Top Tips for Caring for Your Toddler
It’s a great age – that brief moment in time when your baby isn’t quite a baby anymore but hasn’t yet reached the kinder stage. Raising a toddler can feel pretty constant on a number of levels – chasing them all over the place as they really hit their stride; making sure they don’t fall in the pool or climb on the counter tops; answering all of the questions they ask (and there are so many questions!); teaching them to ride a strider bike or following down those first runs on the bunny slope. It’s a remarkable phase of life, and one that comes with plenty of pitfalls if parents aren’t prepared. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when caring for your one-, two- or three-year old.
Overall Toddler Safety
As parents, it’s our job to help keep our kiddos safe to the best of our ability without going so far as to earn the dreaded playdate title of Helicopter Parent. Some things we can help prevent, such as choking, drowning and injury due to car accidents. Others, such as the occasional tumble or fall, are often unavoidable and simply a part of growing up. Regardless, here are some steps to take as parents to help keep your little explorers safe, healthy and happy.
Toddler Water Safety – Be water aware.
Drowning is one of the leading causes of death among children ages one to three. The most important thing you can do is watch your young ones diligently around water if they can’t yet swim. This includes the obvious, such as pools (even small kiddie pools if they don’t have the strength to get their head above water), water parks, fountains and ponds, as well as larger bodies of water such as river banks, lakes and ocean shorelines.
- Get certified in infant and child CPR.
- Never leave a child unattended in or near water. This includes the bathtub.
- Consider a parent/toddler swim class that helps get your kiddo comfortable in the water, and, more important, teaches them the fundamentals of getting themselves out of the water if they need to (on the edge of a pool, the ol’ elbow-elbow-knee-knee rule is a great one!).
- Have your child wear an age and weight appropriate personal floatation device (PFD).
- Keep a phone nearby in case of emergencies.
Toddler Choking & Poisoning Prevention
Curiosity is a beautiful aspect of this stage of life, but it can also lead to your child putting all sorts of things in his or her mouth.
- Keep an eye on your kiddo to make sure they chew their food well and don’t try to swallow large pieces at once. Also, make sure to cut food to manageable, bite-sized pieces.
- Have your child sit up in a chair or high chair while eating.
- Chat with your child’s pediatrician about appropriate solid foods and consistencies.
- Learn what to do in case your child chokes.
- If you fear your child has ingested a harmful substance, call Poison Control immediately.
Tips for Potty Training
As parents, we can be eager to transition our toddlers out of diapers. But it’s important not to rush this stage too much. If your child is beginning to show interest in the potty, knows where the bathroom is and can draw a mental line between having to use it and going to the potty, can actually reach the toilet, and maybe wants some new “big kid undies,” then it’s probably time to begin the process.
- Consider starting with a portable potty. These handy little units are easy to move around the house and transport on road trips if needed. They’re also easy for little legs to reach and use. (Make sure to properly sanitize after use.)
- Get your child excited about the idea. If your little one is only “meh” about getting out of diapers, you might want to try a star or sticker chart, special potty book, instructional cartoon, or other reward to make potty training something they want to do instead of something they’re afraid of.
- Encourage communication. Talk about using the bathroom with your child, any fears he or she might have, and that it’s okay to ask for help when needed.
- Don’t be afraid to let them be naked. This tip is more convenient in warmer climates or during milder parts of the year when running around sans pants is appealing, but it can be a very helpful tool in teaching your child to use the potty. Doing so becomes much easier without the physical barrier of a diaper, pull-up or underwear to get in the way.
- Avoid the public bathroom mega flush. Automatic toilets, especially those found in restaurants or airports, can be scary when they forcefully flush. Try covering the sensor with your hand or a sticky note to avoid the loud noise and keep your potty trainer enthusiastic about the toilet.
Toddler Bedwetting Solutions
While most children are potty trained between the ages of two and four, this is certainly not a catch-all. Kids can continue wetting the bed for years, and it’s nothing for them to be ashamed of. If you have concerns, or you would like additional information as it relates to your child’s circumstances, talk with your pediatrician. In the meantime:
- Don’t shame your child. Bedwetting is a natural step in transitioning from toddler to big kid, and it takes every person a different amount of time to get there.
- Talk with your child about what’s happening.
- Be consistent with bedtime routines, avoiding too much liquid right before sleep.
- Use a washable mattress cover. These water-resistant or waterproof barriers will spare the mattress.
- Be sensitive and patient when it comes to your child’s feelings.
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Getting a Toddler to Sleep
As parents, it can be a little rough to give up that hour-long toddler nap when you can get a few things done, or take a little parental downtime yourself. But as your child gets older, it’s important to help them transition from two naps to one, and then eventually, no naps and regular sleep. Once toddlers are sleeping through the night, it’s important to help them establish healthy nighttime and sleep habits as well.
- When is it time to stop napping? If your child is resisting napping, or simply can’t fall asleep mid-day any more, it’s time to say adios to the mid-day shut-eye. This can vary wildly by child, family, lifestyle and more. Talk with your pediatrician if you’re not sure what’s best for you and your kiddo.
- Consider quiet time instead. If you and your child want to continue enjoying a mid-afternoon reset without going full nap, dedicated quiet time in a quiet space is a great way to do so.
- Stay consistent with bedtime and the evening routine. Establish a time that works to get your child to bed and then try hard to stick to it. Whether it’s dinner-bath-brush teeth-read or play time-dinner-brush teeth-bed, making sure your kiddo knows what to expect and when each evening will alleviate many of the pain points and pitfalls of getting her or him to bed and enjoying a restful night of sleep.
- When to call your pediatrician. If your child is frequently waking up in the middle of the night, is snoring, or wakes up exhausted or can’t get out of bed, call your child’s healthcare provider.
Tips for Traveling with a Toddler
If you’ve been avoiding that road trip or airplane flight because you have a toddler in-tow, fear not. Traveling with toddlers doesn’t have to be anxiety-inducing. In fact, it can afford you both an exciting adventure with plenty of opportunities for fun.
- Make sure to take the car seat, and that it is properly installed. They’re big, heavy, cumbersome and awkward to carry, but car seats are an elemental safety feature of your toddler’s life. Don’t leave home without one, even if you’re traveling. Once at your destination – or en route if traveling by car – install the car seat facing backward as long as it is safe and appropriate for your child.
- Make sure to have treats. This is key to everyone’s happiness while you’re traveling. Pre-pack some fun treats before you go. If you’re flying, make sure your plastic bags or containers adhere to current regulations. Dry cereal, goldfish or cheesy bunnies, pretzels, small carrots, applesauce pouches and granola bars are all great choices.
- Throw in some hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes. You don’t want to overdo it, but applying hand sanitizer to your child’s hands once you’re on the plane, and wiping down any high-touch surfaces such as seat belt buckles and airplane trays, can help keep germs at bay.
- Let your child carry their own bag. It might be a school backpack, a small roller suitcase or a nifty lunch box. Whatever the vessel, allowing your child to feel involved in the process can encourage good, engaged behavior while on the road or in the air.
- Don’t shy away from the screen. Sure, we all know too much screen time is a bad thing, but if you’re faced with a particularly long flight or drive, it can be a helpful tool. Download appropriate content, or collaborate with your kiddo using fun educational apps or games.
The toddler years go by quickly, and your child will grow so much during this time. Help them grow safely and be healthy, and enjoy every second. Before you know it, you won’t be able to catch them on the bike or skis!