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Happy Toddler
Habits For A Happy and Healthy Toddler

Raising children is a lot of work. Usually, people think of infants as the most complicated age group to care for, but older children come with new challenges. The toddler age group is a crucial developmental phase that requires more discipline than a young baby. It’s so easy to allow toddlers free reign or not allow them to do anything for themselves. Lack of discipline or incorrect discipline can lead to lifelong behavioral or dietary struggles for your child. Here are some habits that lead to a happy and healthy toddler. 

Sleep Schedule Keeps a Toddler Happy

Keeping your toddler on a consistent wake and sleep schedule helps them maintain a healthy circadian rhythm and gives them a consistent schedule to follow. Toddlers’ sleep schedules will wane as they grow into children, but keeping them on a sleep schedule will allow their bodies to decide the sleep and rise times. Over time you can increase or lessen the sleep time, but gradually to allow for your child’s body to adjust. Follow a consistent nap time whether you plan to place your child in daycare or keep them at home. Children don’t need more than two hours of naptime. Your toddler does not need to be asleep, but they need to have low-key rest for at least two hours to prepare them for preschool. Naps will begin to become unnecessary around 4-5 years. [Some preschools don’t offer naptime the year before kids go to kindergarten.] This will help them to go to bed willingly so they wake up a happy toddler in the morning.

Habits You Can Practice

It takes toddlers three days to implement a new sleep schedule. Plan your schedule accordingly, but make sure you decide to enforce their sleep schedule over the preliminary three-day schedule change.

Offer them a Variety of Different Foods

The keyword here is “offer” them different foods. Start implementing fruits, veggies, soft cereals, and puree foods starting at a year old. After a year, slowly introduce safely prepared solids. Starting with a variety of puree foods will allow them to taste greens, starches, and even different types of nut butter, while safely digesting. Once they start eating solids, allow them a chance to try leafy greens and meat. [Proceed to give them grapes, meat, leafy greens, and lettuce with caution. Avoid arugula or spiky lettuces. These can stick to the air pipes. Continue giving them leafy greens in puree form until they can safely chew lettuce. The puree will develop a taste for healthy foods.] Never force a toddler to eat food. They are not fully aware of what they like and dislike yet. They are still forming an opinion. Limiting sugar intake and introducing a variety of foods at mealtime will help them learn to try. If they keep rejecting the same food, reintroduce it further down the road. 

Habits You Can Practice

You can prepare meals for your family and your toddler. Puree salads for your child and offer them a small sample of the sauce you can eat. Eat healthy in front of them and they will be more likely to take an interest in your food.

Play with Your Toddler

Playing with your toddler not only allows you to strengthen your relationship with them but allows you to model friendship and proper behavior. Also, you can learn their likes and dislikes which helps you to find activities for them. The most important thing is that you learn what occupies and interests them. Toddlers lose interest within 10-15 minutes. Giving them different options will help occupy them. Take at least 15 minutes a few times a week to engage them in different sensory activities like tracing letters in foam, painting, or water play. These textures will allow them to understand the difference between wet, dry, smooth, and bumpy.

Habits You Can Practice

Try to spend at least 30 minutes of undivided playtime where you talk to your toddler about the things you are playing with. Play with your toddler on the playground to reintroduce certain muscle groups which you may usually ignore. This helps postpartum moms regain core and internal strength, as well as balance. 

Use Words and Model the Behaviors you Want

This advice may seem obvious, but something as small as starting a sentence with “I am feeling…” allows toddlers to associate an emotion with facial expressions. Show children how to be neat, but be neat yourself. Keep your home tidy, and give them the chance to clean up. Sometimes allowing a toddler to help you “clean the car” will reinforce the behaviors you want later in life. Read books and show them how to sound out letters. Speak and behave the way you want your toddler to behave. Make sure you are firm in your commands but kind.  

Habits You Can Practice 

Sometimes, your mental well-being can affect your child’s well-being. If you struggle with impulsive or obsessive behaviors, consider reading Love is A Choice by Frank Minirth, Paul Meier, and Robert Hemfelt. This book can help you see if you identify with any co-dependent behaviors. Helping yourself will help your toddler grow into a healthy adult. 

Send Them to Daycare 

Toddlers don’t understand the concept of friends until they are two and a half to three years, but introducing them to other children allows them to get used to peers. They will learn how to defend themselves, interact with others, and learn to communicate. The behavioral impact of placing your toddler in daycare is immense. As long as you are implementing the practices from daycare into your home, your child will grow to learn appropriate behaviors, eat different foods, and adapt to different social settings. 

Habits You Can Practice

If you don’t work at home, consider a small day job if you are the primary caregiver. If you work from the house, start interacting with others whether you meet people through the gym or set up lunch dates with your closest friends. You want to balance your home life with your social life. 

Always Be Prepared

You never want a toddler to be on the brink of being hungry, wet, dirty, or uncomfortable. Dirty wet pants will condition toddlers towards messy habits. Hunger will break your toddler’s trust in your ability to care for them. These bad habits could lead to binge eating or uncertainty. Prepare ahead of time, by packing your toddler’s favorite snacks, water, and a change of clothes. 

These habits are part of what you can implement into your toddler’s life. For more tips on how to raise a happy, healthy toddler, speak with your pediatrician. 

Sources Hemfelt, R., Minirth, F. and Meier, P., 2003. Love is a choice. Nashville, Tenn.: T. Nelson

How To Get Your Toddler To Eat – Eating Habits | familydoctor.org, Have a Positive Influence on Your Toddler’s Behavior – FamilyEducationUnderstanding children’s behaviour (education.vic.gov.au), The Effect of Day Care on a Child’s Success in School (verywellfamily.com), How Daycare Influences Childhood Development – StacyknowsHow to Create a Toddler Sleep Schedule – Sleeping Should Be Easy, Connecting With Your Child Through Play: The Surprising Benefits of Parent-Child Playtime — Exchange Family Center