In addition to keeping the “don’t-touch” items out of the way, consider positive steps you can take to encourage good behavior in your toddler.
filled with interesting items to pull out, sort, and study, things like measuring spoons, plastic dishes, a potato masher. Provide things of his own around the house that he can push, pull, turn, and manipulate.
Let him experiment with pouring water in a dishpan outside or in a tub, or at the sink under your supervision. Uncooked rice or oatmeal are easy-to-clean-up indoor substitutes for pouring sand.
to encourage the busy toddler to sit still longer and “work” at her own drawing table. A step stool will help her reach the kitchen sink for hand washing, tooth brushing, and for “helping” in the kitchen.
It’s easier to shuffle your daily schedule around a bit than to change the temperament of your toddler. Do not set yourself up for impossible struggles. You know your child best, and you will learn, by trial and error, what works.
When you shop with a toddler, be sure she is well-rested and well-fed, and be ready with a nutritious snack to keep her mind off the cereal boxes, lettuce, and egg cartons. Be prepared to have it take twice as long. Take your babysling along, or let baby ride in the cart. Have fun and a short grocery list. If you’re in a hurry, feeling distracted or stressed, shop without baby.
Know your child’s up and down times of the day. Most toddlers behave their best in the morning and their worst in late afternoon or just before naptimes. Plan outings during what we call “easy times.” Martha finds mornings one of the easiest times of the day to get our children to fit her agenda. During “tough times” of the day, our toddlers stay at their homebase.
Provide snacks, and lunch or supper before he gets ravenous. Sit down to share some quiet activity before he’s so wound up he can’t fall asleep at night.
You don’t have to be a slave to a schedule, but toddlers need predictability: breakfast first, then get dressed; put on socks and shoes, then go bye-bye; supper, quiet play, bath, brush teeth, then bedtime stories. Routines give a child a sense of mastery.
While children are not machines set to behave according to the design of the parent engineer, there are simple ways to channel little minds and bodies to make your day run smoother:
If you have no choice but to take a toddler to a place where it’s difficult to be a two-year-old, plan ahead. Suppose you have a meeting with your older child’s schoolteacher at four o’clock and you have to take along your two-year-old. Encourage your child to take a 1½ to 2 hour nap at 1:30, give a snack just before leaving home, and take along some quiet but fascinating toys. Be sure your child has had lots of your attention earlier in the day. This may help him behave better while you concentrate on the meeting. Invite him to sit on your lap while you talk.
Life with a toddler can seem like a roller-coaster ride unless you know what sets off the highs and the lows. Note what prompts desirable behavior, and cut out what stirs turmoil. Some play environments foster good behavior in your child and fewer hassles for you. Seek out the ones that work; avoid the ones that don’t. It may be a who, when, and how-many-playmates decision. Recognize who your child has the most fun with (this may not be the child of your best friend) and the time of the day he plays best. Does he play better one-on-one or beside two or three other mates? Most toddlers do best playing alongside a carefully-selected playmate with a compatible temperament. Many children under three are not developmentally ready to play together cooperatively. Playgroups for toddlers work well when the mothers are willing to be present and observant, and able to be involved as the toddlers learn the social “ropes.” An alternative to same-age playmates would be four-to-six-year-old playmates for your two-year-old. Older ones like playing with “babies” and they won’t end up fighting.
Plastic bats are great for solo play but a disaster in a group. Select age and temperament-appropriate toys. An impulsive thrower needs soft toys, not metal cars that he can use as projectiles. If a toy habitually excites squabbles among playing children, shelve it. Children under three do not yet have the developmental capacity to share.
A bored child is a breeding ground for trouble. Let your child be busy with you. Sometimes play with her yourself; sometimes have things for her to do on her own. The fourteen-to-eighteen-month-old will need you a lot. After that, a toddler is more and more able to self-stimulate.
The bored child with a busy parent is a high-risk mismatch. Count on the old standby: “Want to help Mommy?” Her “help” may slow you down, but this is less time-consuming than dealing with an “unbusy” child.
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