So, infancy is sliding out of the way and now there’s this new little person who is suddenly both mobile and opinionated. We know there are two ways to get through life…the easy way and the hard way. There may not truly be an easy way to navigate through toddlerhood, but being mindful of the unnegotiable rules can help move the needle in that direction.
1. Make sure there’s a routine set up and stick to that throughout the day. Predictability is important to toddlers. It brings a sense of security and stability that make for more happy and more calm.
2. Anticipate…no, EXPECT them to be irrational. You can’t really expect to reason with a child who has his own rules of reason and will change them at will. He may ask you to cut up his fruit and then scream when you do, wanting it put back together again. See? Don’t even try.
3. Never, ever underestimate the importance of naptime. In fact, it’s a good idea to plan the day around it. A tired toddler is ticking and a meltdown can be imminent. Plan errands and other activities when he is well rested and has had something to eat.
4. Be prepared for picky eating. Up until now, a toddler may have been an eating machine and then he hit the brakes on everything… except raisins. Normal? Yes. This temporary skew will not affect his growth and development. Because of #2, don’t try to cajole, convince, or become a short-order cook. Fixing something a toddler wanted 5 minutes ago will probably not be what he wants when you put it in front of him.
5. Have a good supply of healthy snacks available at all times. They serve multiple purposes. A little snack can be a good distraction when their bodies or behavior are headed in the wrong direction. Or, they can save the day (or some serious stink-eye from passersby). Something to munch can also bridge the gap when a toddler is on thin ice before the next meal. Yet another plus? When his little mouth is busy, you can often make some meaningful eye contact and he’ll be listening to you, if only briefly!
As you have surmised, all of this requires anticipation, proactivity, and paying attention. If you miss the cues or are inconsistent, it’s all a house of cards and you’ll wonder how the toddler took over the controls.
Our best shot comes with pre-planning. This can free up more time for a toddler to be happy, engaged, interactive, and for us to enjoy these incredibly fun and amazing toddler years.