6 Tips for Making Bible Story Time Come Alive for Your Toddler

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If you’re like me, you want to get your child started reading God’s word as soon as possible. Maybe you even started reading to your peanut while he or she was still in the womb. Then, you read to that squishy newborn as you rocked and snuggled. However, along the way something happened. That little babe you used to hold in your arms, who would be captivated just by the sound of your voice, grew up. Sitting still is a thing of the past now – you have a toddler.
So, how do you get a squirmy toddler to sit still long enough to have a daily Bible story time? Today, I’d like to share six tips I’ve learned as I’ve tried to introduce my son to reading the Bible. Hopefully, some of them will help as you impart God’s word to your little one.

1. Make it a routine

Toddlers thrive on routine. Although we’re not always as consistent as I’d like to be, we normally read K’s bible story during breakfast. Once we were able to get that routine established, every breakfast time (and often at lunch as well) he would be begging for story time to start. The routine helps build the anticipation and also gets them started on making Bible reading a daily habit.

2. Choose a good children’s Bible

There are seriously TONS of kids Bible’s out there. Some are good. Some are not so good. There are also some that are great, but are above the level a toddler is able to understand. I can’t speak for all the Bibles out there, (if you don’t have a Bible you already like, I’d recommend looking through Amazon reviews or heading to the local Christian bookstore to page through the options) but here’s what we do have experience with:

  • The Beginners Bible— Someone gifted this bible to K at his baby dedication just before he turned one. We read from it for a long time. The only problem I have with this children’s Bible is that, personally, I feel like they couldn’t have made it more boring if they had tried. That said, it is a popular choice, it has a lot of stories in it, and it works for a lot of people.
  • The Beginner’s Bible for Toddlers - This is a board book version of The Beginner’s Bible, with less and shorter stories. While we do read from this one occasionally, it would not be a good choice if it is the only Bible you have because it skips two very important stories – the fall of mankind and the death of Jesus!
  • A First Bible Storybook by Mary Hoffman – We just got this book recently and haven’t had a chance to really try it out. The stories look good, but a little long for a young toddler.
  • The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones – This Bible is really great. You can find reviews on it all over the blog-o-sphere since it boomed to popularity (try here, here, or here). We have read stories from it from time to time, however, it is above the level of a toddler. We will probably use this Bible as a transition to a real Bible once K is a little older.
  • The Rhyme Bible Storybook by LJ Sattgast – This is our favorite Bible for toddlers. I have used this one with children other than my son and always it does a great job of grabbing their attention. Something about the sing-song of the rhymes just works with toddlers. I highly recommend this Bible. It can be purchased very cheaply on Amazon.
  • The Rhyme Bible Storybook for Toddlers by LJ Sattgast – We just ordered this one (for $0.25 + shipping!),so haven’t had a chance to look into it too in depth. The original Rhyme Bible Storybook has worked great for us, but I wanted something a little more simplified for us to use for some of the more complicated stories. I think this will fit the bill perfectly.
3. Read the story with some drama!

I am probably one of the worst actors ever, but when I read Bible stories to my son, I try my best to use tone, inflection, and excitement to bring the story to life. When the story says God was sad, slow down your speech and talk with a sad voice, frowning. When things are getting exciting, pick up the pace, talk a little louder. Use hand motions, too. When the story talks about God creating the sky big and wide, point to the sky and motion how big it is. Your excitement will naturally be contagious.

4. Read the same story multiple times in a row.

I’m sure by now you’ve noticed that toddlers love repetition. They want to eat the same foods, wear the same clothes, play with the same toys, and read the same books over and over again. Use this to your advantage and read the same story every day for a week. It may seem boring from an adult’s perspective, but toddlers love reading things they are already familiar with. It really helps them become familiar with the story and remember the details better.

5. Take some time to discuss what you are reading.

For us, I ask that my son try not to interrupt while I’m reading, but after I’ve read the page we often pause so he can ask questions or point out things on the page that interest him. We will also often flip back through the entire story after reading to look at the pictures again while we summarize what happened. I will also ask him questions to see what he can remember. During the first few times we’ve read the story, I usually try to keep to simple questions that require “yes or no” answers or ask him what the characters names are. The more we’ve read the story, the more I see what he can remember.

6. Add an element of play.

Young children learn best through play, so it’s a great idea to add that into your story time. It’s very easy to do as well! Just take an element of the story and make it into a game or act it out. When you play through a story, you have a great opportunity to reinforce themes and vocabulary from what you just read. For example, the other day K and I read the Noah story. Afterwards, I grabbed a laundry basket and some stuffed animals and K pretended to be Noah. He piled all his stuffed animals into his “Ark” basket and jumped in with them, having a blast. The whole time we did this I called him Noah, cementing into his brain through play the name of the person God told to built a boat. We also talked about obeying God as he put the animals in the ark and pretended together that his boat was in the stormy flood. He had tons of fun and was learning God’s truths all at the same time!

Coming Soon!

Are you looking for more ways to help your toddler begin to learn basic biblical truths? Then you are going to love what I have coming up soon! Me and my little helper have been working hard to write and test out an exciting toddler Bible study curriculum and we are so excited to share it with you!

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Here’s a sneak peek at how the study is going to be set up:

  • It will be released weekly, mostly likely on Thursday, so you will have plenty of time to prepare for the coming week.
  • It is being designed with busy parents in mind. Everything about this study is simple, easy to prepare, doesn’t require tons of crazy craft supplies, and doesn’t have to take a ton of time to do. All while being set up perfectly for how toddlers learn best!
  • We will be going through an entire children’s Bible, following God’ story from beginning to end.

I am so excited for this series to start! K and I have been having a blast reading, learning, and playing our way through the Bible, and I know your toddler will too. I knew I wanted to create this study because, although there are a ton of great resources out there, I was having a hard time finding something that was designed specifically for toddlers being taught at home by their parents. There are a lot of great resources for individual stories, or church preschool curriculums, but not a lot that would take a toddler through the entire Bible, without requiring me to take little bits from here and there around the internet.

So, if you’ve found yourself in a similar spot, wondering what the best way is to go about imparting basic biblical truths to your littlest learner, this study is for you. It will be debuting soon, so if you don’t want to miss out, be sure to enter your email address below to get updates sent directly to your inbox. I would be honored to have you and your toddler join us on this journey through the Bible!

My Husband Travels for Work: 10 Tips for Transitioning Home

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After spending an extended amount of time away from my husband over the last two years, I’ve taken some time to reflect on the process of returning to doing life together again. Today I’m guest posting over at To Love, Honor, and Vacuum about what I’ve found are my top ten tips to make this a smooth transition.

I’d love it if you would come join us over there!

My Husband Travels for Work: 10 Tips for Transitioning Home

 

 

 

No Fuss Potty Training – How We Did It

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For months leading up to our big move I would tell him, “when we move we are getting rid of the diapers and you are going to wear undies!” I would quiz him: “what are we doing with your diapers when we move?” Once we did move, I knew I didn’t want to spend any more money on diapers, so together we watched the last basket slowly dwindle. I told him, “I’m not buying anymore. When they are gone, you are going to wear undies.”

Well, that day came sooner then I was ready for. I was still unpacking, the house was a disaster, and I had a to-do list a mile high. I seriously contemplated buying just one more pack of diapers and sneaking them into the basket, hoping he wouldn’t notice. But, I didn’t. I decided to stick to what said and we went for it – ready or not! He averaged one (or maybe two) accidents for a couple days and then he was good to go. It hasn’t even been two weeks now and he is accident free and able to go run errands, play by himself in his room, and go potty all by himself when he needs to.

So, how did I manage to so quickly and easily potty train my 2 1/2 year old? Well, I am sure a lot of it has to do with his personality, but I thought I would share a few things that I think really helped make the transition from diapers to underwear easier. Before I delved into potty training I read pretty much every potty training article I came across. I loved seeing how everybody did it and what worked for them and what didn’t. I hope that you are able to pick out a few things from our experience to make potty training that much easier for you!

Here we go…

1. We started using the toilet early. 

Before K was born, I happened to read about this really neat thing called elimination communication. If you’ve never heard about it, it is basically a method of learning your baby’s signals early on and helping them eliminate using the toilet instead of a diaper. You can read more about it here. While we didn’t do full-blown EC, we did use some of the principles off and on. I taught K how to use the potty when he was just a tiny baby, and had him use it fairly regularly while he was a baby/young toddler. I think this really helped because it meant that using the toilet wasn’t a completely foreign concept to him when he made the transition to being potty trained. I’ve known of a lot of kids who are scared of the toilet or reluctant to use it and seeing it as a normal part of their life from early on can really help avoid that.

2. We knew he was “ready.” 

This is a tip you will hear over and over again and it can be a hard one to actually put into practice! What does it even mean to be ready? For us, ready meant two things. First, that K was ready to be taught to use the toilet and, second, that he was able to use the toilet by himself (pulling his pants down, etc). When K was 18 months old we decided to give early potty training a shot. It went really well for about a week and then he lost interest. I think in many ways he could have be ready then, but it would have taken a lot more effort and time on our part to see it through. Because of that, we ended up putting it on hold. Due to life circumstances and the schedules we were on, it didn’t make a lot of sense to try again until this summer, after we made a 14 hour move. At that point, he was definitely ready!

3. We talked about it constantly.

Little kids understand and remember a lot more than we often give them credit for. Months before our move I started talking to K about how he was going to wear undies after we moved. I reinforced it whenever I could. We would talk about it to Grandma, to daddy, to anyone who would listen! We said we were going to throw away the diapers. We said he was going to be a big boy. Almost every time I changed his diaper we would talk about it. We watched as his last basket of diapers dwindled to nothing, and when I asked him if he wanted to put on some underwear, he was totally ready and excited.

4. We didn’t make a big fuss about it. 

Other than talking about it a lot, I didn’t make a big fuss over potty training. If you remember, I was still unpacking and had a lot to do! There was no three day potty training boot camp. I didn’t give him salty snacks and load him up on juice so he would pee more. There were no charts or treat jars. I didn’t contain him to one room. I didn’t drag him to the toilet every 15 minutes. Basically, I just put some underwear on him and we went with it! I put a little potty in the living room and he had a potty seat insert in his bathroom upstairs. I eventually put another little potty in his bedroom too. For clean-up, I kept it simple with disinfectant wipes for the potties and a bottle of vinegar and some rags to clean up accidents.

5. We used positive language to avoid power struggles. 

Somewhere between 1 1/2 and 2 years old, K started really resist me taking him to the toilet. I decided to not push the issue and only took him when he wanted to go. I knew that I didn’t want to have that same problem with potty training, so when I read about someone who didn’t make their child use the bathroom during potty training, I knew that was what we needed to do. The only times he was required to use the toilet were before bed and before we went out somewhere. Other than that, I would just frequently remind him to “keep his underwear dry” and to “use the toilet if he needed to go potty.” I think I said those things a couple thousand times! If he had an accident, I just helped him get to the toilet quickly and said “uh oh, make sure you go on the toilet next time!” Keeping the language positive really helped. I wasn’t forcing a stubborn toddler to do anything and because we had talked about it so much and I encouraged him a lot, he was excited to do it on his own.

6. We went with a big(ger) reward.

Instead of giving him treats every time he used the toilet, I told him early on that once he was keeping his undies dry I would buy him some super hero underwear. Super heroes were a new obsession, so it was the perfect reward to help give him just a little extra motivation. When he would have an accident, I would remind him about the reward as encouragement to keep trying. When he finally was staying dry we went to the store and picked some out. He was so excited and proud of himself!

7. We trained him to go on his own. 

This was probably one of the most important things for me. I didn’t want to have to remind him constantly or make him use the bathroom every 30 minutes. I wanted him to recognize he had to go and just go all by himself. What can I say? I’m just lazy like that! So, from the beginning I had him do as much as he could by himself. I do usually ask him if he needs any help when he says he has to go and I help him wipe a lot of the time, but for the most part he does go all by himself.

I really couldn’t believe that the potty training transition went as smoothly as it did. I must admit, I was a little nervous! However, it just goes to show that potty training doesn’t have to be all horror stories! Hopefully some of what we did can help in your potty training endeavors. If you have any questions or tips of your own, please share them in the comments below! 

And… Keep your fingers cross for us. We have the ultimate potty training test coming up this weekend – a 16 hour car trip!

When I Don’t Want My Child To Obey

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My blood was boiling. It felt like the tension inside was going to break me into a million pieces. The last string of patience I could muster snapped.

My thoughts whirled.

“Why does this always have to happen?”

“Can’t I just have a few minutes of peace?!”

“That is it!”

Words spewed out of my mouth like poison.

Anger. Frustration. Bitterness.
Hurtful words. Shaming words.
Little eyes wide open, taking it all in.

Finished with my lecture, I collapsed at the kitchen table. I regained control of my racing pulse and pushed back the tears. My heart felt like it was a million pounds.

What had I done?

I opened my Bible and tried to pray. But I was overcome with remorse. I gained obedience, but at what cost?

It was then I knew that I didn’t want obedience like that. I didn’t want to teach my child (or any child) that you obey the person who hurts you. I want my child to obey me because of my calm authority as his mother, not because I know which words will cut at his heart.

I love my child and I want it to show. Even when I am frustrated.

And I must admit, I am far from perfect. The life I lead is often a messy one. However, I’m trying my best to take my parenting lessons from the best Father of all. The One who is slow to anger and abounding in mercy. The One who never shames, but holds out abundant grace and invites me to sin no more. The One who is ever just and lets me reap the consequences of what I sow, but who never deserts me along the way.

This is the Father I want my child to know as well.
So, I swallow my pride and I ask for forgiveness from the little one that I hurt, pointing him to the One who will never fail him.

 

Have you had a messy moment this week? I hope you will join me in casting my burdens at the feet of a Father who cares.

Great Picture Books For Toddlers Volume 2

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My son loves to read. I’ve never met a young child with such a long attention span for listening to picture books! Because of this we go through a lot of library books each week. Some are great, but a lot are duds. The purpose of this series is so we can pass on our tried and true favorites to you and your budding reader. You can read more about how I select a picture book here and you can get the first list here.

Here’s the second ten. I hope you enjoy some of these books as much as we did. Don’t forget to leave your favorites in the comments!

 


 

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Sheep in a Jeep – by Nancy Shaw   This is one of many in Nancy Shaw’s sheep series. Those silly sheep are always getting themselves in trouble! Some of them we’ve liked better than others, but Sheep in a Jeep is definitely a favorite!

 

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The Water Hole – by Graeme Base   This book is amazing in so many ways. First, it is a great story of the importance of water to animals and the planet. Second, it shows animals from all over the world. Third, the pictures are absolutely gorgeous!

 

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Llama, Llama, Red Pajama – by Anna Dewdney  K eats up every book in the “Llama, Llama” series, but this one is our favorite. It’s so fun to read and as an added bonus you get to add in a little lesson about throwing tantrums.

 

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Turtle Splash: Countdown at the Pond – Cathryn Falwell  This books was the bedtime story of choice for a long time. It is great for learning animals, numbers and counting, and paying attention to details. The pictures are beautiful as well.

 

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The Little Blue Truck – by Alica Schertle  Combine animals and trucks and you have a sure-fire winner for any toddler! Add in the lesson on friendship and you have a book that stands the test of time.

 

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The Missing Mitten Mystery – by Steven Kellogg  This book was right on the edge of K’s comprehension level, but it kept him interested because of its level of engagement. Any book that has a question or an element of mystery keeps him coming back for more.

 

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Mouse Paint – by Ellen Stoll Walsh   Even though K doesn’t quite yet comprehend mixing two colors together to get a new color, he still loved naming all the different colors in this book.

 

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Potty – by Leslie Patricelli  Simple, but oh so perfect for a toddler. This short little book is super funny, but also gets them really thinking about what it will be like to ditch the diapers. My son likes to mimic what the little kid in the book does.

 

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The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and The Big Hungry Bear – by Don and Audrey Wood – A cute story about a mouse keeping his strawberry safe from a bear. My son loves the part where it goes “BOOM BOOM BOOM!” and always giggles at the silly things the mouse does to try and protect his strawberry.

 

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No, David! – by David Shannon   The pictures are the shining start of this book, depicting all the trouble little David gets into with his mother. However, in the end the message is clear – David’s mommy loves him no matter what. (Note: there are other books in this series and, except for, Oh, David, I don’t care for them much. There gets to be a point where David’s antics stop being silly and cross the line to just being a bad example.) 


 

There you have it! Ten more awesome picture books for toddlers. Have you read any of them? Please share your recommendations in the comments below!

Why I Stopped Telling My Son “Be Careful”

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“Be careful!” The words spilled out of my mouth without any thought as my son attempted to navigate some rough terrain in the backyard. I must have said it at least a half-dozen times already in the half hour we’d been playing outside.

It was then that I knew I had a problem.

I had fallen into a bad habit and it wasn’t helping either me or K. I knew I needed to make some changes in the way I was communicating with him. Here are four reasons why I knew the phrase “be careful” needed to be virtually eliminated from my vocabulary.

1. It didn’t work.
Even though he heard me say it all the time, I doubt my rambunctious, fearless toddler really understood what it even meant for him to “be careful.” It didn’t communicate any practical information.

2. I didn’t want “be careful” to become synonymous with “don’t do that.”
If it was something I really didn’t want my son to do, I needed to get to the point and clearly communicate my expectations.

3. It eliminated his ability to learn to weigh risk.
At this point he doesn’t really understand why standing on a foot tall rock is less risky than trying to scale the side of a five foot trailer. However, I’m not always going to be there to tell him he should be careful. He needs to learn how to weigh a situation for himself and see if the benefit is worth the risk.

4. It didn’t teach him how to overcome obstacles.
I don’t want my son (or any other future children) to be driven by fear – whether it is in the small things now, or in the bigger things later in life. That said, fear does serves a purpose, it lets us know that we probably need a plan for overcoming obstacles in our way. “Be careful” doesn’t teach him how to climb a rock wall and it won’t encourage him to chase big dreams later in life either. K is naturally an adventurer now and I want him to be able to stay that way even as he grows up.

5. It removed his ability to face real life consequences.
Pain is a good reminder to not make the same mistake twice. Although sometimes pain is the obstacle we need to overcome, a lot of the time it can remind us to plan out a better strategy next time or just avoid something altogether.

A New Strategy

So, with these things in mind I’ve adopted a new strategy. When the words “be careful” are threatening to pop out of my mouth I try to evaluate using these 3 questions:

1. “Is this something he can figure out on his own?”
If that’s the case, I shut my trap.

2. “Does he need help figuring out this challenge?”
If so, instead of giving a generic “be careful” I try to give specific instructions for what he needs to look out for. For example: “stay away from the edge of the deck, if you fall it will hurt you;” “hold onto the railing as you go down the stairs, it will help you avoid tripping;” “that branch is dead, if you pull on it it could break off and hit you;” or “if you are going to swing that stick, stand away from where other people are standing.”

3. “Is this activity risky enough that, should he fail, he could be seriously injured?”
If not, I usually give him a warning that he could get hurt by what he is doing and then let him learn the consequences for himself. If it is, then I either stop him or give him more assistance to lessen the danger.

I’ll admit it, even with these steps, “be careful” still pops out of my mouth here and there, but I am trying to break the habit!

What do you think? Do you find yourself saying “be careful” or another phrase too much? Share your experience in the comments. 

 

The Expeditioners by S.S. Taylor – Middle Grade Fiction Review

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the expeditioners review

THE EXPEDITIONERS
by S.S. Taylor

Summary

Kit West’s map-maker father died under suspicious circumstances while on an Exploring mission, leaving him and his brother and sister orphaned and alone. However, Alexander West did not leave his children empty handed. When a mysterious man with a clockwork hand gives Kit a book from his father, the adventure begins for the three siblings.

My thoughts

The Expeditioners is one of my favorite books that I have read recently. S.S. Taylor’s rewriting of history paints a fascinating world for the West children. Their adventure is full of twists and turns and packed with excitement. With both boy and girl characters, this book will appeal to any young person who loves reading adventure stories. And not only that, but it makes a great book to read together. Just be warned, you might find yourself sneaking in reading time alone to finish the book yourself – it’s that hard to put down!

Discussion Points

  • The Expeditioners seamlessly weaves in moral issues surrounding the conquest of new lands. This can lead to great discussions in regards to the true history of Native Americans and other displaced peoples. Also great for discussions on greed and power.
  • Kit’s younger sister, M.K. is rough and tough. She drops a 2 or 3 “damns” during the course of the book.
  • In this world the government is corrupt and not to be trusted. Various members of government agencies are the antagonists. At one point, M.K. knocks out two government workers so that the kids can escape.

Bottom Line

Grab this book at the library! You won’t regret it! 

Middle Grade Fiction Review – SERIES

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The 8-12 age range is notorious for being when readers bloom. Reading is finally clicking and becoming effortless. Books are devoured like never before.When I was a middle-grade reader I loved reading! My favorite book was Harriet the Spy. I read it multiple times and never grew sick of it. I devoured the books on the shelves at home and we were always making trips to the library too.

I currently read a lot of middle grade fiction because this is the type of book that I am experimenting with writing. I love reading middle grade fiction because the stories are great, but I can also fit these short, quick reads into my busy schedule (because of this I highly recommend them to adults!).

It occurred to me one day that reading 2-3 children’s novels a week is probably not the norm for most adults! I know there are a lot of parents out there who like to keep an eye on what their child is reading, whether it is to avoid inappropriate topics or make note of things that should be discussed about the book. Or maybe you’re searching for a good book that would be perfect for your struggling reader, something that is perfect for him or her and will light a fire for reading. Well, look no further.

I am going to be starting a new ongoing series where I review middle grade books that I’ve read. Whenever I’ve got a good read to pass on to you, I’ll do my best to write up a detailed review, keeping in mind what would be important for you, the parent, to know about the books your child is reading. I truly hope this can be a great resource for you and your family.

Tune in tomorrow for the first review. And If you don’t want to miss a single review you can subscribe in the sidebar or the bottom of this page.

 

How To Train Your Dragon 2 – PARENT REVIEW

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A couple days ago I took my 2 1/2 year old son and my 13 year old brother to see How To Train Your Dragon 2, so I thought I’d write up a review for the movie. My goal with any review is to be thorough in order to help you make an informed decision as to whether that particular movie (or book, etc) is right for your family. That said, this review is loooong, and if you don’t want any spoilers, you might not want to read on!

Before I get started, one more thing. You might be wondering, “she took her 2 1/2 year old to the movie theater? Why in the world would she do that?!” Well, two reasons. Number 1, I had a little bit of a movie gift card to use up and number 2, K loves dragons. He loved the first movie (which we own), so I thought he would love the second as well. Someday soon I’ll try to write up a post on how we’ve handled TV/movies with K.

So, without further ado, the review…


 

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How To Train Your Dragon 

If you haven’t seen the first How to Train Your Dragon, you might be a little confused as to some of what’s going on in the second movie, so I would recommend renting that first if you need to. Here’s a short summary of the first movie, skip ahead if you’ve already seen it.

HTTYD is set on the viking island of Berk, where they have a particularly nasty problem with dragon invasions. The main character, Hiccup, is the son of Stoick the Vast, chief of Berk. All vikings are rough, tuff, dragon fighting machines. That is, except Hiccup, who is a tiny, meek inventor. Desperately trying to win his father’s approval, Hiccup uses one of his inventions to try and bring down the deadliest dragon of them all, the Night Fury. Thinking he has not succeeded, to his surprise, Hiccup comes across the injured night fury in the woods. Thinking this was his chance to impress his father and the town, Hiccup attempts to kill the Night Fury, but when he sees the fear in the dragon’s eyes, he cannot bring himself to do it. He lets the dragon go. Over a period of time, Hiccup and the dragon (now named “Toothless”) bond, eventually becoming inseparable. Meanwhile, Hiccup has been enrolled in dragon fighting lessons, which he is actually succeeding in because of his newfound understanding of dragons. However, when he is chosen as the student to receive the public honor of killing his first dragon, Hiccup knows he must try and bring peace between dragons and vikings. His plan completely backfires and his father, furious and disappointed in his son, takes Toothless and uses him to find the dragon’s “nest,” intent upon finishing off the dragons once and for all. In the end, the queen dragon is too powerful for the vikings, but Hiccup and Toothless save the day (and Toothless saves Hiccup’s life), bringing peace between vikings and dragons.

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How to Train Your Dragon 2 – Plot Summary

In How to Train Your Dragon 2, the story opens once again in the town of Berk. Although, instead of fighting dragons, they now race dragons! The dragons live in the city and are loved by all. Stoick is trying to convince Hiccup that it is time for him to take over as chief, but Hiccup is not sure he is the right person to take over for his father. Hiccup, in part caused by the hole he feels from never knowing his mother, is searching to figure out who he is and what his place in life is.

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In his search for inner understanding, Hiccup occupies himself with outer searching as he and Toothless fly far and wide, mapping the surrounding areas, discovering new dragons and lands. In one of these searches, Hiccup and Astrid (Hiccup’s love interest continued from the first movie), discover a destroyed area, with buildings demolished and covered in ice. They have a run in with dragon trappers, who are capturing dragons to bring to their master, Drago, who is building a dragon army. After a narrow escape, they fly home to warn Stoick.

Upon hearing the news, Stoick begins to fortify the city, commanding everyone inside. Hiccup pleads with his father to ride to Drago and try to convince him not to fight. Stoick will not listen, as he has had experience with this ruthless killer before. Hiccup, determined to try and bring peace, does not listen to his father, and instead he flies off to find Drago. Astrid flies after him and the two go looking for the dragon trappers.

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As Hiccup and Astrid are trying to convince the dragon trappers to lead them to Drago, Stoick and some of the others find them and attempt to bring them home. Hiccup once again does not listen and continues on by himself. Stoick commands Astrid to take the other young people home, and he continues on with Gobber to bring Hiccup back, afraid at what might happen to his son.

As Toothless and Hiccup are flying, they are ambushed by a strange person in an outfit made to look like a dragon. They are taken into a cave and are surrounded by dragons, fearing for their lives. However, the mysterious stranger takes off her mask and it is Hiccup’s mother! She, like Hiccup, was unable to kill dragons, wanting peace instead. When Hiccup was a baby, she was unable to kill a dragon to protect him, and when a dragon carried her off, she was afraid to return. So, instead, she had spent the last 20 years living with the dragons. Soon, Stoick and Gobber find Hiccup and Stoick and Valka (Hiccup’s mother) reunite.

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Meanwhile, the other young vikings are worried because Hiccup, Stoick and Gobber have not returned yet, so they set out after them. They convince the trappers to take them to Drago, however, their plan backfires when Drago takes all their dragons and attempts to kill Eret, the main trapper. As Drago goes to kill Eret one of the dragons surrounds him with her wings and saves his life. This act turns Eret over to the side of the dragons. Drago and his army leave to capture the rest of the dragons and then declare war on Berk. Astrid, Eret and the others manage to escape and free the dragons. They then attempt to catch up to Drago.

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While Hiccup, Stoick, and Valka are being happily reunited, their bliss is interrupted by the attack of Drago, coming to take the dragons in Valka’s nest. As the battle begins, it looks like Valka’s dragons will come out on top because they have their Alpha Dragon, a giant dragon who breathes ice. However, it turns out Drago has an Alpha Dragon as well! The two Alphas fight, and Drago’s comes out on top. Because of this all the dragons must come under the command of the new Alpha Dragon, including Toothless. As Hiccup tries to convince Drago to make peace, Drago commands his Alpha dragon to command Toothless to kill Hiccup. Toothless tries to resist the trance like state, but he cannot and he attacks Hiccup. Stoick comes in at the last second to save Hiccup, taking the deathly blow himself.

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Drago takes the dragons and leaves the vikings to mourn the loss of their great chief. After regrouping, Hiccup takes on the role of the chief (finally beginning to understand his purpose) and the vikings take a wild ride on the baby dragons (who don’t listen to anybody!) back to the Island of Berk to save their people.

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When they return to Berk, Hiccup goes to Toothless to try and get him out of his trance. He succeeds and the pair (along with the others) attack the Alpha dragon to try and loosen his grip on the other dragons. As the other dragons come out of their trances, they join Toothless who is now challenging the Alpha dragon. With the other dragons on his side, Toothless wins the battle with the Alpha dragon, defeating Drago, becoming the new Alpha dragon, and saving the people of Berk. Hiccup officially becomes the new chief and they all live happily ever after. :)

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Why You Will Want To See This Movie

  1. Action-packed fantasy – Fire breathing dragons, vikings, strange new worlds – it’s a great movie for the budding fantasy lover in your family.
  2. Great discussion starters – The main crux of the story was the battle between power and peace. Drago had been harmed by the dragons, so he strived to take them over and rule them by force and power. Hiccup had also been harmed by the dragons, but instead sought to bring about peace. Another big theme is Hiccup trying to figure out who he is and what his purpose in life is.
  3. Loyalty – In the end, the dragons broke through the power of the evil side and gave their allegiance to Toothless and Hiccup. They were loyal to the ones who loved them.
  4. Forgiveness – Toothless kills Hiccup’s father, yet he still returns to save him. Him and Stoick also forgive Valka for leaving them.
  5. Sacrifice – One of the dragons sacrifices her freedom to save Eret and in a powerful and emotional moment, Stoick sacrifices his live to save his son.
  6. Parallel to the power of sin – I thought there was a great lesson/analogy about the power of sin in this movie. Under the influence of the evil dragon, Toothless did the unthinkable. He was unable to come out of this “trance” without help and forgiveness. It’s not a perfect analogy, but it got me thinking. Brings to mind Genesis 4:7 “…But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”
  7. The power of influence – At one point in the movie, they say something to the extent of “a good dragon under the control of an evil person will do bad things” (can’t remember the exact quote). Brings to mind Psalm 1:1 in a way. Could lead to a good discussion on the way other people in our lives can influence us for good or bad.

 

Why You Might Not Want To See This Movie

  1. Scary Scenes – I thought there was a good deal more fighting and fire breathing in this movie then in the first one. This type of thing does not phase my dragon loving, bad guy fighting little guy at all, but if your child is sensitive to scary images you might want to skip this movie.
  2. Difficult plot – The themes in this movie were way over the head of my two year old. All he really grasps is good guy fights bad guy, good guy wins. If he didn’t love dragons, I probably would have skipped this movie until he was a little older and understood more of what was going on.
  3. Death – Hiccup’s father, Stoick is killed towards the end of the movie. In the (I’m assuming) traditional viking way, they send him off in a ship and then shoot the ship with flaming arrows.
  4. Disobedience – Hiccup repeatedly does not listen to his father who loves him and is trying to protect him. In the end, his father was right, and Hiccup’s decisions cost him a great deal.

 

Final Thoughts

I LOVED How To Train Your Dragon 2! That said, I am a fantasy lover, so it was up my alley. I loved the deeper themes that ran through the movie and think it would make for some great family discussions. My son, of course, loved the movie, although he was getting a little antsy towards the end, ready to get up and move around a bit. My 13 year old brother enjoyed the movie too. So that’s six thumbs up from us!

 

I’d love to hear if you have seen/are planning on seeing How To Train Your Dragon 2. What are your thoughts? Leave them in the comments!

Three Words That Forever Changed How I Deal With Tantrums

Three Words That Changed how I Deal With Tantrums

He was screaming for what seemed like the millionth time that morning. There is no denying it, my son has a fierce temper. (We’re not even going to talk about who he got that from). I had a feeling this was how the morning was just going to be after we had stayed up late the night before.

I removed him from the room after my initial attempts to get him to calm down failed. As we took a seat in the living room I spoke to him in a quiet voice, my words speaking as much to me as him.

“Take a breath.”
“I don’t want to take a breath!” he raged.
“K, you need to calm down. Take a breath.”
“Nooooooo!”
“I’m going to count to three and I want you to take a breath” I said, still trying to maintain my own composure.
*Screams*
“1…. 2…. 3”
“I wanna take a breath! I wanna take a breath!” he cried, before further consequences needed to be dealt.

He took a deep breath, tears streaming down his face, still taking short gasps of air. Just like that, he was calm again. We prayed and he went about his business, a happy two year old once again.

Its no secret, tantrums are a hallmark of the toddler years. I figured there was no avoiding it, so early on I decided I would employ two strategies:

  1. Be consistent and patiently wait for this phase of his life to pass.
  2. Try my best to teach him how to deal with his emotions.

Remembering that if I could consistently handle tantrums patiently, yet firmly, “this too shall pass” really helped keep my focus in the right place. It is so easy to get caught up in the day to day, but keeping view of long term goals helps to balance that out.

A key to my being consistent, though, was finding a way of dealing with tantrums that worked for K. Unfortunately, there’s no magic solution to avoiding tantrums so I had to experiment to find the solutions that worked best for him. I found out early on that logic didn’t work, and I knew I didn’t want to resort to bribery. Distraction sometimes worked if the fit was minor, but not always. So, I soon landed on the common method of removing him to his bed to throw his tantrum. He could come out as soon as he was calm. This often worked to help him decide to calm down before we even made it to the bedroom. However, it wasn’t always possible to remove him to his room, so something had to change. One day, on a whim, I added three simple words.

Take a breath. 

I didn’t know if it would work, but after using it consistently with every tantrum, I began to notice a difference. I would look him in the eyes and calmly repeat the words. He learned to breath deeply and calm himself down. Sure, he still lost control of his emotions regularly, but he was learning how to regain that control. As an added benefit, saying the words helped me stay calm too.

Just using these three simple words has really helped turn a no-fun situation into a learning and growing experience for both me and him.

I’d love to hear from you! What methods work with your kids? If you give this a try I’d love to hear how it goes!