Last week a mom of a two-year-old was asking for tips on how to manage her son’s energy. She just had her second baby so their routine is thrown off a bit; and she finds herself overwhelmed by her toddler. While he does attend “school” a few hours a week and she has support from family and postpartum doula, she’s tired and unsure of how to keep him entertained and well-behaved.
What can we do with our often enthusiast toddlers who require a lot of energy, attention, and redirection?
I have a few ideas that might help her…and YOU, if you’re the mom of a toddler! And while I don’t believe in one-size-fits-all answers, I do think it’s helpful to have a list of ideas to pull from and try. You never know what your child will respond well to until you try it! So, here are some ideas for making days with your toddler more manageable (whether you’ve just introduced a baby or not!).
* Take him outside! It can be really daunting to go outside when the weather is cold (anything 40 degrees or below is cold to me!), but the fresh air, calmness that comes from being in nature, and the space to run, play, be silly, and burn energy makes it worth it. If you have a new baby, bundle him up (or, if you’re in the backyard, grab your monitor!) and play outside!
* Set up a new activity! Sometimes, after my kids go to bed, I’ll put a “new” activity out in the living room. When they come downstairs it’s like Christmas morning! They are so excited to see something new…and they are immediately entertained (which buys me some time to grab a cup of tea and make breakfast).
* Let them do something DIFFERENT! On a looooong day, I might let my toddler paint my toe nails (which I could do while nursing a baby!), or play with shaving cream in the sink, or find treasures hidden in rice, or blow bubbles in the kitchen. Think outside the box! Any new activity will be FUN! Some parents create activity boxes (each with all the supplies for one specific activity) or a nursing basket (handy while breastfeeding an infant) which hold toys that the toddler doesn’t typically see. It’s a simple idea and it works!
* Give him some un-divided attention! While the baby is sleeping, give your toddler some serious mommy-tot time. A little bit of attention goes a long way. During this time, don’t respond to the “notifications” that beep on your phone or computer, don’t answer an unimportant call, give your child your complete attention. He’ll really appreciate it!
* Make him your helper! You still have to clean, cook, change diapers…so get your toddler to be your assistant. Nothing makes them happier than being with you and pleasing you. My daughter loves to help me juice, bake, cook dinner, dust, water plants, put away toys, and even sweep or vacuum!
* Build a fort! If you have any extra sheets lying around, a fort can provide an imaginative toddler with hours of fun! It’s another thing you can set up the night before too!
* Get out of the house! Too cold for a walk or outside play? Head anywhere!! Visit a friend, go to a coffee shop (I always bring crayons & paper), check out the Splash show (FREE! every hour on the hour), go out for frozen yogurt, or visit your local library. There are plenty of free/low-cost activities that you can do with your toddler (and baby) that are family friendly!
* Make art! Sometimes we need a reminder to get out the paints or playdough…so here it is! Toddlers are little artists…let your guy make a mess and have some fun exploring different mediums!
* Don’t leave the tv on all day! In some homes, the television is on all day…robbing little ones of creative moments because it’s a distraction. You are better off turning off the tube until you decide it’s show-time. I’m not against putting on a show (or two) throughout the day…but get your little one to sit for the show and don’t keep the tv running for hours.
* Put on music! Looking for entertainment? Put on some tunes (for toddler and you!) and get your boogie on!
* Nap/Quiet time! Try to insist that your toddler get some rest ~ even if they don’t sleep. The down-time would be good for both of you!
* Be patient and consistent! Toddlers need limits & boundaries so be clear on what they are for your family (ie. We use gentle hands….We eat at the table…We don’t get this snack til we eat our lunch….etc.). It’s easier to understand how to behave when you know what’s expected of you.
Parenting a toddler is hard work! They are loaded with energy, may burn out fast, can be stubborn or fussy at times, and like to test you! Hang in there…this too shall pass. In the meantime, make things interesting (for both of you) by changing up the activities to keep him interested. Dote on him when you can, keep him involved in what you’re doing, and give each other space when you need it. Finding the right balance for your family will take some time, but you’ll work it out. And once you can regularly visit the playground, you may discover that things are easier. Toddlers need to burn off energy ~ physical and creative activities will help!