don’t remember?

January 22nd 2011

Last week, while eating lunch, Maayan (3 years old) left the table for a few minutes. When Maayan left, we were still at the table and I was looking for some bread. I could only find one piece on the table and once I did, I enjoyed it with pleasure and gratitude.

Maayan came back to the table and sat in her seat. She began looking around the table until she finally said, “where’s my bread?”

Uh oh….

I didn’t notice that the bread I took was hers. Obviously had I known I wouldn’t have taken it. I felt horrible. Seriously, taking bread from a three year old? My insides were turning & so were Maayan’s.

Maayan was rightfully upset. She was waiting for her bread when she came back and it was gone. I put my hands in the air, walked slowly towards her and said, “Maayan, I took your bread by mistake. I didn’t know it was yours, I’m very very (very very) sorry. I won’t do it again, you can have a cookie after lunch.” Maayan got it, she understood “sorry” and quickly re-focused her mindset to the cookie.

A week later, today, as we were sitting at the table, Maayan had to get up. As Maayan was getting up from the table, she turns her head to me and says, “But this time please don’t take my bread, ok?” I assured Maayan I wouldn’t touch anything.

The thing is that a whole week went by & we didn’t talk about that episode once. A week later, in the same context, Maayan saw the whole thing clearly. So did I, and I was not going to make the same mistake again.

This is an important thing to remember for adults: children remember everything. While adults tend to forget things, toddlers don’t. Adults need post-its, secretaries, phones, computers and spouses to make sure they don’t forget. Like myself and many adults, even all those reminders need reminders. But toddlers don’t, they remember.

Parents, teachers, counsellors, adults: everything that you do, your children will remember. If you get angry, they remember. If you say something not nice, they remember. If you take their bread, they remember.

When toddlers grow to be adults, they talk about what they remember as toddlers. They remember how adults behaved: they remember who was naughty and who was nice, who was encouraging and who was not, who was happy, who was great, who was funny, who was not. Everything you do will come back to you. If you’ve lived your life like a toddler, you have a bright future. Those children will cherish you, love you, adore you and talk about those great days years ago.

But If you lived like an adult – start baking cookies.

Life lesson of a toddler #10: Children do not forget: be your best self today so you can enjoy a sweet tomorrow when they’re grown up.

Walk, fall, walk, fall…

January 21st 2011

Yarden, our year and a half year old, has been walking for about two weeks. So walking is still a new thing for her. It’s beautiful, it’s endearing and it’s absolutely delicious to see those small legs in action. It’s also something to learn from.

Quite often, as with anything we’re new at, Yarden falls. Whether it’s bumping into an unexpected table, an adult not noticing or the floor a little slippery – falling happens. So does getting right back up.

Every time that Yarden falls down, she gets right back up. She even smiles as she falls, knowing intuitively that it’s part of the process. She gets it, she’s happy, she’s real. Adults have a lot to learn.

While Yarden and her nation of toddler-babies smile as they fall, adults seem to do the opposite: they frown and stay down.

Adults refer to staying down as “dwelling”, “worrying” or even “thinking about it”. Adults are past the walking stage, so their falling is more of an emotional, psychological one. Often, adults have a very difficult time moving on, going forward or getting up. Adults are also pained by their fall. Whether it be mistakes, saying the wrong thing, making the wrong decision or any type of adult-fall – they don’t get up as quickly as toddler-babies.

I invite everyone who is a member of the elite adult universe to just get up like a toddler. Smile, because it’s part of the process. Move on, because you have where to go. Get up and get going, because as long as you’re down, you’re not moving anywhere. Yarden, and her cohorts at baby nation, have lots to do – so they can’t afford to stay down. They smile and keep on going.

Life lesson of a toddler #9: Falling is part of an active lifestyle – so don’t stay down if you fall, just get up and get moving.

Hugs are welcome

January 20th 2011

Our year & a half year old daughter Yarden has been on a mission lately. She calls it, “operation-hug-everyone”.

I might be a direct target, because for the past while, the minute I walk in the door, those small little legs come a’ walking over to me with smiling eyes telling me that I’m about to be hugged. She comes up to me, I lift her up and she puts her head on my shoulder, arms wrapped around.

Deep, very deep gratitude. Deep, very deep joy.

Thanks Yarden, that welcome of hugs and shoulder can make a great day amazing and a bad day awesome.

That is the power of a hug and the power of giving one with sincerity. Which is why I’m surprised that the adult world has switched from hugs to handshakes. In fact, I would say that adults are obsessed with hand shakes. Every time you meet someone, see someone, talk to someone – we’re shaking hands. It’s more than contagious, it’s almost an addiction.

The world would be a really better place if everyone remembered that those hands are connected to arms and can be used as well. We should start a hugging campaign. No more photo ops of politicians shaking hands – let them give each other a bear hug. That would really say that change is happening and progress to world peace is imminent.

Even better – let’s say you’re going for an interview. Instead of giving the potential employer a traditional handshake, give them a hug. Even if you don’t get the job, which you likely will, at least you’ve made their day. It’s actually a great story for that boss to come home with. “Yeah, I was giving this interview and instead of shaking my hand, they just hugged me. I didn’t know what to say or do, so I just hugged them back. But I guess I liked it! I think I made a new friend honey.” Right?

We all know we should do more hugging. When anyone comes home – give them a hug. Don’t say hi, don’t ask them to do something – just put everything down and give them a nice big bear hug.

Thanks Yarden…

Life lesson of a toddler #8: Stop giving handshakes and start giving hugs to everyone constantly.