The Process in Childhood Activities

I had grand last minute plans for this afternoon. Peanut went with her dad for some “snow-caching” (her term for geocaching with snow on the ground), and it was just me and Bubba. After their spur of the moment departure, I quickly decided I was going to make up for the guilt I had been feeling for not putting my two year old through a more substantial “early learning regime”. Peanut had a much more structured toddlerhood.

While I was doing in-home child care, I either ordered a toddler curriculum, or wrote one for the small group I had. I haven’t done any of that with my little guy. My child care enrollment slowly dwindled down after he became a toddler, and I didn’t seek to add to the attendance. My desire to do group activities was also dwindling. I was thinking about this the past couple days, and I felt as though Bubba was missing out on more targeted learning activities.

Our together time today started when I broke out my playdough bucket, and found that there was maybe half an ounce of usable playdough left! I gave him what I had, then got out what I thought was my playdough recipe and started making more.

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After I mixed all the ingredients together, I realized this was my aunt’s Salt Dough recipe that is baked so it can harden. Oops! I changed our plans again. I finished making the salt dough an I decided I was going to incorporate some learning into this two year old’s time!

I sat down with him and began making letters for him, placing them on a cookie sheet. He wasn’t too happy with me. Before things got out of hand, I broke out my Christmas cutters, and started having him make shapes. We got two shapes on the cookie sheet, and those went into the oven before I realized that he didn’t want to bake them at all. How boring!

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It was at this moment that I realized what I had been doing wrong. I was trying so hard to give him a lesson to learn, a project to complete, and a tangible outcome. I had to remind myself that HE IS TWO YEARS OLD. The poor child does not care about the outcome. He doesn’t look at something and see a project to complete.


I look back on that hour we spent at the dining table, and AFTER I learned my lesson, I can see so many lessons that Bubba learned.

Instead of making shapes to bake, I rolled the rest of the dough out for him to do with what he pleased. As he was picking out shapes, he started telling me the story of how we made cookies for Santa. He remembered this wonderful time with family and fun!

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I cut out a circle with him, and he said it looked like a snowman. So we built a snowman. And talked about all the pieces to a snowman. I added eyes and a mouth, and he suggested a nose. I added arms and a hat and he said it looked like the snowman from the book The Snowman by Raymond Briggs. He said it needed “the boy” from the book. Yay for literacy! I love incorporating books into activities, and he did it for me!

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I stepped in to the kitchen for a minute, and when I came back, Bubba had tried to pick up the snowman. He had pinched some of the dough and deformed the shape. He started whining, “Fix it Mommy! I can’t do it! Fix it!” I gave him a gentle nudge to fix it himself, and he replied back with, “I can’t! I’m just a boy! I’m just a Bubba! I can’t do it.” Eventually, he did whatever it was he was trying to do. (Sometimes I just have no idea.) He is working on understanding what he is capable of, and trying new things. 

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He tried to make a turtle with the playdough mold, and the sticky dough didn’t work. When he got upset about it, I asked him if he could make one himself. He wouldn’t, and I made a ball and called it “my” turtle. I pinched out a little piece and called that its head. I added two little nubs and called that its legs. I tried very hard to keep the shape as vague as possible, to see if he would accept it as a turtle, and he did. He made food for the turtle and added a longer tail for it. He was broadening his creativity, and stretching his imagination.

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It was only an hour, and I had planned on a nice, structured lesson for my son. It was in that hour that I was reminded of the most important lesson when it comes to teaching our young ones. It is the process of learning that teaches the most. I found, also, that once my perspective changed in this respect, my patience for him grew. Clean up time went much more smoothly. Not because he didn’t whine and refuse (he did), but because I was reminded that clean up time is PART of the process. And my response was much more calm.

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3 thoughts on “The Process in Childhood Activities

  1. Thanks for this reminder! I definitely need to remind myself of this when doing projects and activities with my 3 yr old especially. This post about the salt dough reminded me of when the kids and I made dinosaur fossils out of salt dough and I guess I wasn’t clear enough when I explained the purpose or whatever because the whole time they were baking in the oven, my kids thought they were going to get to EAT them! lol. They were so disappointed to find out they weren’t cookies.

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