Parenting & The Art of Distraction

If you have been a parent for pretty much any amount of time, you know that learning the art of distraction is very important. Not being distracted yourself, but finding ways to distract your child so they don’t get cranky or end up getting hurt. We all know that kids are naturally drawn to the most dangerous object in any place, and our job as their parent is to keep them from these dangerous objects. Thus we must implement the art of distraction.

The most obvious example of this in my life right now is keeping Timo from crashing off of the changing table. As soon as I lay his cute little body down, he contorts himself in a strange and dangerous position to reach all of the cloths, creams, and wipes that sit behind his head (the way our changing table is set up, he has to face that way or I can’t change him). So every time I lay him down, I give him a travel sized pack of unopened wipes. It crinkles when he touches it, and he loves it. It keeps him distracted long enough for me to change his diaper and get him off the changing table safely.

A photo of Timo's side of the room and his changing table. The one he is always trying to fall off of...
A photo of Timo’s side of the room and his changing table. The one he is always trying to fall off of…

Distraction is an art. You can’t throw just any old thing at your child and expect them to behave. You have to think about it and figure out what each one likes. When we are on an airplane Kati likes to watch a movie or play a game on the iTouch, Ksena likes to draw, and Timo wants a crinkly toy (so far he is pretty easy to please… he likes things that crinkle). You have to know your audience!!

Then there are times when you want your child to focus on something, and distraction is a bad thing. You need to find a way to redirect. When Timo is eating I am constantly shooing Kati away because she wants to play with him. She is in love with her little brother, and who can blame her? But when I’m feeding him, all of a sudden she feels her singular goal in life is to get him to look at her, and away from the spoon coming towards him. So what do I do? Well I have to distract Kati with something so I can get Timo to focus on his food. I need something that lasts about 15 minutes, which is how long it takes Timo to eat an entire bowl of homemade baby food. Usually a suggestion to look at a book works for half of that time and then I suggest Duplos or playing with her My Little Pony set.

When you are traveling you have to plan ahead! You need your tools of distraction ready at a moment’s notice. Whether it is a snack, a toy, or an activity, it is usually not spontaneous (although we are always thankful for the spontaneous ones, aren’t we?). So make sure to know your individual kiddos and be prepared. One of my favorite suggestions ever was when a friend told me she brings a roll of tape for each of her boys on a flight and lets them go crazy taping the back of the chair, their fingers, whatever. Pure genius!

Think about what works at home, because it will also most likely work while on the move. A good example is Timo’s obsession with crinkly things. No matter where he is, at home or on an airplane, he wants a crinkly thing in his hand.

What is your favorite means of distraction?

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