So I’ve been thinking about my amazing three-year-old niece. Every time I see her I’m surprised – almost scared – at how advanced she is for a three-year-old. My brother hasn’t let me steal her to run some IQ tests yet, but I’d say she would give a seven-year-old a run for their money. Boasting aside, I realized recently there are genuine lessons to be learned from pretty much any toddler. Observing her spontaneity, her demands, her triumphs, her fails, and how she responds to her surroundings… I saw how I could benefit from creating some life lessons from these childish qualities:
The typical ‘Why…’ preludes much of what my niece says – including a rather adorable ‘Why do mummy and daddy love me’ – I swear she knows she’s being cute. Anyway, I think we can discover a lot when we question things that are normally taken for granted as fact, before we accept them.
It probably isn’t fun for her parents when she wanders off in a supermarket, but you have to respect her sense of adventure. Being in a new place or learning a new skill can be exhilarating, and it’s amazing what we can discover about the world (and ourselves) while we’re at it. I find myself going to the same places I know in London, but there is so much more to explore, and so I sometimes force myself to get lost. I see how far I get without Google maps and discover a side of the city I never expected.
Play in the mud
Ok, you don’t have to take this one literally, but getting outdoors and engaging in activities that might get messy can be great for the body and soul. I think Tough Mudder is a great (if not extreme!) opportunity to do this. If you’re tamer like myself, just walking in a green area, going off the beaten track and engaging with nature is a proven stress reliever.
Toddlers are known for their – somewhat frustrating – habit to say ‘no’ quite a lot. It is something I struggle with now, and need to remember more. It can be tempting to please people by saying ‘yes’ to every request and demand, but taking on more than I can handle is never a good thing. By selectively saying ‘no’ and prioritizing more, without guilt, I’m likely to be less stressed and put more energy in the right places.
Ask for things
On a similar line to saying no, asking for more is another thing that many people become fearful of as they grow older. Asking for help is a particular struggle, or asking for a pay rise, asking for emotional support and so on. Trying to remember I have nothing to lose by simply asking, makes this easier. Throwing a tantrum when I don’t get my way, is a less admirable quality I won’t be recommending
My niece doesn’t sugar-coat her opinions. If she thinks you look weird, she’ll let you know. One day I wore my hair in a scruffy ponytail and she would barely speak to me! Anyway, being a little more honest with people is usually appreciated (if done with more tact than a three-year-old). I encourage it with my friends and family, seeing as it’s part of my job as a designer to get good at taking criticism well.
Don’t be afraid to look silly
It’s hard for me to remember a time before social stigmas started influencing how I behaved. However, if I do find myself sinking into the floor in embarrassment for walking out of a bathroom with toilet paper attached to my shoe, I try to give myself a good shake and imagine I was a toddler before my ego had developed.
Sleep when you need to
I wanted to say just ‘sleep more’ as this is usually a good guide for most people, but moreover, I think it’s knowing you need to sleep more and removing the guilt. I used to think that sleeping longer would mean I was less productive, but now I see that by having more energy in the day, I can achieve far more when I have slept enough. Of course, a toddler doesn’t always go to bed when they should either – but a warm bath before bed has been known to work wonders for all ages.
Focus on one task at a time
It’s incredible to watch my niece when she has a task to do – like unscrewing a lid – she’ll focus her entire being on getting this thing done, and it’s nearly impossible to distract her before she’s done with it. I get distracted by things all the time, but by concentrating my effort one one task at a time and working with bull-like determination on it, gets far more things done.
There’s nothing like the infectious laugh of a toddler – my niece can go from dead solemn to red-faced hysterics in a matter of seconds, and it’s hard not to be warmed by that. If this article from the Mayo Clinic is anything to go by, I think a little more toddler-like giggling could do us wonders.