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Daycare Center and Family Home Forum>Struggling 20-Month-Old
Elko 05:26 AM 10-17-2014
Another assistant question here!

I'm at a home daycare that opened in April, and the total is 4 toddlers (including mine) and a 3 month old.

The first toddler in the daycare is now 20-months-old. He's tiny and always has been. He literally never sits still or focuses on one thing for more than about 5 seconds.

Naptime goes quickly for him, I think because he's exhausted by then, but every single other aspect of the day is a struggle.

Mealtime: once in a while he'll eat what's in front of him. If it's fruit, he'll usually eat until we stop feeding him. Same with peanut butter and of course, crackers. We've basically stopped ever serving crackers as that's all he'll ask for when served anything else. He lasts a few minutes at most then starts literally loud-crying and dumping his plate and throwing his spoon. It disrupts everyone, and everyone else is generally a good eater.

So he leaves the table hungry, and we have him pick up whatever he threw... an hour later he's melting down because he's starving. We've tried just making him wait til the scheduled meal and snack times (every 2 hours) but he just can't make it. Again, the whole community is disrupted. So now, one of us takes him and gives him some alone time and his own snack.

It's become clear that he can't handle his emotions, and can't handle much stimulation that's not completely under his control. He's good when he's the only kid in the morning, ok when the next one shows up, but when the third kid gets there he totally loses it. We've started prioritizing a little alone time for him, and don't really mind, but every day we think we've figured out a new routine including his issues, and every day it gets a little more muddled...

His family is breaking up at home, which I know doesn't help. But that's why I strive to create consistency at daycare, but it simply falls apart daily!

I know his mom gives him crackers before bringing him in, probably just to keep it together (she's 20, going to school, and dealing with a breakup, I really can't blame her as she's really doing her best) and the owner won't ask her to stop with the crackers so we can try and firm up mealtime.

Does it sound like maybe he has sensory issues or something? I had a good day yesterday because I moved the kids from one location to the next as often as seemed necessary; the owner gets upset when they (he, really) get bored being out in the yard, and I just assume a change in location will help. It usually does, but she really wants to make sure they're outside as much as humanly possible, so I just change outside locations (There's a park next door, if I don't have too many toddlers I'll bring them there. Then he gets bored and starts playing with the rusty hinge on the gate :/ )

I'm new to the whole industry, so I apologize if I sound totally lame, but he's really causing a lot of stress to everyone. I feel bad for the little guy; he'll take cuddles sometimes and seems to really need them but the owner tells me he asks for cuddles "because I gave them to him". I'm really going crazy over here.

Thanks for reading my rambling insanity, guess I'm just looking for a discussion about how others deal with a kid who has a hard time... dealing. ..
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cheerfuldom 07:27 AM 10-17-2014
I have a child with sensory issued and too me, nothing you described is sensory related. Crying for food and short attention span and being overstimulated is a 20 month old thing.....some kids are just more difficult and with the fact that his mom is young and from your estimation, giving in to his demands, it doesnt sound like sensory issues. The owner doesnt even have a set scheduled? This is part of the problem. This toddler needs consistency at home and at daycare and it doesnt look like he is getting that very well at either place. I dont think that is your fault as you are clearly trying your best. But this daycare sounds poorly run. Keep looking for another job.
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AmyKidsCo 08:30 AM 10-17-2014
And FWIW, I don't think it's wrong to give a 20 mo old cuddles when he needs them. Especially if he's high-strung and there's stress in the home. Maybe more cuddles would help him relax and make everyone's day better.
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NightOwl 09:11 AM 10-17-2014
Agreed. And those sneaky snacks need to stop. He's not eating at meal times because he's snacking in between. And some kids just don't eat well at this age. But the others are right, keep job hunting. I'm afraid this may end with a bang.
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Elko 08:30 PM 10-17-2014
Yeah, the owner seems to want a set schedule, but since he's the first kid I think she's attached and doesn't want to get too strict... but then again he really does cause such a big issue every day (several, actually) that it is soooo hard to just say "ok, you're all done!" and wait til next mealtime. He definitely doesn't seem to "get" that he's hungry either, so when we try to do that and hope he'll understand at next mealtime, it just falls apart.

I'm glad to hear that I should keep cuddling him; I just do it when she's not looking :/ We had a decent day yesterday because I just took over all toddler time while she dealt with the baby, and changed locations as often as the 20-month-old needed. I also realize that that age is an especially whiny one, since I just went through it with mine...

There's a chance he'll have to relocate soon on account of his family splitting up and his mom moving farther away; guess I'll just have to wait for that to happen naturally!

And yes, I'll continue looking, thanks for your patience with me! I feel like I don't have anyone to vent to so you guys are it!
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Heidi 03:09 PM 10-18-2014
Here is a typical day with my 16-21 months olds:

Wake up at home at 6:15 am. Get dressed, have a full breakfast (grain, fruit, milk).

Arrive at 7-7:15, free-play. I alternate playing with them, talking to them while they play, or just observing. Depends on the day and their mood. I don't spend a lot of time "cuddling", but they come for hugs and if I'm on the floor, they find my lap.

Snack at 8:45. This is another full breakfast grain, protein or fruit, and milk.
They sit at a small table and feed themselves. The 21 mo. used an open cup, the younger ones have cups with lids. They all get forks but rarely use them yet. I eat with them to model good table manners, etc.

After breakfast, we check diapers and then get shoes and coats on. We go for a walk to the woods (they ride in a cart). Along the way, we point out wildlife, vehicle colors, or sing songs. Then, they get out and run in the woods (there's a path). Then, it's back in the cart and home. This whole thing takes almost an hour. If the weather is disagreeable, we are starting some small projects during this time. Once winter comes, they'll be more projects because the woods will be inaccessible.

We come back and play in the yard until 11:20/11:30 or so.

We come in, remove coats and shoes, change diapers, wash hands. I get out puzzles or play dough or coloring supplies. They use those while I make lunch.

We eat lunch together, I read one or two stories, and then we sing the nighty-night song.

Everyone goes to bed (two RUN to bed), and they sleep 3 hours. If they wake up early, they lay in their beds and giggle at each other or read their book.

After nap (usually 3:15), it's fresh diapers, then snack (protein, grain, 2 veggie/fruits).

Then it's free-play until 4:30, when they go home.


That is what a consistent, predictable, toddler-friendly day looks like. The routine is almost always the same, but sometimes there's a small variance in times. KWIM?

I have found that transitioning with little songs helps my kiddos SO much.
http://www.songsforteaching.com/transitions.htm. Here are some you could try, or make them up. You don't have to be Christina Aguilara (I am no Nan De, even...lol).

Also, if that little man is hungry, TALK to him. He's not 6 months old. He's almost 2. "I hear you are hungry. We will have lunch soon". If you know he LOVES something but picks at others, then give everyone his favorites last. I have a new one who clearly carries a sippy-cup around at home 24/7. He doesn't want to eat; he wants milk, milk, milk. We saw that day 1. Now, we serve the milk a few minutes into the meal, so he can start eating first. He's already eating more food, not filling up on milk.

After just 2 posts from you, I'm thinking you should get outta' there and start your own daycare. That lady isn't going to be in business long if she needs 2 assistants for 4 children.
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Elko 03:46 AM 10-19-2014
Thanks for the insight on your schedule! I like the idea of songs as a transition...

I've discovered he actually does ok if I really get down on the ground and say his name a time or two to get him to actually look and listen to me. I think he really is just SO wound up all the time he's not able to focus, so he doesn't hear our requests. I've been working on getting him to say when he's "all done" or wants "more please", and he finally kind of does it... sometimes. I know that's normal, it's just been so frustrating because unless we really hover over him and constantly work on getting/keeping his attention, he loses it and it's impossible to get it back if he's tired or hungry. If I dare walk away to get another kid food, or clean up for a second, he's flipping his plate or throwing his spoon... then ALL the rest of them drop their spoons and it's a big chorus of "uh-oh!"

The others (yes, including mine ) are all just so much more mellow, that the "toddlerisms" aren't as overwhelming. (Although I should start a new thread about bad table manners, I really can't get them to stop dropping their spoons now for attention).

I think I have to wait for him to just move on, as every time I ask the owner if we should stick to a schedule, she gets wishy-washy. I just know I'm gonna be PISSED if he ruins my daughter's good eating habits!
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Heidi 06:51 AM 10-19-2014
Originally Posted by Elko:
Thanks for the insight on your schedule! I like the idea of songs as a transition...

I've discovered he actually does ok if I really get down on the ground and say his name a time or two to get him to actually look and listen to me. I think he really is just SO wound up all the time he's not able to focus, so he doesn't hear our requests. I've been working on getting him to say when he's "all done" or wants "more please", and he finally kind of does it... sometimes. I know that's normal, it's just been so frustrating because unless we really hover over him and constantly work on getting/keeping his attention, he loses it and it's impossible to get it back if he's tired or hungry. If I dare walk away to get another kid food, or clean up for a second, he's flipping his plate or throwing his spoon... then ALL the rest of them drop their spoons and it's a big chorus of "uh-oh!"

The others (yes, including mine ) are all just so much more mellow, that the "toddlerisms" aren't as overwhelming. (Although I should start a new thread about bad table manners, I really can't get them to stop dropping their spoons now for attention).

I think I have to wait for him to just move on, as every time I ask the owner if we should stick to a schedule, she gets wishy-washy. I just know I'm gonna be PISSED if he ruins my daughter's good eating habits!
A 20 month old is perfectly capable of understanding that purposely flipping you plate or dropping your spoon mean the meal is over. I'd give them one warning the first couple days, and then move to "well, you threw your fork. That shows me you're done eating". Remove plate...the end.

I read a story at the end of lunch (before the nighty-night song). It serves two purposes. One, they are a "captive" audience, so they actually engage in the book. Second, they look forward to it and it's sort of a "carrot" for behaving at the table (although never stated as such).
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Elko 07:06 PM 10-19-2014
I agree, and want to be able to be strict about that behavior. All the other kids can handle waiting until the next meal if they act a fool and have to stop eating early, but this kid really makes it impossible if he doesn't eat! I know, it sounds ridiculous, but it's gotten so complicated!

Another question: what kinds of projects do you do for kids this age? We're struggling to find organized projects that suit their varying developmental abilities as well as interests (age-wise the others are just enough months apart that one can paint while the other just wants to wander around and eat the paintbrush, but we can manage that. Of course this kid still wants to just sit for 1.5 seconds, bang the paintbrush on the table, then throw it and walk away). I hate to blatantly steal from you, but any ideas would be appreciated!
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Heidi 08:19 PM 10-19-2014
Originally Posted by Elko:
I agree, and want to be able to be strict about that behavior. All the other kids can handle waiting until the next meal if they act a fool and have to stop eating early, but this kid really makes it impossible if he doesn't eat! I know, it sounds ridiculous, but it's gotten so complicated!

Another question: what kinds of projects do you do for kids this age? We're struggling to find organized projects that suit their varying developmental abilities as well as interests (age-wise the others are just enough months apart that one can paint while the other just wants to wander around and eat the paintbrush, but we can manage that. Of course this kid still wants to just sit for 1.5 seconds, bang the paintbrush on the table, then throw it and walk away). I hate to blatantly steal from you, but any ideas would be appreciated!
-Coloring with "color wonder" markers. A good way to start because they only work on the page

-A few baking pans filled with bird seed and very small scoops, spoons, etc. (small means dumping is tough...try formula scoops). Put on a low table and stay right there. In winter, snow is a great option.

-A large roll of paper taped to the table. "we only color ON the PAPER..."repeat, repeat, repeat. Again, don't move.

-Salt dough (find recipe online). It mostly tastes too yucky to eat. Some kid-sized rolling pins, if you have them, and cookie cutters.

-Contact paper art. Find a bunch of small scrapes of fabric, feathers, paper shapes, whatever. Tape contact paper sticky side up to the table, and show them how to make collages.

-Marble painting. Tape a piece of paper inside a low box. Take a large marble or golf ball, dip in paint. Help kiddo roll it around the paper. This is a one-at-a-time-one-adult-per-kiddo choice.

-Outside painting. Better in summer striped down to diapers, but old oversized t-shirt smocks will do. Put an old sheet on a fence, and hand out paint brushes. Add the daycare name yourself in big letters and hang the finished product out for the neighborhood to see. Instant advertising.

-Sidewalk chalk

-Water painting. Take a bucket of water (preferably anchored) and give them all house-painting brushes. While they're at it, they can "paint" where they colored with chalk. It either blends the colors (a little water) or washes them away (a lot of water).

This month, mine did apple-paintings (apples used as sponges for red and green paint), and they made "Jack0Lanterns" with paper plates they sort-of painted orange and the stuck black eyes/nose/mouths on (my teen precut those). Of course, the YOUNGEST child's looked the best, because she needed the most help. The ugliest (and therefore the funniest, really the best) one is the oldest's (21 months), because she sort of "got it", but not really. Her Jack-o-Lantern is just not quite right...

I don't do a lot of curriculum. I offer activities and opportunities to use materials based on the seasons and the children's interest. If we go for a walk and see a blue jay, we find a book about a blue jay (or a book with one in it), or a youtube video of blue jay "song" (lol..they don't exactly sing).

Just Google toddler activities and apply what works for a younger crowd. Get them using materials with supervision. Don't worry about "product", but concentrate on "process".

Oh, and start your own daycare. That's a whole lot of work to do for someone else who isn't even paying you minimum wage.
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Elko 08:29 PM 10-19-2014
Ha thanks for the help! I appreciate the ideas, and I'll start implementing what I can! Unfortunately I'm completely and totally broke, so I don't think I can start much of anything at this point, but who knows!
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Heidi 08:32 PM 10-19-2014
Originally Posted by Elko:
Ha thanks for the help! I appreciate the ideas, and I'll start implementing what I can! Unfortunately I'm completely and totally broke, so I don't think I can start much of anything at this point, but who knows!
I know...cart/horse/cart/horse, right?

If you weren't broke, you could start a daycare. If you had your own daycare, you wouldn't be broke!
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