Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Getting a Toddler to Go Where You Want...Playfully

Welcome to the September Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting Through Play
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared how challenging discipline situations can be met with play. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
Getting an active toddler to move along in a timely fashion isn't always easy. There are novelties over here and shiny things over there to investigate. Often, my toddler becomes curious about some discovery along the way, something that could capture his attention for 10 minutes if I let him. Ordinarily, I like to encourage this discovery and exploration. However, there are times when I really need to get from Point A to Point B in less than half an hour. There are times when I have a specific direction in mind that he doesn't necessarily find interesting.

Fortunately, I discovered a useful strategy for getting Munchkin to go where I want him to go. When he was still just over a year old, we used to play a hide-and-seek game at our library. I would run from stack to stack, hide behind it, then say "Boo!" when Munchkin approached (yes, we have a very kid-friendly library!). I quickly figured out that I could use this game to lure him towards the exit when it was time to leave.  I simply ran between pillars and poles on our way out the door. He loved it and followed me each step of the way, giggling all the while.

These days, I still use this game to get Munchkin to move when and where I need to go when we're out and about. Any place that has pillars, poles, walls, signs, trees, or other obstruction is amenable to the hide-and-seek steering strategy.  I've even mixed it up a bit. Sometimes instead of "hiding" behind a pole, I weave in and out of adjacent poles, or simply spin around it holding on with one arm. Munchkin thinks this is hilarious. He runs to catch up and attempts to mimic my movements.

I find this strategy so much easier than repeating, "Come on, let's go. Over here. This way. No...not that way...this way. Let's go, we need to go now or we'll be late... " Sigh. Chase child, pick him up, sometimes with a giggle, but often with a cry of resistance and fury (of course, we've gone this route before, too!).  This type of banter gets exhausting and is likely to leave me feeling frustrated. I still resort to it sometimes, but when I remember our hide-and-seek game, things go more smoothly and the tension melts.

Yes, I look silly holding bags of groceries while I duck behind a pole half as thin as me. To passersby, my hiding place may be absurd and ridiculous. To Munchkin, it is an invitation to play, to follow, and to connect with me. I get to have a little fun and be freed of the stress of running after a toddler with my arms full. I get to smile and see my son erupt in laughter instead of tears. We both forget that it's about me trying to get him to go where I want. Best of all, I actually get from Point A to Point B in a reasonable amount of time.  Fun and practical, what a deal!

Do you have a special game that helps you through difficult parenting situations? Please feel free to share it here!


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:


  1. You're so right that hurrying kids along with cajoling or forcing often backfires. (Um, ask me how I know this…) I love the idea of this hide-and-seek game. I feel like I'm getting so many tips from this carnival to try! :)

  2. What a fun way to get around a very common toddler scenario :) I could not have done this with Kieran, because he has always been an excellent hider (at home), and I'd be paranoid he'd hide somewhere I couldn't find him. ;)
    A big hit for Kieran at that age was playing "adventure" games - "Hey, look over there! A lion! Let's sneak through the jungle to see him." And then we'd pretend to wade through the trees. Much better than dragging a screaming toddler out of a public place!

  3. Such a great idea!! I love it. I never thought of this one. thanks! I really appreciate any idea that cuts down on my "nagging voice."

  4. A woman after my own heart! I was so excited when I read the first sentence, because this has become a frustrating ordeal for me recently, especially trying to get Baby T out of the car and into the house when we get home in the afternoons.

    Your little depiction of the conversation you DON'T want to have ("Come on, let's go. Over here. This way. No...not that way...this way. Let's go, we need to go now or we'll be late... "). Wow. That's me sometimes. I hate it. I feel like such a drill sergent.

  5. I do this a lot with Tiny and is works miracles. Hide and seek never gets old and luckily, she has not figured out my m.o. yet. I also think "chase me" works wonders at getting a toddler from point a to point b! Thanks for sharing!