Parenting Hacks for Toddlers
Dr. Kristi Smith, D.Ed., M.Ed., CFE   •   October 23, 2023

Parenting toddlers can be both incredibly rewarding and immensely challenging. These pint-sized explorers are full of energy, curiosity, and unpredictability. Fortunately, there are many parenting hacks that can help you navigate the toddler years with less stress and more enjoyment. Here are some tried-and-true hacks to make your life as a toddler parent a little easier:

Crate a Visual Schedule: Toddlers thrive on routine, and a visual schedule can make daily transitions smoother. Use pictures or simple drawings to represent activities like mealtime, playtime, and bedtime. Display the schedule where your child can see it, so they know what to expect throughout the day.

Use a Visual Timer: Transitions can be difficult for a toddler, especially one who is deeply invested in an activity. Giving a toddler a time limit warning doesn’t have any meaning at this age. Visual timers help children see the passing of time and provide a type of countdown to help them transition more easily. Visual timers have become popular and are readily available.

Embrace the Power of Healthy Snacks: Toddlers often get hungry between meals, and having healthy snacks readily available can prevent meltdowns. Prepare snack boxes with a variety of options like cut-up fruit, cheese cubes, and whole-grain crackers. Keep them accessible for your little one to grab when hunger strikes.

Turn Clean-Up into a Game: Tidying up with a toddler in tow can be a challenge, but you can make it fun. Turn cleaning into a game by setting a timer and racing against it to see how quickly you can pick up toys together. Sing a cleanup song or make a game out of sorting items into bins.

The “Two-Choice” Technique: Toddlers love asserting their independence, which can lead to power struggles. Instead of giving them an open-ended choice (e.g., "What do you want to wear?"), offer them two options you're comfortable with (e.g., "Do you want to wear the red shirt or the blue one?"). This gives them a sense of control without overwhelming choices.

Mealtime Hacks: Mealtime with a toddler can be a battleground, but it doesn't have to be. Use colorful, child-friendly dishes and utensils to make food more appealing. Get creative by arranging food into fun shapes or faces. Also, involve your child in meal preparation to pique their interest in what they're eating.

Keep Essentials Handy: Create "stations" around the house with essential items like diapers, wipes, and snacks. This eliminates the need to run back and forth when you need something quickly, leaving your toddler unsupervised. Consider a portable diaper caddy for easy access on the go.

Potty Training Made Easier: Potty training can be a challenging milestone. Potty training during the toddler years is easier. Waiting until after a child has turned three years of age actually makes potty training harder because poor elimination habits are instilled. Make it less stressful by letting your toddler choose their own potty seat and underwear with their favorite characters. Use a timer to remind them to try the potty regularly, and celebrate every small success.

The  “Busy Box” Trick: Create a "busy box" filled with age-appropriate toys and activities that your toddler can explore independently when you need a moment to yourself. This can be a lifesaver during phone calls or when preparing meals.

Take Advantage of Nap Time: Nap time isn't just for toddlers; it's for parents too. Use this time to recharge, catch up on chores, or simply enjoy some well-deserved relaxation.

Childproof with Creative Solutions: Childproofing your home is essential, but it doesn't have to be unsightly. Use washi tape or colorful duct tape to mark boundaries or hazard areas. Make baby gates visually appealing by painting or decorating them.

Toddler-Proof Your Tech: Toddlers are often drawn to smartphones and tablets. Protect your devices by investing in a durable case and enabling parental controls. Download educational apps and interactive games to engage your child in a productive way.

Parenting toddlers can be a wild ride, but with these parenting hacks in your toolbox, you can navigate the toddler years more smoothly and enjoy the precious moments of discovery and growth with your little one. Remember that every child is unique, so be flexible and adapt these hacks to suit your toddler's individual needs and preferences. Happy parenting!

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