Toddlerhood is fun, watching that babe turn into a little boy or girl is an amazing privilege to have as a parent. As beautiful as those tots are, let’s face it…they are also a challenge. I want to share some healthy tot habits that have worked for my family, specifically as working parents.
Start the morning off with a snuggle.
At the 2, we noticed my son was starting to struggle with daycare drop off. Previously he could have cared less to even say “goodbye”, and jumped right to playing. I decided to start our morning routine 10 minutes earlier so we could lay in bed together, snuggle and read a book every morning. I wanted to make sure we didn’t start the day off by focusing on rushing out of the house to school/work. A little morning quality time, even if only minutes, can go along way. Providing your child with a little security before the day begins.
Good eating habits.
My husband and I are very CONSISTENT with our meal routine. Prior to our son being born we ate in front of the TV. As my son began eating solids, his goal became to feed the dogs rather than himself. We quickly learned we had to utilize the dining table, or the dogs would be fed lots of scraps. We eat at the table everyday now. Additionally, we are both consistent with our expectations on my son’s eating. When we cook we may make toddler friendly modifications, but we do expect our son to try his food. We never force feed, or push new foods too hard. But by approaching eating calmly, and maintaining consistent expectations we have been successful. Overall our son is a good eater…sometimes it takes extra work…aka the little bird will trick us into hand feeding him! 🐦. But he has a healthy relationship with food, and that’s what counts.
Good snack habits.
Adding to what we discussed above. My son was always a great eater as a babe. However, as he got older he was refusing to eat foods I knew he liked. The problem…snacks! “I want nack, I want nack momma!”. My chiropractor a mom of 3, reminded me “he won’t starve if he misses a meal”. She recommended we put his unfinished dinner aside, and save it for snack time if he didn’t eat it. She swore it wouldn’t take more than a couple of weeks of consistency. She was right, within a week he was eating dinner. He also had no problem eating his dinner for a snack, whew! We now have mostly healthy snacks and save them for specific times of the day or for travel/errands.
We play outside as a family everyday.
Well, that’s a bit of a fib. We live in Wisconsin. In good weather we are outside minimally an hour. In winter/bad weather we play outside whenever conditions are safe. We try for daily, weather permitting, at least for 20 minutes. One of us tries to be included in the outside play, even if it’s just a quick walk with our son and the dog. Fresh air is so important for mental and physical health. Additionally, getting out into fresh air drains energy in a positive way, leaving less energy for tantrums!
Inside family playtime.
If unable to go outside or for downtime after dinner, we always have a family play session. It might consist of arts and crafts, reading, LEGO’s, hide and seek, kiddy workouts, or just plain rough housing. But we always do some project or play that is mentally or physically stimulating.
Bedtime wind down.
We have an evening routine we use everyday. After dinner and play, it’s time for night snack. We then get jammers on, turn the lights down and snuggle on the couch as a family before bed. This is where things get outside the textbook for us. My son winds down by watching a kiddy movie for about 30 minutes before bed. Most experts don’t recommend screen time 2 hours before bed. Many kids need to do book and quiet time here. Our kiddo was always hard to get off to sleep when he was younger. Book reading, rocking and lullabies failed us. This routine is what worked for us. He now goes to bed 8pm no fuss, every night. The important part is we use exercise followed by wind down time, decreased stimulation, and a routine to get to bed. Find what works for your tot, and your family.
Get out of the habit of too many choices.
Something I know from being a nurse is tots love to call the shots. But let’s face it, they don’t have the capacity to make the best decisions. If you leave too many decisions up to your tot, she’ll be wearing sandals instead of boots in winter weather, or filling up on fruit snacks instead of dinner. It is very important to foster independence in a tot. However, I like to offer options or choices, but keep a limit on them, usually 2-3 at most. This shirt or that one. This snack or that.
Teach your tot to be a helper
Teaching your tot to be a helper, and giving your tot small responsibilities not only creates good habits that will help into adulthood, but helping and having a job are things tots inherently love to participate in. Start with your tot putting their toys away. They can also participate with housekeeping. Tots love brooms, dusters and vacuums. Mine has a love for wiping tables since he was about 8 months old 😂. As he’s getting older, I let him help me stir things up in the mixing bowl, he helps feed the dog and participates in dog walking. He loves to feel like a helper.
Parents are on the same page.
In order to show your toddler how to form good habits that they’ll eventually carry into adulthood, parents have to agree on what habits are right for the family. BOTH parents have to be consistent, BOTH parents have to participate.
Creating good habits at a young age will not only set your tot up for success as they get older, but will help make mommies and daddies lives a whole lot easier in the long run. Even if it requires a bit of work to be consistent up front, that consistency will pay in the future!
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