Patience is difficult. Managing our reactions, or being patient, is a developing approach to learning skill for young children.  Many families and toddler teachers struggle to address building patience skill building in the heat of a toddler’s frustration.  This recipe for connection sets the stage for a casual and even humorous exchange about the sensation of and strategies for waiting.

Patience: Waiting is Not Easy

Waiting is Not Easy by Mo Willems
Lakeshore binoculars
sand timers

1. Read the story, Waiting is Not Easy with your child. While & after reading, ask questions like:

What’s going on here?
Have you ever had to wait like Gerald in the book?
Why did Gerald get so upset? Do you think he was still upset at the very end?
What was your favorite part? Why?

2. Talk with your child about how you have to wait sometimes (at the grocery store, the bank, in traffic).

Continue this conversation by letting your child know that waiting is difficult for everyone at times, sometimes we all have to wait (for example, preparing or ordering dinner almost always requires waiting). Share some of your simple reasons for waiting (when you wait for the dinner to slow cook, in a crockpot, it is more tender and tasty). Also, share your favorite strategies for staying patient while waiting.

3. Share the tools with your child. Explore the looking tools & sand timers and talk with them about what they are. (For example,When you look through them what do you see?”) Ask questions like:

How long do you think it will take for all the sand to fall to the bottoms?
What are some ways that we could use these (the kaleidoscopes or the sand timers) to play?
Play together with waiting in conversation and actions. Ask them what they like to do while they wait.
How do you like to wait? Why is it important to wait?
What do you think is worth waiting for? Or What is so special, you would wait for it?

4. Experiment with looking as a tool for waiting, play a timed version of I Spy (explain that the object of the game is to look for as many things as possible in before the time (the sand) runs out!).

Enjoy the excitement and silliness of a shared, “Ready, Set, Go!”
Start the timer & let your child shout out the things they find while looking.
(Keeping count out loud and on your fingers)

When the time is up, celebrate the number of things your child found when looking and how long they looked.

Talk about how the time doesn’t feel so long when you are looking for things. Maybe play this game the next time you need your child to wait for something.  Make sure to celebrate your child’s looking and waiting strengths, You could do this at a stop light, in line while you are out, or when you need to finish a small task.  

5. Keep it up… Practice casual, low pressure waiting scenarios in your everyday routines by labeling waiting situations for your child and inviting discussion.  When things start to heat up (and the stakes are raised), try using the book as a friendly cue to wait patiently,  “Oh, remember how we need to wait like Gerald!”  Avoid the temptation to let your anxious emotion leak into your waiting prompt.

Waiting in not easy, but you’ve got this.

Dr. Andrea Miller Emerson

Dr. Andrea Miller Emerson

Dr. Andrea Miller Emerson is an Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education in the Division of Education and Leadership at Western Oregon University in Monmouth, Oregon. Andrea lives (and laughs frequently) with her husband, Kyle, and her cat, Zuzu. She brings diverse personal perspectives to early childhood education and care from her father’s Colombian heritage, her mother’s all-American culture from North Texas, her ongoing involvement with an Italian Immersion Program for pre-service teachers in Carpi, Italy, and her extensive international travel. To learn more about Dr. Emerson’s speaking engagements, or to invite her to speak, please click here.