How to Make Low-Expectation Ornaments With Your Toddler

My husband has this thing he likes to say,
in a cheerful voice,
accompanied by an uber-fake smile and a thumbs up.
He says:

“My hopes are high, and my expectations are low!”

LOL. Usually it makes me laugh.
But not always.
Because my expectations are high. Like. Reeeal high.
I’m what’s known as a “type A” kind of person.
I have big ideas, high hopes, and I expect to be able to do ALL of it.

This mindset has served me well in the small biz arena!
But unfortunately, I frequently project these high hopes and expectations on to other people…
Other unsuspecting people,
like my family.

In fact my Mom has always said to me, from a very young age, in a “knowing” voice:
“Beth, you have very high expectations of people.”

And I am always SUPER annoyed by this.
Like, what does that even MEAN?
…I have high expectations of people… Pshh.

But, as much as I hate to admit it:
Motherhood has taught me, it’s TRUE.
*enter sad trombone*

I, Beth Meyer, have high expectations.
Of everything.
And this morning, my 18-month-old daughter kicked my expectations

Because I tried to orchestrate…

LOL, should’ve been adorable, RIGHT?!
Should’ve been like a freakin’ Norman Rockwell scene!
Rolling out dough at the counter together..
Noses brushes with flour, (evidence of our lovey-dovey eskimo kisses, of course),
…Sweet little rows of ornaments dancing from counter to oven…

It should have been wonderful.
And it did start out wonderful!
Stirring the ingredients together…
Chatting about salt and baking soda,
But then… THEN:
I pulled out the rolling pin.
Violet’s fancy flower rolling pin.

She wanted to ROLL. THAT. DOUGH. ….HERSELF.
Bahaha, and let me tell you: she was NOT interested in help.
She was NOT interested in pressing cookie cutters.
She was NOT interested in my involvement.
After a few minutes, she wasn’t even interested in her OWN involvement!

She basically just wanted to throw cookie cutters and scream “bunny!!!!”

And I totally dropped the ball and just gave up
and carried her in a huff to her crib and said:
“We’re done. I need a minute. Read books. Bye.”

Not my finest moment, but I’m sure every Mom has been there.

And then, I proceeded to angrily clean up the kitchen,
and I even had the audacity to take a selfie to document my disappointment!!!
Yeah, I was like: I should share this moment, to encourage other Moms!
To show, like: not every cute activity is gonna be a success.
That’s just TODDLERHOOD.

And you know? That would’ve been fine.
Because it IS important to show real life on social media.
Sometimes activities just FAIL and that’s life!

But as I scrubbed the dough off the kitchen counter,
feeling annoyed and kind of isolated with my feelings,
I suddenly heard the c-h-e-e-r-f-u-l voice of my husband in the back of my mind:

“My hopes are high, and my expectations are low!”

And I thought… what the heck am I doing here?
I don’t want to just throw all our work in the trash.
We DID have some fun.
It WAS a valuable experience for Violet.

I just started our activity with the wrong expectations.

SO, I tidied everything up, and thought…
Okay, what would actually be FUN for Violet?
If we continue this activity?

What would be develpmentally appropriate?
How can I follow her lead?
These are her ornaments after all.

And so I rolled the dough for her,
and set it out at her high chair (instead of the kitchen counter)
and then I put tools out for her. So she could just enjoy open-ended play.
And I thought: I’ll just let her play, then I can cut out the ornament shapes AFTER she’s made her dough-masterpiece.
(And spoiler-alert: it worked out great!!)

But first, I felt like I needed to model how to apologize and recover when things don’t go according to plan.
(Which is difficult for me.)

So I went to her room,
picked her up and gave her a hug,
and said, “Violet, I’m really sorry I got frustrated when things didn’t go my way. Can’t you forgive me?”

And you know what? I could really feel that she forgave me! She relaxed in my arms and kissed me!
My sweet little girl can be so intuitive and wise.
And I was so relieved that I just acted REAL and respectful with her!

So then, I asked her, “Would you like to come try the dough with me again? At the table? It’ll be fun!”
And she thought about it for a moment, and then zoomed right into the dining room!
I couldn’t believe it!

So yeah, we just enjoyed cutting the dough, making little dots in it with a pen cap, smushing it…
And then I cut out the ornament shapes at the end, and I tossed them in the oven.

And guess what? It still wasn’t perfect.
But we ended on a high note.
We didn’t just give up.

And so now when I look at the little finished ornaments, I’ll be reminded of how we saved a tough situation together.

Maybe someday I’ll get better at preparing my expectations ahead of time…
at being more flexible in the moment…
But for today, I’m just really thankful that my toddler was patient with me!

And to take things further, I do have some tips I’d like to share
for those of you who want to help your toddler make Christmas ornaments this year.
But FYI, I’m not sharing a recipe. Cuz Pinterest has you covered on that front, LOL!

I’ll list my tips below: good luck!

How to Help Your Toddler Make Christmas Ornaments

1. Plan the process, not the product:

Before you begin, think about what steps your child will enjoy. Do they like pouring, stirring, rolling? Sometimes if you involve your toddler in every step of an activity, they lose interest by the end! So think about which parts of the process you’d like to emphasize.

For example, next time, I think I’ll mix the ingredients on my own, because Violet was too zeroed in on tasting them. And they’re not tasty ingredients.
Instead, I’ll focus with her on kneading, rolling, and pressing patterns into the dough.

Then, I’ll plan to cut the shapes and bake them myself. Unless she’s still very interested! In which case, we can keep going together!

2. Don’t make too many at once:

I knew this was a bad idea… but I tried to make two doughs in one activity. Yeah, I got excited and we mixed up a baking soda dough AND a salt dough. Because I was interested to see the difference!

But that was too much for Violet, and ultimately kind of selfish of me. LOL, I mean, that’s a cute thing to be selfish about… making TOO much ornament dough for my toddler. Haha, but still, I knew in my gut that I should scale things back. And I didn’t. Serves me right!

3. Think about which tools they actually enjoy:

Violet was really struggling with the cookie cutters. Sometimes she enjoys them, but today was not that day. I wish that I had thought ahead of time about which tools she is interested in NOW, and how I could include those items in our dough play.

For example, she just started cutting her bananas with a children’s knife. So she could definitely practice her knife skills on dough, too!

She also loves making dots when she draws with markers. So I ended up giving her a pen (with the cap on) and she loved poking little dots into the dough!

4. Take a break in the middle

This goes along with #2… but patience is KEY.

Whether your toddler has a great attention span or not, it’s always a good idea to plan a break. Then you won’t be rushing to finish when they start to loose interest… I mean, what’s the point of rushing? They’re just little ornaments! Process over product! Which brings me to my last point…

5. Take photos of the process (for their sake!):

You’ll most likely take a photo of the finished ornaments, right? They’re so cute! Such a sweet Christmas memory!

But I think it’s even more valuable to take photos of the process.

Your child can enjoy them in the future. They’ll look at those photos fondly someday, and feel like: “yeah! Look at all the things we used to DO with Mom!”

Buy your child can also enjoy these photos right now. You can print them and talk about the process, which makes the physical ornaments so much more special!

Have YOU ever made ornaments with your toddler?
How did it go?!
I’d love to hear more tips and anecdotes in the comments!

Merry Christmas, everyone,
xx, Beth

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