Intentional Toddler Time: A Week of Outside & Fish

{Samuel is currently 20.5 months}

After almost an entire month of traveling, mostly by airplane, we are so glad to be back home and back to Intentional Toddler Time.

We are in the throws of fall in Steamboat Springs, and the temperature is dropping into the 30s at night. I’m well aware that our first snow season is quickly approaching (remember when I said I liked my flip flops?); therefore, we are spending far less time indoors and far more time out of doors these days. Samuel loves being outside. I think he’d sleep outside if we’d let him!

I give him lots of time to play outside by himself. He has free reign of our fenced in back yard. Sometimes I sit outside with him, other times I wash the dishes and tidy downstairs. I love the way our home is set up. I can see him from just about anywhere downstairs I go. So I set him outside, give him a pat, and he takes off.

Almost every waking minute my boy was outside! When he’s outside, there aren’t a lot of rules. He can run, jump, bounce like a kangaroo, and just let it all hang out! Sometimes he’s even diaper-less, and often he’s pants-less. He can explore the furthest corner of the yard, and have the freedom to get stung by a bee. No, I’m not putting him in harm’s way, and no I don’t intentionally put him in front of a bee. My point is that I’m raising a little boy who needs the time to just romp, and when he’s outside, he doesn’t have to play by the rules that he has inside.

He’s really getting into trucks and cars and fish. Speaking of fish, I created his first ever sensory bin. I recently came across Simple Living Mama’s Apple Themed Sensory Tub. I remembered her telling me she doesn’t do a lot of tot trays because sensory bins work better for them. So I thought I’d give sensory bins a try, fully expecting Samuel to hate them. Boy was I wrong!

I keep his sensory bin on the top shelf of our trofast, and every day before breakfast, after nap, and after dinner, I hear the words, “Mama, sense-y. Mama, sense-y.” If you don’t do toddler talk, that’s sensory bin.

Ocean Theme Sensory Bin {what I included}

  • Jewels in various colors (leftover from past fish bowls and our wedding)
  • Seashells (leftover from our wedding rehearsal)
  • Toy fish, sea horses, and seashells
  • Various bowls for noise effects when the jewels hit
  • Measuring cup and spoon for scooping

Fresh from a nap and ready to dig in! Really? This kid has been missing out because his mama totally got it wrong! We’ll be incorporating more sensory bins into our weekly routine.

What I learned this week is that Intentional Toddler Time never looks the same from week-to-week. I plan activities, but it’s not so I can make sure we get it all done. I plan activities for moments when Samuel needs some help deciding what to do, or when he needs Mommy’s attention more so than usual. But overall, we have a plan, and we call it Intentional Toddler Time because I’m intentionally observing my child at play, interacting when necessary and appropriate, but giving him lots of freedom to explore.  Some week’s he asks to sit at the table and write, which comes out “lap, lap” and points with his crayon at the table. But weeks like last week, I had lots of fish crafts and activities to do with him; however, he didn’t need them. And I didn’t interrupt his natural learning either.

There is a balance, I think, with this whole Intentional Toddler Time. I don’t want you to think that I make sure to cover everything every week. He’s a toddler for crying out loud. I get that. You know that. I think a lot of people think I have him sitting at the table for hours on end adding and multiplying the common derivative of four minus two square. I don’t. I promise. But I do seek to intentionally pursue my child, and bring him alongside me in work and play. I give him open ended toys to play with and we play classical music some days. But most days, we’re dancing like crazy kids to VeggieTales.

So one week you might see me working with him at the table holding a pencil, the next week there might be perfectly organized tot trays, and other weeks you might see me curled up on the couch exhausted while my boy watches Finding Nemo for the fifth time today. Or week’s like this week when I’m inside catching up on life while my boy romps outside and completely entertains himself. I have no idea what he learned, but I can tell you this much … he can laugh like it’s nobody’s business when he plays with his big, giant dog in his big back yard.

Do you ever find yourself comparing yourself to other moms of toddlers?

Fruit of the Spirit Curriculum for Toddlers!

The Fruit of the Spirit Curriculum for Toddlers is designed to help you teach early learning skills to your child while instilling God’s truth. One week at a time (for 18 weeks), I will guide you through sharing the Gospel with your child through various Bible stories and learning opportunities. Click here to learn more.

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  1. Hey Leigh Ann~ Thanks so much for this series! It gives me excellent ideas of things to try with Titus. I’ve been trying to get better with having intentional time with him while the baby is napping. We usually hang out for a little while then he’s “done” with me and moves on to his own thing. I LOVE that you have a yard that Sam can be free and safe to explore in. I really wish I had that! :o)

    1. This is great news! I love how you said, “when he’s done with me.” If I’m engaging Samuel in some way, even if it’s just sitting and watching what’s he’s doing, he rarely is “done with me.” It’s so funny to hear and see different personalities in different children. But go you for seeking to be intentional! That’s what this series is all about!

  2. I’m horrible about comparing too.

    I have to say that you are very very blessed to have a yard you can see from the house. Our backyard is huge and fenced in, but there’s no shade and from the one window we have I can’t see much. Plus he knows how to open the gate and get out. But, we have a neighbor boy next door who is four months older than my son and they LOVE to play together in his front yard. He has all sorts of neat cars and trucks and they just run around and giggle. It’s hilarious. His dad is home a lot so we can kind of tag-team watching the boys. I usually sit in a chair with my laptop/phone or a book so it’s nice. I just can’t get any housework done while he’s playing outside. So I just deal with the messes inside and be glad he’s happy outside while it’s still warm outside. I have all winter to do dishes, right?

    1. Yes, opening the gate and getting out is not okay. I can hardly get out of our backyard so I think I have a way to go before Sam can. And yes, you’re right…you have all winter to clean!!! You’re lucky to get to sit and read a book! Enjoy it, Mama! 😉

  3. Hey! I’ve been reading your blog for awhile and just wanted to say that you are such a great mom! I just love reading about young Christian families…it’s so encouraging that there are more of “us” out there. I’ve been married for just over 2 years and hoping to start a family soon. Thanks for sharing your Christian faith and your time as a mommy!

  4. So I know you wrote this post a couple of years ago, but just had a question…and probably a silly one. lol We just got a water/sand table for my daughter. I’m wanting to buy some sand, but I see all these posts online about normal play sand being unsafe. Do you worry about this? Or is there a certain kind of sand you buy? Part of me thinks that our society just worries way too much, and the other part of me thinks if I know something is unsafe for my child, shouldn’t I try to find a safe alternative? lol Silly, right?

    1. I think we process things much the same way. 🙂 I got my sand from our local hardware store that’s “meant for play.” We change it out each year. I also “check it” every now and then to make sure I don’t see any critters taking over. This seems to work just fine for us. Hope that helps!