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How to Challenge Toddlers and Puppies

September 7, 2010 by admin  
Filed under Blog, General

We added a puppy to our family this spring, Bailey. As with all puppies, kittens, babies and toddlers, he is energetic, inquisitive and curious. He runs when he could walk. He bounces everywhere, starting first thing in the morning, jumping out of bed, excited to see what new adventures will come his way.

We showered him with puppy toys. Squeaky toys, red and orange balls, toys that hide food, stuffed animals just for puppies. One morning, while I was working on my computer, Bailey walked past all his toys and started trying to pull one of my daughter’s toys off the windowsill. It was really hard for him to reach. He had to stand up on his two hind legs. He would push it with his nose to get it closer to the edge of the windowsill. Then, he would rest on all fours for a few minutes and stand back up on his back legs. He repeated this for several times before he was able to grab my daughter’s toy with his teeth from the windowsill. He proudly carried it over to his blanket and laid down and started chewing on it. I took it away from him.

He walked past all his toys again. Went over to the windowsill and repeated the whole exercise again. Up on hind legs. Reach for toy. Rest a little. Back up on hind legs. Stretch a little more to try and reach toy. Rest. Stand up. Finally reach toy. Carry it proudly over to blanket. Sit down and start chewing on it. Have it taken away. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

After a few days of this, I realized that Bailey really didn’t care what he got in his mouth. He cared about the CHALLENGE. He wanted something more demanding that just a pile of toys on the floor. So, he went for the ones that were harder to get — out of reach — slightly beyond his two front paws.

Our children need challenges also. They need toys, games, activities which are just enough out of reach that they have to stretch for them — stand on their tippy toes — try something they haven’t tried before to figure it out. Creating challenges for our children is as simple as putting blocks in a tupperware container with the lid on and letting our children figure out how to get the lid off. If our children aren’t ready for writing, we can encourage them to make letter shapes with mismatched socks from the laundry. Using one of the activities from Michelle Vallene’s, “What Children Need to Learn”, they can write letter and number shapes in shaving cream on the kitchen table while we make dinner. Our children, like Bailey, will create their own challenges. We can help direct them by providing windowsills with different skills and activities and challenges. See “What Children Need to Learn to Read”.

If you would like some more ideas, visit our website, or feel free to e-mail me at

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