The simple yet powerful way to get your kids to cooperate

We all know how hard it can be to get children to respond to our requests—go to bed, get in the car, go potty, get dressed… it can all be tough.

One powerful tool to get kids to do things with more cooperation and ease is to use ‘relationship before request’—connect with your child for a few minutes before you ask them to do something. Not only does this make your day go smoother, it also lets you build warmth and strengthen bonding.

Here are a few ways to implement ‘relationship before request’:

1. Pause and observe—watch your child quietly

Before you say, “Get in the the car!” pause for a moment and notice what your child is engaged in. Are they playing restaurant with toy food? Zooming cars? Counting the pennies in their piggy bank?

Watch them for a second and simply notice how they are deep in the middle of something.

2. Comment or ask, “I see you are . . .” or “Can you tell me about what you’re doing?”

Acknowledge aloud what kids are doing. “Oh, I see you are making a book of drawings for Grandma” or, “I see you are putting together the bridge on your train set. You’re pulling that long train all around the tracks!” or, “I see you’re making something with those ribbons.” Or “Can you tell me about what you’re doing/playing?”

3. Ask,“May I join you?”

Kids will be way more likely to go brush their teeth or clean up their books after you’ve joined them in play for a just few minutes. When kids are engrossed in what they’re doing, ask, “May I join you?” and then follow the child’s lead (let them be in charge).

For five minutes (or however much time you have), do a puzzle with them, play catch, build with blocks, string beads on a necklace together, color beside them, look at books side by side, help line up their stuffed animals, run in circles with them, or engage in whatever they are already doing.

Some kids may be open to or even delighted to have you participate, while others may prefer that you watch.

4. Give ownership

Kids love a sense of power and control. By giving them a bit of ownership in the process (of doing the next thing), they are more likely to cooperate.

Sample questions to offer ownership:

  • What special place do you want to put that (until the morning, until we get back, etc.)? When a child is playing with something right before bed or leaving to go somewhere, having them find a special home for it where they know it will be later can help.
  • Do you want to [do the next thing] now or in 5 minutes? Ask them to reiterate to you what they will do when the timer goes off. Have them set the timer.
  • How do you want to get there? Do you want a piggyback ride or do you want to skip there together?
  • Are you at a stopping point? Imagine if you were 134 screws into putting together a 542-screw Ikea dresser, and someone insisted you “leave it that very second!” without putting so much as a bookmark in the 34-page direction leaflet. Sometimes a child might be engaged in building a Lego design, constructing a dollhouse play scenario, or sorting seashells with the same kind of intensity.
  • Can you be in charge of X? "Can you be in charge of picking the books we'll read tonight?" "Can you be in charge of passing out the raisins in the car?" Giving kids a special job can reduce resistance and build enthusiasm.

5. Share the schedule with kids ahead of time

Let kids know the day's plan in advance. “We’re going to the library, then swimming lessons, then we’re stopping at the park for an hour.” Write a checklist for them (or a picture checklist if they can’t read yet), and ask them to check things off as you do them.

Ask them to help you prepare or pack special things for an activity. This gives them a sense of control, safety and ownership, rather than having them ask, “Where are we going, anyway?” once you’re already driving. Also consider these additional tips for building kids' enthusiasm about the day's events.

Spending just 5 minutes connecting before you ask kids to do something will help your child complete the next thing with more cooperation and way less resistance.

It's also a form of sensitive caregiving, which research suggests, is a strong predictor of an individual's social competence and academic achievement, not only during childhood and adolescence, but all the way through to adulthood.

14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.


Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.


Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.


Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


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