On balancing toddlers and technology

We are preparing for our first international family trip, and just yesterday we were gifted with a tablet, which Mon Cœur (MC) has been intensely curious about. It has made me rethink how easy it is for me as an adult to get lost in my technology – what is necessary and what is detracting from quality time spent with family and friends.

Day (night) 1 – the introduction to the tablet

Last night was rough. I’ll be honest. MC was running off a wee 40 minute nap, and had had a busy day visiting friends at gymnastics and running around with her cousins, playing hide and seek.

The tablet was conveniently tucked away in a pink carrier, which MC called “her purse.” I told her to keep her purse closed until we got home – that we would look at it when we got home and sat on the couch.

When we got home, we opened it and she was so excited to see the books – we read a few. Then she found the games. When I told her we would need to put it away after a few minutes – she had a meltdown. We put the tablet above the refrigerator. She wanted it back, eventually I coaxed her to go take a bath and with Chouchou’s help, we did what we knew we needed to do – hide the tablet.

After MC finally went to sleep, Chouchou was adamant about getting rid of the tablet post-France. This is where I countered saying that’s a fine thought, but it’s important for MC to learn self control. We of course can’t take away everything that she acquires an “addiction” to and honestly, it was my fault for not having placed boundaries before getting the tablet out. I simply smiled and said, “Baby don’t worry, I’ve got this.”

Day 2 – we agree to tablet boundaries

Day two went much smoother. MC asked to be held up to see the top of the fridge this morning (see why I had to hide it?). So I held her up and she was shocked it had moved. I asked her what she was looking for. She said the tablet. Then I said, “Oh I know where it is. Why don’t you go wait on the couch. I’ll be right there.”

She had a choice about the limit.

I grabbed the tablet and I sat with her on the couch. I told her, “You pick – do you want to explore ten minutes on the tablet or read five books on the tablet?” She chose ten minutes.

I’ve talked about choices before, and I have become the spinner of choices. It seemed only fitting here to have her help by making a choice.

We set a time limit on the technology.

I always use Siri to set timers, so that MC hears my request and then Siri repeats it back. Then I try to keep an eye and give her a 5 and 1-2 minute heads up. I sat next to her the whole time, watching, and helping when needed.

I gave her her time warnings, and when it went off, I took the tablet, turned it off, and gave it back to her, asking her to put it away, and she did. There was some whimpering, and instead of saying “No,” I simply said, “Later. You can play with it again after your nap.” She was okay with that (Thank you again, Joanna Faber & Julie King – smile!) Done.

There was an activity lined up immediately afterwards.

We moved on to another activity. Luckily, we had a visitor this morning, so MC went and got dressed so we could go outside. We spent the morning walking and working in Millie’s garden.

I waited for MC to ask to play with the tablet again this afternoon. When she did, she said, “Ten minutes, okay?” But I gave her fifteen, just because I’m also trying to figure it out too, and I was sitting with her again. We set the timer and started playing.

When I gave her her five minute warning, I told her we would also need to charge it. The timer went off five minutes later and, I had her help me plug it in and told her it needed to sleep and rest. Again there was a little bit of whining, but I just proposed playing with play-doh, and since she hasn’t played with it in a while, she was super excited.

We had a busy rest of the evening with dinner, bath, and reading books, so she really didn’t have any time to ask about it again.

The tablet’s rested and recharged and back in its spot. Who knows what day three will bring. However I’m hoping that with little chunks of time, with set time limits and activities to do afterwards we will be able to balance the toddler and the technology.

Do you have any ideas about balancing toddlers and technology?


Les petits dessins

As I am finding a new normal in a temporary full-time teaching position, and Mon Cœur (MC) is finding her new normal back in daycare routine, we are both struggling a little.

For three days in a row, last week, she was upset when I left her at daycare. The last two mornings really crushed my heart – as soon as we made the turn into the parking, she started crying, and not fake crying, like real waterworks.

I went around to get her out of the car seat and she said, “Mommy I want go home!” I looked in her eyes, drowning in tears, and I said, “Let’s just go in and say hi, okay?”

So I gave her her pacifier back, we went in, and we sat and read a book together. She took Babar for courage and there were a couple of other friends in the daycare already, so after we read a book together, I asked her to pick another one and read it with her friends to Babar…and then I snuck out.

I was at a loss – I wanted to just call my mom and have her watch MC for the rest of the time I’m subbing, or just to stop subbing, but I know that’s not addressing the issue, it’s just a go around. So I called her at lunch.

And the suggestion she made was perfect. And it came from the parenting book that I’m still reading – How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen. Mom said, “Draw a picture of your days – you draw the best & worst parts of your day, and have her draw the best and worst parts of her day.”

Sometimes you’re so entrenched in a problem that you forget all the simple ways of addressing it.

When I picked her up she was all smiles and absolutely happy. When we got home I told MC that we would draw our days. Two minutes later, I’m still unpacking from both of our days, trying to repack for the next day, and then realize dinner has to be made, and it’s almost dinner time. After dinner it’s bath time and then bed time. Instead of making the time to draw, I flit around the house trying to accomplish many tasks at once. I forget how hectic evenings are when also working a full time job.

We do at least talk about her day –

  • “I play friends”
  • “I read”
  • “I draw”

We try again the next day, and we find a little more time to draw. I ask her what she drew and I label the picture by writing what she tells me. Then yesterday, when we arrived home, MC said, “Draw day?” So we sat down again, and she drew some scribbles for me.

I’m hoping that while we continue in this “new normal” or anytime we hit a bump in the road, that these petits dessins (little pictures) will help us find the positives in our days.


Mon Cœur (MC) loves “neigh-neighs,” or horses or chevaux. As we drive down the road, she points out any horses she sees. We have to walk to a neighbors house to see the neigh-neighs, and if she doesn’t see them, she says, “Wake up neigh-neighs!” When I drive into town now, I try to add a cushion of 15 minutes so we can take a back road instead of the highway and MC can see the horses.

Let me back up – MC loves to see horses from a distance, where their true size is not intimidating. When they are close enough to pet, she realizes that their head is as big as her body, and that makes her a little anxious. It takes a while with either Chou chou or me standing calmly next to the horse and petting him before MC warms up to the idea.

We recently visited family and they have three horses at their country home. MC enjoyed walking over every day and seeing them. She even helped feed them some grain one afternoon. Our uncle offered to saddle one up so MC could ride, and we thought that would be awesome for her…

Forgetting that she had to warm up to these beautiful beasts, we enthusiastically said, “Yeah! Let’s let her ride a horse!” After about five minutes of saddling and five warming up the horse, our uncle came back to turn over the reigns…

At which point, MC reminded us while whimpering, that she was terrified of horses up close. I started to ask her, “Do you want to ride the horse?” but stopped myself and channeled a tip from a book I’m reading, How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen, by Joanna Faber and Julie King. Instead of asking her a yes/no question where I knew she would say, “No,” I gave her a choice. I asked her who she wanted to ride with, Mommy or Daddy. She was emphatic in her choice with, “Daddy!” Which made my heart sing, and took my Chou chou by surprise – I had inadvertently put him on the spot! She took two laps around the ring, and then Chou chou asked her if she wanted to ride with Mommy and she did.

Crisis averted! Whenever I think MC might say no to something or be adverse when I am hopeful for an amazing experience for her, I try to give her choices instead of asking a question that is sure to get a, “No!”

Milk, please!

In an earlier post, I explained how we are potty training Mon Cœur (MC). At a little after two years, I realized we should maybe begin transitioning in a few areas: diapers, bottles, and pacifiers.

I am slow to make the pacifier disappear – it’s an insta-calmer- and she only uses it when sleeping and when she asks for it in the car. The longest car ride is one with a cranky-pants toddler who just wants to sleep and really needs her binks to make that happen.

We made a surprisingly quick transition with the baba (what we called her nighttime bottle) and are taking potty training day by day. What follows is our bottle transition story.

Either MC is just fabulous (well, I know she is) or these things combined helped with a really quick transition. A surprisingly quick transition figuring she was drinking an eight ounce warmed bottle of milk every night before bed (and sometimes suckered her Papa into another four ounce refill). We kept a few bottles in a bottom kitchen drawer, one that MC could reach. When it was time for bed, she would get it out. I’d fill it up, warm it and we’d go to bed, have a baba and read. This was the beginning of our bedtime ritual, and if we ever forgot it, MC would quickly remind us.

The first thing we did was make these bottles disappear, and we put her size cups in their place. Second, I stocked the pantry with cookies. We don’t keep cookies in the house normally, because the life expectancy of a container is never very long. But I bought some Oreos and put them in her snack cabinet. After dinner and bath time, we started a new bedtime ritual. I told her, “We’re not having babas anymore. We will have milk and cookies, then read and go to bed!” I said it with enthusiasm because I was happy to be having a few cookies myself! We’d come back to the kitchen and I would warm some milk in a tea cup and get two Oreos. I showed her how to twist and dunk.

She was more interested in that than eating the Oreos. She’d drink her milk and leave soggy remnants of half eaten Oreos on the table, and we’d go to bed. Halfway through a book on the first night she said, “Baba,” and I simply said, “We had milk and cookies before bed,” and keep reading our book. After a few nights she stopped asking for baba, and shortly after that she stopped asking nightly for milk & cookies. We still have a stash of cookies should she make the request, however she doesn’t make that request too often.

Piggy and the Potty

Mon Cœur is potty training right now. As in, for the past six months or so, she has not wanted to go poo in her diaper. Which rocks, since we decided to do cloth, and anyone who uses cloth diapers understands the fun involved in cleaning them.

For a while she was wanting to go to the bathroom exclusively, however with all of the recent change due to Millie’s passing, various visitors at the house and some travel, we lost momentum. I was no longer asking her every hour if she wanted to go to the bathroom, and she slipped into contentment with wet diapers.

Fast-forward a few months and our darling daughter is 27 months, still using diapers, still taking a bottle of milk at night, and still using a “binks/tatote” (pacifier). I decided that while we were still okay with these things, we should probably try to start weaning her off of them. One at a time. The first two we have been tackling are potty training and the bottle. More on the bottle later.

I am not big on rewards, I would rather Mon Cœur be intrinsically motivated and do something simply for the satisfaction of having completed it and know that she has done a great job. Recently, though, Chou chou and I have discovered an opportunity and exploited it.

About three weeks ago, Mon Cœur said, “Feed piggy!” (or was it “Feed piggy?”?) She was referring to her piggy bank – she wanted to put coins in the piggy bank. “A-ha!” I thought. I shared this idea with Chou chou and we began incentivizing just sitting on the toilet and trying. Now we get up every morning and I ask her to try. After every bathroom trip, we go to the coin jar and count out coins – one for trying, one for going, one for dry diapers. I try to remember to ask her at certain intervals if she needs to go (I sometimes even set a timer), and we try at obvious times, like before and after nap, before we leave the house, before bed.

Recently, we went on a trip out of town and I debated taking the piggy and coins. I wanted to keep the momentum going, but without the extra weight in our suitcase. What we decided to do instead was perfect for us. We took a small notebook and Chou chou asked her to draw a piggy.

She drew a piggy and I labelled it. Then we explained that each time she used the bathroom, she would get a tally mark. We left the book and a pen in the bathroom. She did just as well with that as she does at home with the piggy and our suitcase was a little lighter!