Nourishing Your Toddler

I wrote this post quite a while ago regarding the years of birth through age two and a half or so here:  I am still quite happy with this post, but I wanted to add some things here as just gentle food for thought…

Every day, do as much as you can to protect the senses of the small infant and toddler.  We are such an overstimulated society; I think the phrase “eye candy” really sums up how our culture has a visual emphasis.  We practically overdose our senses, especially our sense of sight, on things that are not true to the reality found in nature, the most beautiful and wondrous of our Creator’s work.  If we look about our homes and simplify them into simple scenes where our toddlers can participate in truly meaningful work, where there are simple open ended toys of natural materials, then we have gone a long ways toward promoting the health of our child.

Often we mistake what our small toddler needs and in place of time, space and stability we try to provide new, exciting, stimulating.  Yet, the capacities of our small toddler will flourish with a slow, rhythmic, protected introduction to life.  Develop your own peaceful soul, your own simple ways of being, and your child will be enveloped in this goodness.  Smile at your toddler, love your toddler, tell your toddler every day how strong and helpful they are, wonder and marvel at insects and the sunrise and the wind together.  Your children imitate not only your actions, but your thoughts.  Be brave, be wise, be beautiful!

And work on those lower body senses.  The sense of touch, the sense of life (how do you feel?  Can you even tell if you are not feeling well or do you just ignore that  and move on?), the sense of movement and the sense of balance.

Every day, no matter the weather, spend hours outside in the morning and the afternoon.  There should be opportunities for your toddler to stomp in puddles, in creeks, play in the mud and the sand, walk on forest trails and on the beach, and fully inhabit his home, his yard, his street.  Every day!  Outside time should be the priority for this age, along with meaningful work.

The shift in toddlerhood occurs because toddler energy needs form.  Many mothers will jot down a rhythm to each day the night before.  There must be a plan, and you must be the creator….see this for the wondrous opportunity that it is, and not a burden.  You can do this and it will be just right for you are the expert on your own family.

Many blessings and peace,


More About How To Create Meaningful Work For Toddlers


“We have to remember that there is nothing more “enriching” for a young child than exploring his own world of home, filled with natural playthings and the work of caring for a family – housework, laundry, cooking – and exploring his own backyard.” – From Sharifa Oppenheimer’s “Heaven On Earth:  A Handbook for Parents of Young Children, page 19

 Liza wrote such a beautiful post here:  and I hope it was inspiring to those of you who have toddlers as your oldest children and you are trying to create your family life “from scratch”.  I have a few things I would like to add as well to this meaningful post. 

 If you are wondering where to begin, Continue reading

Guest Post: Meaningful Work For Toddlers

(I asked my dear friend Liza to write this guest post because she has experience in weaving a life full of meaningful tasks that her twin toddlers do to help nurture their home.  What a wonderful experience they are having, and I thought her experience could help some of you out there who might be wondering about what kind of work toddlers could do!  Enjoy!)

Dear Friends,

I am a new mom, almost three years into parenting twins, and am humbled each day by what my children teach me.  How it is the simple things that bring them the most wonder:   the slow and steady journey of a snail’s trek across the patio, grandmother moon shining bright on a sunny day, how every flower on our morning walk is met with reverence and a deep inhale.  From them I am learning to slow down and settle into the sweetness of their early years.

I have also come to learn that time spent with my children at home is ultimately the most rewarding, for them and for me as well.  It is better than a visit to the playground, an organized class, or family adventure.   A bowl of sudsy water and a cup is like a trip to the ocean, dawdling around in our urban backyard feels like foraging through the forest and work- real work done with their hands (and mine) is deeply enriching. So we nest a lot, building and strengthening our home, caring for the objects and animals that surround us and attending to our rhythm.  Basically…doing lots of things with our hands.

When Hannah and Eli were born I joined the Christopherus Waldorf at Home Forum and there (enter angels singing and skies parting), was a group of mothers whose wisdom, humor and intelligence cradled my nascent mothering soul. Carrie was one of these inspired mothers/mentors.  I brought to this group my deepest anxieties, my ‘silliest’ questions, my fears and self doubts.  And trust me, there were a lot. But ultimately I brought to them my children to help me nurture, support and love more fully.

The sub-forum for those with children under seven was a particularly lively and active group.   We discussed everything about living with small children- from the practical aspects of coordinating nap-time, to building rhythm into our days, to finding love for your children when they do not seem so lovable. Overwhelm, burn out, and irritability came to the forum most days, right along side sibling conflict, strong emotions (formally known as tantrums), and whining.  From beneath the words of encouragement showered on each mama’s struggles you could almost hear the soothing siren song of this unspoken mantra:

slow down sweet mama,

take a deep breath,

you are doing a great job.

look gently within (take responsibility for what you might be contributing

and then forgive yourself),

connect back in with that little spirit who wants only to be loved.

And find some work to do with their hands

And so while the first four tasks are surely all parents’ karmic work (we have chosen the ultimate “path of service” it seems- the one that gives us access to expansive love…and a whole mess of other feelings), I leaned into the challenge of finding jobs for my children. And you know what?  It works.

At eighteen months we started small: stirring mama’s tea in the morning, grinding daddy’s coffee beans, making the morning eggs.  That bowl of sudsy ocean water soon had spoons and a sponge in it- a towel on the side to dry them with. The spray bottle entered our world and washing windows began- bliss was known.  Folding laundry became a game of discovery, an opportunity to run through the house delivering missing washcloths to the bathtub and napkins to the napkin drawer.

As time passed we found more work to do.  We stirred pancakes, made endless batches of muffins (and delivered them to the neighbors promptly lest they were all eaten by mama), made soup, pickles and bread.  The salad spinner is just as likely to be found on the countertop as it is the floor, the back deck…the living room.  Did you know you can spin almost anything?  We learned to pour with a pitcher, cut with a knife, peel with a peeler, use the cherry pitter, cheese grater and whisk.

We wash woolies in the bathtub, then wrap them in towels, stomp on them like grapes and hang them from a makeshift line under the kitchen island. That is a full morning’s work.  Bringing in the groceries one by one down our long apartment hallway to the kitchen still ranks high in the ‘fun things to do with daddy’ category- running fast like kitty cats with the apples, slow like turtles with the eggs.

There is a pride that emanates from a little one who has just accomplished a task they have watched you do over and over.  You can see it in their faces, their bodies and their spirit.  When they ask, “Mama, I do it!” I nudge you to let them try.  It is indeed messy, there is of course some risk, you may need to come back later and do it over.  But really, the rewards are huge.

I am still working to “de-mechanize” our day so that my daughter, whom I keep close to my side lest she finds her very capable hands pulling her brother’s hair or knocking over his carefully constructed ‘hayride’, is included in my housework.  Then my son who is only sometimes interested in working can play nearby and join in when he is inclined- apparently they have an agreement that he has claim over the salad spinner when the time comes to use it. And so it goes that sibling conflict is greatly reduced when we are busily working.  Self-esteem and positive exchange between all family members swells.

I recently bought some special wool felt to make a banner for the children’s play space- an attempt to add crafty to my day.  I put this little project in a basket in the living room so that I could attend to it when there was a free moment- idealistic I know.  When my daughter happened upon the basket of carefully folded rainbow felt she exclaimed, “my laundry!” as if it had been missing for years.

Yes, love, that is exactly what it is.

She has since added some kitchen towels, a couple of matchbox cars…a wooden chicken.  I often find her in the window folding her laundry and singing a little song. “Just a moment,” nodding over in my direction, “I am almost done folding the laundry”.

And so it is that imagination trips on the heels of imitation.

The forum ended a few months back and I missed the chance to heart-fully thank the women for all they had given me, to my children…to our family.  When Carrie asked me to write something up about work and toddlers I thought- what could I, fledgling mama, share with you?  And then I heard that siren song and I remembered the mantra, the trick that helps me shepherd two  often cranky toddlers through the day… and helps them back into their much more important work of play.  Thank you Carrie.  And thank you mamas.

Here are some ideas for including toddlers in your work…and play.  I would  sure love to hear what you are all up to!

  • Load/unload the dishwasher with supervision
  • Wash silverware ( in a little basin)
  • Learn to use a sharp knife; grating
  • Practice pouring into a glass
  • Stir, pour, play with flour/dough, etc.
  • Make coffee for daddy- press button on grinder
  • Spread butter on toast
  • Pick the leaves of kale, tear lettuce, spin in dryer
  • Shell peas
  • Scramble eggs
  • Unload groceries
  • Spray and wipe windows and bathroom walls
  • Wash tub with sponge and baking soda
  • Polish wooden toys/furniture
  • Hand me items from the laundry basket as I fold and then help carry to each room/drawer OR I have a basket ready in each room and I hand the kids an article each from the clean laundry and they deliver it to the appropriate room.
  • Sweep
  • Help take out garbage cans/bring back in
  • Get napkins and silverware for table
  • Water plants outside
  • Dig hole for new plants
  • Practice training dog with treats
  • Learning to iron
  • Polishing silver
  • Help make bed

Some additional resources have supported me:

Allison Carrol, Director

And this verse by Steiner:

Into my will,

let there pour strength.

Into my feeling,

let there flow warmth.

Into my thinking,

Let there shine light.

That I might nurture this child

with enlightened purpose,

caring with heart’s love

and bringing wisdom

into all things.

With love,

Liza, mama to Hannah Simone and Elijah Moon

Thank you Liza, for sharing your experience…

Many blessings to you all,


How To Best Support Your Child’s Development Ages Birth Through Three

I spoke last night at The Waldorf Connection regarding development from a Waldorf perspective within the first seven years.  I will be posting some notes on this blog from my talk because I believe it is helpful to hear things more than once and to see it in writing and to hear it.  The next step would be to take a piece of paper and a pen in order to write down your own thoughts and how you would work with some of these concepts in your own family.

Childhood in Waldorf Education  is considered those years of birth through age 21.  The human being is seen as a spiritual being who has come down from spiritual realms and one who takes time to get used to living here on earth; a being who is changing and evolving throughout the lifespan of being human in approximately cycles of seven years.  One can search this blog for a chapter by chapter look at the book “Tapestries” by Betty Staley as to characteristics of each seven year cycle from birth through adulthood.

As Waldorf parents and home educators, we are working with every aspect of the child – body, soul, spirit – as we consider the human being to be a whole three and four-fold human being.  We work with things from the most physical to the most mysterious and strive to be continually conscious of being an upright moral example that the child can imitate. We work  to provide an environment conducive to development, a protected environment for optimal development of the 12 senses and the child, but yet one where the child can develop unhindered.

In the second lecture compiled in “Curative Education”, Steiner talks about The Pedagogical Law in which it is who we are that teaches and educates, that children can perceive the gesture behind our words and how what we do matters more than what we give lip service to (my paraphrasing there, of course.  He says it much more eloquently. Smile).  Steiner lectured about the great responsibility we have as educators of small children (and this of course includes parents, as you are the first teacher of your child!) In “Soul Economy”,  one of my favorite compilations of Steiner’s lectures, Steiner said in the lecture regarding children before the seventh year:  ”Anyone in charge of young children – especially those who work in children’s homes- who is aware of the activity of destiny must ask, Have I been specifically chosen for the important task of guiding and educating these children? And other questions must follow: What must I do to eliminate as far as possible my personal self, so I can leave those in my care unburdened by my subjective nature? How do I act so I do not educate a child toward human freedom?

These questions begin at birth…… The child comes to us with a head full of wisdom and growth forces that direct the physical body and help mold the physical body. The child imitates everything, and is a large sense organ. Steiner talks in “Kingdom of Childhood” about the affects of anger upon a child and other emotions because the impressions coming from the outer world directly affect the physical constitution of the body – the formation of the inner organs, for example. This is part of Steiner’s work that really unnerves parents because they feel as if they have done everything wrong and carry such guilt. Guilt does not move one forward in parenting, so I advise parents to try to let that go and start from now.

So, back to development..During the first three years, the spirit, soul and body are seen as being in unity and walking, speaking and thinking are unfolding.  First, the child attains an upright position.  And then from that, speech arises in the second year. In helping a child to speak we must be inwardly true, this is the time of TRUTHFULNESS , for those of you who have heard of Steiner’s truth-beauty-goodness. Truthfulness is the foundation of communication, even for infants. In true speech we use adult speech, not baby talk! Thinking then arises out of speech in the third year. Clarity from our own thinking helps our children’s thinking to be developed.

What we can do to support our children birth to three:

Heal our own past; recover from anything in our own childhood that is amiss. What are we modeling to our children and what are we passing on for our future grandchildren? What are our own patterns of behavior, our own reaction to stress.  Create truth in your life by aligning your values throughout every sector of your life.

Create a healthy attachment to your baby and toddler

Strive to work on ourselves in order  that we are worthy of this child to imitate our gestures, our movements, our work. In “Soul Economy”, one thing that Steiner said was, “…the children become perfect mimics and imitators. This imposes a moral duty on adults to be worthy of such imitation, which is far less comfortable than exerting one’s will on a child.”

Other ways to support children during the first three years:

We do not place the child into positions he or she cannot attain on his or her own, because the child is orienting themselves in the world through their upright orientation and their striving for that. Joan Slater talk about this in the book “The Incarnating Child”, this concept of  keeping infants horizontal until they can move into a position by themselves. This is important, because from this challenge and this struggle to attain an upright position and from that upright position comes speech and then thinking.

Protect the senses of the child and establish a rhythm to help support the etheric body of the caregiver and the child. Our growth forces are  tied to that of our small children and it is important that we  build ourselves up through rhythm, through warming foods, through warm clothes, through kind words and speech, through artistic endeavors.

Become a confident parent who can set boundaries with those who seek to undermine your parenting, including yourself if you are prone to negativity and doubt in your parenting.  I think this is key, as many parents today seem to meet parenting with increased anxiety and  fear and stress. In our generation, we really  have to find some way to meet that fear with joy and with love and with humor. We have to find a way to really put out warm thoughts for our children because our children develop from taking in the world and we are the ones creating their world.

Just a few thoughts; take what resonates with you. 

Other posts that may help you in this endeavor are these:

Many blessings to you,


The One-Year -Old

Right now, I have the great and distinct privilege of closely watching some one to eighteen -month old children grow and develop and change.  I love watching what interests them! 

Have you ever noticed that the one-year old likes to:

  • Eat and drop things over the edge of their chair, feed the dog, and drop the food down their shirt or put it in their hair.
  • Move furniture around
  • Take things in and out of something or open and shut something.
  • Shriek loudly.
  • Wiggle out of your arms and move!
  • Watch what you are doing and imitate the motion of it
  • Use different objects to imitate the gesture of  things (ie,  use a kitchen spatula or a spoon for the gesture of  combing their hair)
  • Be outside to feel the grass, the dirt, the leaves…..and to try to eat it all
  • Be sung to and have fingerplays and rhymes bouncing on your knee
  • Laugh
  • Play peek-a-boo
  • Be held and kissed
  • Catch your eye when they are doing something and smile
  • Empty out a bookshelf or drawer of kitchen supplies
  • Roll a ball back and forth with someone
  • Give you things and take them back
  • Wave bye-bye
  • Make piles of mulch or leaves
  • Ride in a sling
  • Pull the cords out of things – look carefully around your house!
  • Go for walks
  • Talk! Coo! Communicate!

Have you ever noticed that a one to eighteen month old:

  • Is more likely to have erratic napping?
  • May wake up during the night due to teething or other developmental milestones?
  • May have an increase in appetite for solid foods  (or may not!)
  • Will still nurse a lot!
  • Can often have cold hands and feet – keep checking their levels of warmth

Just a few thoughts and observations.

Many blessings,


Talking In Pictures To Small Children

A small child under the age of seven needs to hear you paint a picture with your words instead of a direct command.  This can really be a very difficult thing for us to do as adults, and as such we find ourselves barking commands (politely, of course :)) at our small children all day long.  “Come to breakfast!”  “Use the potty!”  “Get your shoes on!” “Now please!”  “Stop doing that!”  Even if we frame things positively and say what we do want, the point is that a million times a day we are asking our child to do something.  And when we only use a command, we are essentially giving the small child a chance to think, a chance to decide their behavior, and then we get angry when they don’t do what we want when we want it.  How funny how that goes.

Small children are often in a fantasy, imaginative world much of the day as they play and create games.  They are not adults, they do not view time as adults do, they do not have the sense of urgency that you do.  And nor should they.

A small child lives in the physical realm and in their bodies.  So, to most effectively parent, we must reach to that for the small child as often as possible instead of playing commander, or worse yet, trying to drive the car with our horn by yelling at the small child. 

Here are some examples:

  • Think of animals that involve what you need.  Can the child hop like a bunny, run as fast as a roadrunner bird, swim like a fish?  Can they open their big  crocodile mouths to have all those teeth brushed?  Can you be a bear that needs a big winter coat ?  (And as you say this, you help put the child’s arm into the coat)….It is the imaginative movement plus the physical piece that gets it all done.
  • Can you involve their dolls or their imaginary friends?   Quietly take their favorite doll and start to get it ready for bed and sing to the doll. “ You and Tim (the imaginary friend) can sit right for dinner “( and lead the child by the hand to the table).
  • Can you employ gnomes, fairies, giants, leprechuans?  Today a four- year- old and I looked for leprechuan shoes by my back door….  Oh, look at these leprechuan shoes sitting here, do these fit YOU?  Oh my, look at the turned up toes on your shoes, I wonder if those shoes will lead you to a pot of gold!  How about gnomes exploring the mouth cave for teeth brushing?  Big giant steps to settle into a big giant bed?

You do not have to do this to the point where it is tiring to you, but do try here and there, because I find most parents employ very little imagination with their children during the day and the children really do respond to it well and do just what needs to happen.

Your part though, is to plan enough time so things are NOT rushed.  Rushing is the death of imagination and the beginning of stress.  Please plan ahead! 

Also, rhythm is your friend.  It is in that space to help you and your child.  If you do something different every night to get ready for a meal, to get ready for bed, what cues does your child have for when things are going to happen?  Again, their sense of time and urgency is not that of an adult.  Also, please seriously evaluate how many places you are dragging a small child.  Are these places for them or errands and would your child just rather be home?   I am just asking you to consider this piece of the puzzle; only you know the answer for you and your family. 

The last piece is the physical end of it, DOING something with a child whilst using the imagination and movement goes much better!  Yes, it is tiring that that is what small children need.  But better to do that than to complain and moan and groan that your small child, who is perfectly  normal, is “not listening”.🙂

Try it out, I think you will find life to be much easier. 

Many blessings,


“Discipline Without Distress”: Discipline Tools for Toddlers 1-2 Years: Action

Judy Arnall starts this chapter with this observation that I  see all the time, “Parents believe if they don’t nip many behaviors in the bud at this stage, the behaviors will grow and become monstrous later on and their children will be destined to become criminals because they were too lenient when they were toddlers.  NOT TRUE!”

The toddler stage does not involve reasoning.  There is no reasoning yet.  Toddlers are just realizing they can’t always get what they want, and this leads to temper tantrums.  Your toddler is “doing” and the best you can do as a parent is to childproof, supervise, redirect, distract, provide substitutions, pick up your toddler and move them around with your gentle hands away from danger or situations that they shouldn’t be into. 

Toddlers can sometimes follow two word commands.  On this blog, I write from a traditional perspective and also a Waldorf perspective.  The Waldorf perspective on this would be to engage the child’s body and not expect a tiny child to follow a verbal command only.  You cannot parent a toddler from the couch. :)  GET UP!

A toddler is going to express negativity. “ No”  has power, “no”  has meaning.  Toddlers often use their body to express their negativity – hitting, biting, pushing – because their words are not totally there yet.  Even the ones that are “verbally” advanced lose their words when they become upset!  They want to be independent (the “me do it” stage), but still need help.  They don’t play with other children yet, they have fears of things such as thunder or animals or vacuum cleaners.  Their thinking really is “this is here, this is now” without much  memory involved.  They do, however,  IMITATE what YOU do!

Saying no frequently is not helpful in guiding your child – tell them what you would like to see, and better yet, SHOW THEM.   Childproof your environment so you don’t have to say NO fifty times a day.  Also, Judy Arnall points out that “parents have no control over eating, sleeping, toileting, and learning.  The parent can facilitate those processes, but not force them.”  This is something important for a parent to come to grips with.

She lists a page of discipline tools for toddlers including staying with your no, changing the environment, planning ahead, having routines, holding and carrying and restraining the child as needed, giving encouragement, ignoring some things if you can, time-in (see my take on “Time In for Tinies” here:  ), saying no another way, letting the child have their feelings (my note is that you can’t “fix” how another person feels!  Let them have their feelings!), supervision, parent time-outs, modeling, redirection, holding, hugs and many more tips. 

The author recommends anticipating problems ahead of time and planning ahead.  She also says “avoid play places if you know they get frustrated and hit other children.”  Provide toys whilst changing a diaper or change the diaper standing up or in front of a mirror.  She talks extensively about the fact that toddlers love routines, and also gives examples of some “routines” that small children can do – for example, hanging towels after taking a bath, putting clothes in the basket, everyone carrying their things in from the car.  Essentially, you are laying down the house rules and chores that will become embedded in the existence of a three and four year old.  A three and four year old really knows and understands how things work in your house!

Judy Arnall has sections in this chapter regarding toilet learning, handling emotion, toddler sleep problems, why toddlers don’t understand rules, separation anxiety and how to deal with it, picky eating, toddler aggression and tips for handling this….Another great chapter!

This book deserves a home on your shelf!  Check out Amazon for a copy!

Many blessings,