Friday, July 3, 2015

31 Things Every Parent Should Know about their TODDLER:

TODDLERS!!!!!  Require capitals letters and exclamation marks to express all the emotions they bring up in you - or at least in me. On a daily basis it ranges from sleeplessness, joy and unbridled happiness to frustration, stress and even fear. Hopefully however, you - like me- get to circle back to peace when those eyes finally do close for a few hours - if not for the night.

There's an endless list of things that we should know, do or say when it comes to out toddlers. While it is not my style to tell you what to do or say to your toddler, here are some ideas for those looking for toddler activities, along with some tips, tricks and things you should know about your little tot.

(For those looking for tips and tricks for younger kids, please read through the new mom series - 51 things every new mom should know, Another 56 things every new mom should know, yet another 50 things that every new mom should know, still 52 more things that every new mom should know and lastly, 29 things about your newborn baby that every new and expecting mom should know).

This is what a fake tantrum looks like. 

31 Things Every Parent should Know about their TODDLER:

Toddler Activities:

1. For those who have the time to accommodate mother-toddler classes, put aside any worries you have about your child's age, infections etc and just go for it. You will not regret any time you spend with your child!

2. Mother and child classes includes music classes, baby school, baby gym and the like. Even if you do not think your child is learning anything - they are learning to take in different activities in the world around them and are conquering fears by watching other children interact. (We started Kidville's Rocking Railroad at 3 months of age in New York and are now in a mother toddler program in Mumbai, India. Unfortunately, I will be kicked out soon when my son starts playschool, but will continue music classes and work up to storytelling and toddler Gymnastics).

3. That being said, do  keep an eye on what goes into his or her mouth and the cleanliness of your surroundings. Also, stay home when your little one has infections or injections (that can compromise their immunity) - it's okay to skip a few days as little kids have erratic schedules and do fall sick.

4. While your child's schedule will adjust to a regular activity that was originally interfering with nap time or the like. So even if you have a 10 am class and that used to be his nap time, his body will eventually adjust to sleeping after class and being alert during.

5. Does your toddler enjoy being naked? Don't stress or over think it, give them a few minutes of freedom, it will help you when it's time to toilet train. Just keep a watchful eye though (on your feet), to avoid stepping in any pee or poo that may have been done on the floor.

6. When designing activities, or wondering what your child is gazing away at - get down to their level, literally. Lie down with them on the floor or follow them while crawling - it will help you understand your baby and their perspective better.

7. Toddlers, like most adults, crave control. Use playtime to let them exercise this control - let them pick what toys to play with, or what household items to play with. If they want to bang on a box with a spoon it really is alright (just make sure it's a small spoon, and not a knife or fork!)

8. Have you tried toddler art yet? For less of a major mess, stick to stickers, and chalk. Crayons are fun too (egg shaped ones are easier for your baby to hold). However, don't be afraid to get dirty with non-toxic paints and let your baby put their hands in it and explore - it's how they learn unfortunately. (Do however, cover your valuables). By 16 to 18 months, their motor skills are developed enough to let them enjoy these activities, but remember that their attention span may not be as developed.

9. Pets are the best companion for kids, however, they made need some (or alot of) protection from your toddler. Even if your pup has never bitten a soul and couldn't even think of it (like mine), your toddler has more than likely bitten a few, hit, kicked (unintentionally ofcourse) and pulled some hair. So, while it may have been safe to leave the two alone in a room together when you had a baby, you now have an unpredictable little boy or girl who may close their fists (and yank hair in the process) while gently and lovingly petting your fur baby. So do keep a close eye on this so that neither person gets scared or scarred (literally, emotionally, or mentally) in the process, and a healthy relationship between the two does not become a distant goal.

10. Don't be afraid to take your child out to a restaurant - even if it is just the two of you (that is actually better so that you can give your little one the attention he or she deserves). This is a great way to start building their attention span and also to help cultivate healthy eating habits (like sitting on a table, and in one place for their meal).  Be prepared though to eat your own meal quickly!

11. Read, read and read some more! Your child does not have to sit through the whole book, but you should teach him or her how to flip the pages, look at pictures and then listen (for a few seconds at a time at the least) to you tell them something about the picture/ page - which may be completely irrelevant to the book but is an association they can build. If they do sit through the book - you can feel free to read the story, or better yet - sing it! (this will help them actually sit through the book).

Toddler health:

12. Kids get fever, sometimes often and sometimes without any other symptoms. Talk to your doctor ofcourse if it persists but try not to panic. A fever is defined by a temperature over 100.4 degrees F, and actually helps kill bacteria in the body as bacteria thrives at 98 degrees but does not at a 100.

13. Does your little boy play with his own boy parts? (Dear Mommies of little girls, sorry about the image that is now in your head). It actually is called "toddler masturbation" (yes, I just shared that because I wanted to spread the mortification), but is perfectly normal and falls in the "natural curiosity" column, along with nose picking, biting and hair pulling.

14. Toddler headbanging, is also a completely normal activity. However, it is more likely to occur when your child has pent up energy at bedtime (this tends to occur more often on crib rails), so do help them find less damaging and stressful (for mom) ways to release their energy.

15. Toddlers can get really cranky (for days on end), and even violent when they are expecting teeth.. particularly those molars. Keep in mind that they take a long time to fully descend (both edges and the center), and unlike the front 8 teeth these can cost you more than just a few nights of sleep. Try to give your child relief by giving them hard things to chew on (like carrot sticks).

16. The more teeth your baby has the less of the teething journey you have left, but while you are celebrating keep in mind that these pearlies have to be brushed and scrubbed to remain pearly. At least twice a day.

17. It is no longer healthy or safe (for you), to put your cleaned fingers in and massage those gums no matter how much your baby liked it before, you will get hurt.

18. Kids bump their heads. Sometimes often. While you do not need to rush to the doctor for each one, do put ice and watch out for signs of stress - bleeding, red or unfocused eyes, uncontrollable crying that does not cease even after the child is distracted, lethargy, difficulty walking and vomiting. These could be signs of a concussion that needs immediate medical attention.

19. My son (like me) is always bruised. He walks into things or trips, and has even come home from the park before with scratches and scrapes. Unfortunately, this is a part of childhood but offer TLC, cleaning supplies, Neosporin (or another pain-free antibacterial cream) and bandaids.

20. It is important to have a toddler first aid kit at home that includes medication for - cuts and scrapes, nausea, diarrhea, fever, colds and coughs, tummy aches, bug bites allergies and teething! (specific drug names can be obtained from your pediatricians).

21. It is common for some children to still be drinking fluids from bottles, however, do try to transition them as soon as you can to bottles with straws. It helps if they see their parents drinking from (adult versions) of bottles with straws. Since straws send liquids straight to the back of the throat, it is better for those baby teeth than bottles with nipples or spouts.

22. While most of us now know that juices are full of sugar and can be dehydrating for us, they have actually been proven to be healthy for our little ones - in small amounts that is. 4 ounces of juice a day (home made if possible as that has lower added sugars), has proven to be healthy for our tots, while 6 or more can cause childhood obesity. So it is a fine line (literally) - so feel free to juice them up but do so wisely.

Toddler Behavior:

23. The best (and most rewarding) part of toddlerhood is that your baby can now show you how he or she feels about you. They may not say it and they may not even be cuddly or kiss you often (though may of them do) - but they are likely to try to stop you from leaving home, or to look for you when you are not around and then stick to you when you are.

24. Did I just say Clinginess is a good thing? It definitely makes me feel special but can be difficult to deal with when you have some place else you need to be. While it is easier to slip out, this is going to make your baby more insecure. So, make sure to say bye, tell them you love them and assure them you will be back. (You can even give them a transitional object and assure them that the toy/ blanket will keep them company until you are back). Only then, should you have your caregiver distract your child while you slip out!

25. The golden rule for correcting toddler behavior: Ignore. No, ignorance is not bliss, it is actually quite a nightmare trying to ignore a screaming child when all you have to do is let them fall asleep in your arms once more, or pick up that toy from below the couch or let them beat you indefinitely until you are bruised. However, if you do not want a behavior to be repeated do not reinforce it - in other words, do not react positively, negatively or in anyway at all. Pretend it didn't happen and move on.

26. Do, however, reinforce good behaviors! Give your tot complements even if it is for small-seeming things like eating a cookie themselves, being able to open or close a door, playing well, putting their things away. They will then learn that these are the things that make my parent happy or that get me a few extra hugs, kisses or claps.

27. The word Toddler is practically synonymous with Tantrums, and yes, ignoring them will eventually someday make them go away but so will understanding why they happen and trying to prevent them before they do. If you know that your toddler throws a fit for your cellphone when he sees it, don't take it out in front of him in a place where you do not want him to throw a tantrum for it. It's not the easiest, but it does bring you some temporary quiet.

28. Use diversion tactics - if you have to use your tantrum causing phone, first play a song or sing something that he loves and distract him, or show him his favorite book and start discussing it with him.

29. Most tantrums if not all, and most toddler problems as well stem from the fact that toddlers want control.  They want to be able to make their own decisions and they want to be able to control some of the things that happen to them - like what they eat, wear, read, and when they sleep (if they sleep at all). So offer them choices, (both of which are acceptable to you) ask them what they wish to snack on, which shoe they want to wear, or which book they want to read, and maybe they won't hate the idea of reading, eating or getting dressed as much.

30. Surprisingly, even toddlers who do not speak as yet - can be reasoned with. They have a vocabulary of things they understand and if you converse with them regularly you will find that they will understand you, and you will be able to reason with them. (My new bedtime tactic is to tell my son that if he wants mommy to put him to sleep he has to sleep in her arms while she sits and not with her walking endlessly around the room and bumping into things in the dark - and yes, it's working!)

31. If your toddler, like mine, is not talking even though you know that his peers are. Do not panic - kids develop at their own rate and do find many other ways to communicate. I know that my brat understands everything I tell him and responds in many ways even though he does not talk back (which I will miss fondly in those teenage years, and terrible twos). Gestures, pointing, and funny noises are the backbone of toddler communication in the early stages - so relish it and enjoy your temporary power (silence is not too effective a forms of baby arguments).

I hope these tips are helpful to all, and I promise to be back (soon this time), with more on toddler behavior food and even some handy travel tips.
More to come!

P.S. Once again, proof reading is the ball I am choosing to drop so please ignore any typos!

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