What parent doesn't struggle sometimes with their little ones? I'm certainly no expert, but I think we're doing pretty well with our toddler. Sure, I've turned to Google at times -and found varying opinions on almost EVERYTHING! (Hint: the freshbenies Doctors Online service is a GREAT way to ask specific questions and get expert advice from a pediatrician).
Today, I'm sharing some of the best tips I've learned to help you rock parenthood during the toddler years!
1. Establish a routine
Children crave structure because it gives them a sense of security. Very early into parenting, we established age-appropriate routines for our son, Nolan. Though we've made adjustments as he's grown, the general idea has stayed the same. A steady nighttime routine has proven to be particularly helpful. Every family needs to come up with a system that works for them. A few things to consider include:
- What time can you be consistent with dinner?
- What activity will you do after dinner - will it be play time, reading, bath time, etc.?
- How will you help your child wind down before bed?
- What bedtime can you adhere to?
- Are there some familiar favorite routines/items you can incorporate for comfort?
Nolan's routine is to take a bath after dinner. Then, we help him get into pajamas and tell everybody "goodnight." We turn on his white noise machine and tuck him into bed with his favorite stuffed animal. Before turning off the light in his room, we repeat the same simple phrase to him every night. The repetition has helped Nolan understand when it's time to go to sleep. Many nights, he tells us when it's bed time - he'll come find me, give me a hug and then walk off to his room. This routine and consistency has benefitted all of us.
2. Introduce new foods
Nolan has always been a pretty adventurous eater, but often the different tastes and textures of new foods throw him off. We've been most successful when we're excited about trying new foods with him. He wants to eat what we're eating! When he is reluctant or just doesn't like something on the first go, he doesn't have to eat it. However, we continue to re-introduce that food to him SEVERAL more times to give him the opportunity to keep trying it. Patience and multiple presentations of new foods makes a big difference. We've found Nolan's favorite foods are actually fruits and vegetables! If your toddler is less adventurous, try these tips for picky toddlers.
3. Protect nap times
One of the mistakes we made early on with Nolan was waiting too long to put him down for a nap. It seemed logical that if he was more tired at night, he'd sleep better and longer, right? Wrong! This actually turned out to have the opposite effect.
Sleep begets sleep, friends. When toddlers get overtired, they have a much harder time falling asleep because they're frustrated and uncomfortable. It's very difficult (and stressful!) to calm a child at that point. Always look for the early warning signs that your child is getting over-tired - rubbing their eyes, yawning, etc. Children want to sleep, but sometimes they don't know what they're supposed to do. We can help by establishing and sticking to daily nap times as diligently as possible. Check out this article for recommended hours of sleep by age.
4. Give them options
Toddlers respond so much better to change when they feel like they have a choice in the matter. Don't snatch something away from your child if you don't have to. Instead, ask them to put it back or say, "Can I have it?" When it comes to snack time, ask "Do you want this or that?" Nolan is happy and cooperative when he's given options. We encourage him to put his toys away and praise him when he does. This method will get your child excited to help instead of offering an opportunity for a tantrum. Making choices gives children a sense of control over their surroundings and helps them grow toward independence.
I know every child is different and believe parents need to encourage one another. These tips have worked for us with Nolan and we're always learning new things at every stage.
Now it's your turn! What ideas have helped you and your child enjoy the toddler years? Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.