A few weeks ago, my family and I visited a children’s museum that could have kept my toddler’s attention all day long. He opened and closed the doors to a bus, inserted circular discs into slots, floated boats on water and pushed a bazillion buttons. The museum was an amazing place for my toddler, and he made sure to take his time on each exhibit. In the meantime, here I sat thinking, “Wow, when is he going to move on to the next one?”

3 reasons you shouldn't rush a toddlerLet me back track: I absolutely appreciated the museum for what my toddler was able to learn and explore from its many exhibits. I loved watching his inquisitive mind determine how things work and hearing him squeal at every button he pushed. I love all that. But as an adult who has long ago figured out why doors open and close and that boats ride the currents of the water, I don’t exactly hold the same wonderment as my toddler.

Other times, I rush him through activities that for me, are simply a means to an end, but to my toddler, remain an untapped resource for enjoyment and learning. For instance, I practically dragged him by the hand back home from the park because he insisted on looking at the stoplights flashing behind us. We also take walks around the block or explore at our nearby park, and in the past I would urge him to continue on, saying, “Come along, we’re almost around the corner.” And each time, my toddler politely refused to budge and instead stayed put touching sprinklers or took his time collecting sticks and leaves.

None of my pressings were ever successful in actually getting my toddler to move on, and I’m all the more thankful for that. I’ve since done my best to stop rushing him through his activities, however much I would rather move on. Instead, I keep the following points in mind as to why I shouldn’t rush a toddler:

  • Everything is new in a toddler’s world, so even the simplest activities to us can be potentially mind blowing to them. Every environment provides them an arena to learn something new or practice a skill or drill a concept they had been working on.
  • In being allowed the time to discover, children come to learn that we support and encourage their explorations and critical thinking skills. Their play time isn’t merely some silly activity that we brush aside but instead are honored for the teaching purposes they serve.
  • Given a few years’ time, these “slow” events will no longer intrigue toddlers, and I would rather take advantage of what they can offer my still-young toddler while he still appreciates them and can expend the interest and focus he currently does.

I’ll admit—taking my time isn’t always so easy. As a busy mom with a running list plastered in her head of all the things she still has to do, sometimes the last thing I need is spend 20 minutes standing on a sidewalk watching my toddler pick up acorns. And there have been days when we really do have to get somewhere and I have little choice but to rush him along.

That said, I still try to consciously remind myself to let him explore at his own pace because I sure wouldn’t want someone rushing me should I land on some amazing find. And I’ve realized that rushing him isn’t exactly effective—the little guy is quite adamant about staying put or, even if he obliges to quit picking flowers, will still take his time observing the rocks and holes the next second.

I’ve stopped bothering with hurrying him along. Now, a walk around the block isn’t simply a means to an end, a destination to reach. Instead, we take our time as I do my best to block out all the to-dos running through my head.

When have you found yourself rushing your toddler through an activity? What benefits have you seen by allowing your kids to explore at their leisure?