Home with a toddler during COVID-19? We interviewed a Montessori expert to help you deal.

At Alli + Evie, we are seeking to build a community of devoted mamas on our site, where we celebrate the bond between mothers and daughters. 

While I know that my family is lucky to be healthy and reasonably economically secure during this crisis, I'm just gonna say it: quarantining with our almost-two-year-old daughter comes with its own unique set of hardships.

Toddlers are, well, toddlers. You can't exactly park them in front of a Zoom lesson like their older siblings. The days seem longer – and somehow, also shorter – than ever, and yet there is never enough time to get everything done.

For those of us also trying to work from home, it can all feel downright impossible. 

That's why my husband and I enlisted a child development expert to help us figure out how to survive quarantining with our toddler.

Terri Jackson is the director of Montessori at Mulberry in Montgomery, Alabama, the incredible preschool our daughter, Evelyn (22 mo), attended before this crisis. 

Terri shared some tips with us that are seriously keeping us sane right now. They were so helpful, in fact, that I decided to share them with you!

So without further adieu, grab a cup of coffee (or a glass of wine) and settle in for my convo with Terri:

Allison: Do I need to have a schedule for my toddler? What would that look like?

Terri:  Definitely maintain a schedule. Young children have a strong sense of order and are much happier when they know what happens next. Knowing what to expect fosters independence, which is really important to a toddler. That said, you don't need to be too rigid in your schedule. The timing isn't as important as the order in which you follow your routine (except for nap time - try to keep nap time consistent every day).

Allison: What are some activities that I can do indoors with my toddler to promote her learning and development? 

Terri: Life with a toddler is ALL about learning; everything is a learning experience. They learn from the people in their lives and the mimic the behavior or actions they see happening around them. Incorporate your little one into as many 'chores' as possible. It is a wonderful way to show them how valued they are as a member of your household. 

Toddlers are all about movement and they can repeat an activity over and over with such energy! Here are some simple suggestions: 

  • Fetching games- 'put the ball in the basket,' 'bring me the toy truck,' 'put the block on the table,' 'put the red triangle on the rug.' Be sure to have some distance between the objects and where the child should put it. 
  • Placing objects in something and removing them, or putting them in another receptacle is super fun. Tap into this desire and your child can help with household routines: unload the towels from the dryer, sort the silverware (remove sharp knives and have the child sit on the floor for safety), stack the plastic ware.
  • Toddlers love to try and pick up heavy items: Use an old laundry detergent container, or a plastic jug for kitty litter, and fill it to whatever amount they can pick up. Designate places your child can move it to - i.e. the bathroom rug, the kitchen floor, on the hearth, by the back door etc.
  • Sing songs, read books, talk about shapes, colors and count things aloud.

Allison: How about outdoors, in our yard or on walks in the neighborhood?

Terri: Outdoors is probably your child's favorite place! There is so much to see and so many things to learn about. Take the time to narrate your walk with what you see. Don't dumb down your conversations; use accurate and specific words to communicate what you see, smell and touch: 'I see a cardinal,' 'I smell a barbecue,' or 'The grass is so cool.' 

Also, hours of fun can be had when you head outside and let your child play with a water hose on a low setting. 

Allison: What are some materials that we might already have on hand that double as great learning tools?

Terri:  Sponges and plastic ware are such fun in the tub, and pots and pans make interesting sounds and seem like very important tools in the household. Using the dust pan with a hand broom is fun practice for sweeping (crumple up some small pieces of paper for sweeping practice). Baskets and containers of all sorts are wonderful for taking things out and putting them back in.

Allison: What about mental health? Any tips for keeping both parents and children sane during this traumatic and uncertain time?

Terri: In the best of times, sanity can be a hard commodity to come by with a toddler in your life. Rationalizing with them doesn't work, since they typically can't communicate well, except with big emotions. Plus, they can be demanding.

The word 'no' can be a big trigger for them as they try to establish their autonomy. Instead of saying 'no,' try saying instead what you'd like to have happen. For example, if they are climbing on the furniture say, "I see you want to climb, let's go outside to your jungle gym." When they want another cookie, give them a hug and say "I know you really like cookies; you can have another one tomorrow/after dinner/at seven."

Be prepared for tears. IT IS OKAY FOR children to feel sad, mad, disappointed and other so-called "negative" emotions. If we fix everything for them, we deny them the opportunity to learn to cope with these emotions.

Lastly, tag team with your spouse, significant other or a family member. Carve out a little adult time for yourself daily, even if it is just for fifteen minutes. Take a walk around the block, drive to your favorite park and take in the view, or put in earplugs and take a bath.

Toddlers were born to test boundaries. Show them where they are without breaking their spirit.

3 comments

Terri always has wonderful ideas as do her teachers as they have provided a peaceful learning environment.

I sure miss seeing everyone. I’m always praising how smart and confident these little ones are at M@M🥰

Susan Finklestein June 05, 2020

Great idea! Wonderful interview with Ms. Terri. I miss seeing that beautiful girl of yours, and hearing her call out, “Gaaay”

Gay Reynolds May 09, 2020

This article is great and definitely has some great tips on how to get through these difficult times with a toddler!

Rosalinda Wolfe-Bertling May 09, 2020

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