In the months since my 23-month-old said his first words, I have been increasingly bombarded with queries about where his favorite people are. “Daddy go?” “Brother?” “Sister?” At lunch we run through the list of where everyone is eating their noontime meal. On days when family members are gone longer than usual, he often runs through the litany of family names many times before allowing himself to fall asleep at night.
Even though we have tried to simplify and make our schedule predictable, to a toddler, there is still an air of mystery about it. Separation is inevitable, but when, where, and how will it come, and why has Daddy been gone so long? With the winter holiday season comes an added sense of hustle and bustle. So, in an effort to alleviate some of my toddler’s stress about where he is going and what the people he loves are doing, I created a simple “People and Places” map that we can manipulate and change based on each day’s activities and destinations.
Photos (preferably head shots) of people who are important to your child(ren)
Photos of places those people might be when they are absent
Glue stick or double-sided tape
Clear contact paper or access to a laminating machine
Magnetic tape or sheets/magnets
Gather your photographs; either print them on your home computer or have them printed at the store. I chose to print them at home so I could size each person’s picture to fit in a 2” circle. (To fill a circle or other shape with a photo in Word 2007, first draw a 2” (or desired size) circle. Then go to Drawing Tools (Format) –> Shape Fill –> Picture. Then choose the photo you want from your photo files to insert into the circle.
When choosing the people and places to include, I tried to keep the list very simple and recognizable based on who would be coming in and out of our days on a regular basis. Our final lists included the following: Daddy, Mommy, Brother, Sister, Toddler, both sets of grandparents, auntie (who is also our babysitter), and a second aunt, uncle, and cousin; our home, church, school, Daddy’s work, and all the relatives’ houses.
Cut photographs to desired size. Using double-sided tape or glue, attach photos to cardstock, being sure to leave space for a “frame” between photos.
When cutting out the photos and cardstock of the places, I simply eyeballed an approximate ½” frame around all four edges.
Laminate all photos or cover with contact paper on both sides. (If you are concerned about your toddler removing/putting the magnets in their mouth, you could attach the magnets to the backs of the photos before laminating)
Attach magnets to the backs of all photos.
Assemble your map. Our final map has seven places and thirteen people. We placed our home in the center of the map and move people to and from our home. Move people on the map each morning or throughout the day based on your family’s activities and plans and hopefully you’ll have a less bewildered, more relaxed toddler!
Be prepared to endure a little “mess” as your toddler explores their map for the first few days. After a week or so of playing with and talking about the new pictures, our son started showing signs that he understood what the map represented, and is now moving people to the correct places, both independently and with assistance, each morning.
After working as an elementary school teacher for the past 11 years, Wendy Buss relishes the privilege of being a stay-at-home-mom to her three children, ages 13, 11, and 20 months. When she comes up for air, she enjoys fiber crafts, cooking, gardening, and recording life’s ups and downs at ThimbleNest.