When Preschoolers Have To Wait
Keeping your preschooler happy when circumstances cause delays
The sight of an out-of-control toddler in public brings a lot of unwanted attention. Looks of pity, annoyance and even some sympathy are all cast your way. How can you avoid this scenario and still enjoy an outing with your small child?
The key to a successful public appearance with your child is planning and being sensitive to your child's needs. You're inviting disaster if you go anywhere in the afternoon with a preschooler who needs a nap. Going out to a late dinner with a hungry child guarantees you a stressful evening. Being aware of your child's needs and emotional maturity can help insure a pleasant outing for all.
Take going out to eat for example. Surprisingly enough, some kid-oriented establishments can be too stimulating for a preschooler or toddler in the evening. It's better to save those experiences for earlier in the day. Choose a reastaurant with something quiet to keep the child interested such as an aquarium or fountain. Bring a small bag of items your child only sees on these outings. Stickers, little cars or figures, some markers and coloring books or paper can make the time pass quickly. Take advantage of any items the restaurant has such as puzzle placemats. Order food that doesn't take too long to prepare. A quick experience is a plus here.
Waiting at the doctor's office can seem an eternity. Surprisingly enough, when your child is ill he's often easier to handle- snuggled on your lap he's in no mood to cause trouble. Check ups can be another matter entirely- many offices are full of toys that the child doesn't want to leave and that may have been played with by dozens of children with runny noses before him. Bring a small bottle of hand disinfectant and use it on his hands after playing and consider bringing a book or something quiet to distract him until time for the appointment. Also it's a good idea to call ahead and see if your dcotor is running on time.
Traveling with a preschooler can bring a whole other set of frustrations caused by delays, especially in airports. You don't want to break into the stash of goodies you brought for the trip itself but you're running out of ideas. A walk around the terminal can be a good distraction- point out different things or have the child play a counting game to see how many people are in line, how many suitcases he sees or how many things are the color blue. Try to look out the window and watch the planes take off and land. Make sure to include a trip to the bathroom- many modern airports have self-activated faucets or toilets that fascinate the younger set!
When you're stuck in line play games like "I Spy" or issue challenges like how long the child can stand on one foot. Keeping them looking at other things helps the time pass. If everything fails and you sense your child is starting to wind up into a fit hold him close and talk in a low voice- often that will help him regain control. You may both need a "time-out" to help him gain control of himself privately- don't scold or embarrass him in front of others. You may end up farther back in line but if a public scene is avoided it's worth it for both of you.
Remember your child won't be little forever and the coping skills you help him master now will pay off in the long run.