Simple tips for teaching toddlers patience (without losing yours)

Nikki Stevenson
Nikki Stevenson
Nikki is a parenting writer and a mom to three wild boys who keep her on her toes (and occasionally make her question her sanity). With over 15 years of experience in the parenting industry, she has more tips and tricks than Mary Poppins on speed dial. When she's not typing away at her keyboard, you can find her sipping on coffee, hiding in the bathroom for five minutes of...
Created on Jan 22, 2024 · 5 mins read

Ah, patience – the virtue that’s easy to admire from a distance but notoriously hard to instil in our pint-sized progeny. We parents have enough on our plates, from negotiating peace treaties over toys to answering endless questions like “Why is the sky blue?” So how on Earth can we teach our kids patience when we’re barely holding onto ours?

Before you throw your arms up in the air and declare the whole situation wash, consider these tips that make the patience-learning process fun for both you and your child.

Tip 1: The Waiting Game

Yes, the waiting game sounds about as exciting as watching paint dry. But hang on, what if we added a sprinkle of imagination? While waiting at the bus stop, you could play a game of “I spy with my little eye.” The trick here is that it makes your little one focus on the moment rather than the goal.

Psychological studies show that waiting enhances self-regulation and emotional control. In the world of child psychology, this is termed “delayed gratification.” A mini scavenger hunt at the bus stop takes the classic “I Spy” game a notch higher by adding a temporal element. The longer it takes to find each object on the list, the more children practice delayed gratification. This conditions their minds to withstand the frustration that comes with waiting, making them emotionally stronger and more patient.

Tip 2: Building Bricks of Patience

If you’ve been trying to find a way to bring educational fun into your child’s life, LEGO® DUPLO®  Daily Routines: Eating & Bedtime set could be a fantastic way to teach patience. If your little one can’t be wrangled into routine, playing through each step in a fun and creative way can help them understand and emotionally prepare for these patterns. Even though everything in their little body wants to jump ship and latch their attention onto something a bit more fun, bedtime and eating routines aren’t skippable. The sooner your child can start to make sense of them and grow more comfortable, the better. The LEGO DUPLO Daily Routines: Eating & Bedtime set features four adorable characters – a parent cat and bear, and a baby cat and cub – with two colour coordinated sets for eating and bedtime. 

Have the parent bear read to the cub before sleep, or explain that the baby cat needs to have their breakfast before playtime. This embeds patience into routine learning. The baby animal characters also have two different expressions to communicate how your little one feels about each routine. Leading these learning curves with empathy means that you can reassure and find solutions for your child’s feelings, getting to the root of the routine’s impediment. 

On top of that, according to neurodevelopmental studies, fine motor skills are integral to cognitive development and patience. So, this simple act of playing sets the foundation for learning how to wait and focus, skills necessary for school and beyond.

Tip 3: Baking Time

Nothing screams patience like waiting for a batch of cookies to bake. The time spent mixing, rolling, and cutting is enough to teach your kiddo that great things come to those who wait.

In neuroscience, the release of the “feel-good hormone” dopamine is strongly tied to feelings of pleasure and satisfaction.

This is where baking can serve as an experiential lesson in patience. It’s not just about the delicious end product; it’s about the waiting process. When children finally get to taste their baked goodies, dopamine is released, reinforcing a positive mental connection between patience and gratification. They learn, quite literally, that the sweetest rewards often require the most waiting.

Tip 4: Make a Patience Jar

Okay, stay with me here. Visual learning is a powerful method of instilling abstract concepts in children. With the “Patience Jar,” each time a child exercises patience, they add a LEGO DUPLO brick to the jar. This practice is grounded in developmental psychology, where visual learning aids are shown to enhance cognitive growth.

Over time, the child internalises the abstract idea of patience as they see their jar fill up. The final reward acts as a reinforcement mechanism, creating a positive association with patience.

Tip 5: Role Reversal

Why not play a game where your kids get to be the parent, and you get to be the child? Here’s the catch: They have to teach you something patiently. It’s a fun and effective way to give them a taste of the other side of the coin.

Swapping roles for a day allows your child to experience the demands of patience from your viewpoint. This exercise benefits emotional development by teaching empathy, a fundamental aspect of emotional intelligence. When kids understand how challenging it can be to teach or guide another person, they’re more likely to internalise these lessons and apply patience in real-world situations. The role reversal brings in a nuanced understanding that patience is not just about waiting, but also about empathising with the other person’s struggles.

Tip 6: Gardening—The Natural Path to Delayed Gratification

We know fresh air is great all around! But when children engage in gardening, they participate in a natural world that does not yield to impatience. Seeds take their time to sprout, and plants don’t grow overnight. The child learns the scientific concept of germination, but also experiences delayed gratification firsthand. Horticultural therapy is a well-documented method for teaching impulse control and patience. The nurturing care a plant needs to grow imprints a long-lasting understanding that not everything can be rushed, setting the stage for future patience in other areas.

So there you have it! Teaching patience may indeed be a long-haul flight in the parenting world, but it certainly doesn’t have to be dull. If your tiny human can learn to wait for cookies to bake, a LEGO DUPLO routine to play through , or for a seedling to sprout, then enduring real-life tests of patience – like waiting their turn or sitting through a family meal – becomes a far less arduous task. It’s all about baby steps – whether they lead us through the park or down the ever-winding road of parenthood.

LEGO, LEGO DUPLO and the Minifigure are trademarks of The LEGO Group. ©2024 The LEGO Group.

This is a paid partnership between Kiindred and the LEGO® DUPLO® Brand

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