Parenting Advice Column Subject: Toddler screams when waiting for turn at gym class
I started taking my son, who is almost 3, to gymnastics classes for toddlers. He likes it except for having to wait his turn for the trampoline (not that I think toddlers should have to wait for 5 other children to take a turn anyway!). He kept screaming so I let him go play at the obstacle course by himself and he was happy with that. I was thinking of trying a new place (although I am sure some waiting will be involved there too) closer to my house. I'm debating as to whether I should wait awhile longer before trying him again or just taking him and letting him play elsewhere if he is having difficulty like I did before. What do you think?
First, it sounds like you handled things very well! You found a creative alternative that he enjoyed, and avoided using force. You're right, of course, that toddlers should not be expected to wait patiently for a long time to take their turn. For some reason in our society, toddlers are expected to be infinitely patient for everything, although this is completely unrealistic and unfair, as you know.
It might be best to look for another gym class (or even better, an "open gym") where there isn't so much competition for the equipment, or simply a parent-toddler playgroup. You might need to look for a gym class that has fewer children and/or more equipment. A parent-toddler group I know convinced a local YMCA to set up an "open gym" time limited to their group; you might be able to do the same in your community.
In case you are ever in a situation where there are no alternatives to waiting, or Adam isn't interested in the alternatives that are available, it's best to plan ahead and bring along a snack and a few small favorite toys, or develop some parent-and-child games you can fall back on if all else fails. This sort of preparation can be invaluable in places like long grocery lines (though it's even better to avoid those by shopping at other times if possible). Jason and I used to play "I spy" when we had to wait in line - actually we still do that sometimes (he's 19)! We take turns looking around the room to find something unusual and ask the other one to find it. It sounds a little silly but it can help the time go faster! This sort of thing can be a good lesson by example of being creative and positive when we find ourselves in a frustrating or boring situation.
One thing I learned when Jason was little is that there may be opportunities out there that are a little hard to find. It took me two years to discover (right in our own neighborhood!) a wonderful mother-toddler "playspace" - a large room with tons of toys in the middle, and chairs around the edge for the moms to watch their children while talking with other moms. This had been going on the whole two years I had been looking for something! You might phone the local community center, chamber of commerce, or library to see what is available for you, or write a letter to the editor of a local paper suggesting that the community needs more such places.
All the best,
JanParenting Advice Column Topics