Parenting toddlers is not for the faint of heart. Even the most calm and collected parent experiences moments of overwhelm while navigating through things like temper tantrums, potty training, and sick days, and while traveling with a toddler can be lots of fun, it can also be very challenging if you don’t have an arsenal of travel activities up your sleeve and haven’t planned for every possible scenario ahead of time.
The good news is that there are tons of hacks to make parenting toddlers easier, and we’re sharing 41 of our favorites below!
Parenting Advice: How to Deal with Toddler Temper Tantrums
Temper tantrums are often a manipulation ploy used by small children to try and get what they want and can typically be rectified through appropriate discipline. Most parents start to see an increase in the number and intensity of temper tantrums in their children around the 2-year mark, and they tend to persist until a child turns 5. You’ve probably heard moms and dads use the terms ‘Terrible Twos’, ‘Trying Threes’, and ‘Freaking Fours’ to describe the crying, screaming, hitting, and kicking that can occur when a child feels frustrated, and while these explosions and behaviors are a normal part of a child’s development, they can be very overwhelming. Check out some of our best parenting advice below to help you manage temper tantrums when they occur and (hopefully) prevent them from happening in the first place.
Prioritize one-on-one time. One of the most effective parenting hacks I’ve found for preventing temper tantrums is to set aside 15+ minutes at regular intervals throughout the day to spend with your child to ensure his or her attention bucket is full. Shut down your laptop, silence your smartphone, turn off the TV, and give 100% of yourself to your child so he or she doesn’t need to act out in order to get your attention. Remember that this doesn’t need to be complicated – it just needs to be deliberate.
Be clear and consistent. Another way to avoid the frequency of your toddler’s temper tantrums is to set clear guidelines around your expectations for your child. Communicate which behaviors will and will not be tolerated, provide regular reminders, and remember that the key to good behavior is consistency. When your child engages in poor behaviors, you must always follow through with whatever consequences you’ve set forth to decrease the likelihood it will happen again.
Change the environment. Wherever possible, remove your child from the situation and take him or her to a quiet area when he or she is in the throes of a temper tantrum. This can be more challenging when you’re out and about, but moving your child to a secluded part of a store, the bathroom of a restaurant, or even to your car is a great strategy as he or she won’t have an audience and can work through whatever emotions have taken hold in private. Your main focus should be ensuring your child is safe and ignoring the behavior.
Redirect and distract. If you recognize the warning signs of an impending temper tantrum, consider distracting and redirecting your child elsewhere to keep his or her emotions from escalating.
Give warnings before transitions. Giving warnings before transitions is another great strategy for preventing temper tantrums. This is especially important when a child is moving from a preferred activity to something he or she finds less interesting. A Time Timer is a great tool to use as it visually shows kids the passage of time, and providing a 10-, 5-, and 3-minute warning can also help make transitions easier.
Use reward systems. Positive reinforcement – the act of reinforcing desirable behavior immediately after it occurs to increase the likelihood that it will happen again – is a fabulous strategy to help encourage good behavior in children, regardless of their age. Ignoring undesirable behavior (temper tantrums) and rewarding positive interactions through sticker charts is a great tool to consider. We share our favorite reward charts HERE.
Stay calm. I know this probably sounds obvious, but never underestimate the power of your own words, actions, and nonverbal cues. Lead by example by taking deep breaths, avoiding sudden movements, and talking in a soft voice to help instil a sense of calm in everyone when a temper tantrum threatens to take over.
6 Toddler Hacks for Potty Training
While the idea of transitioning from diapers to big kid underpants sounds appealing, I speak from experience when I say that potty training is not for the faint of heart. There are lots of moms out there who claim to toilet train their children in 3 days (or less), and while my hat goes off to them, I don’t think it’s realistic to assume your child will grasp the concept in that short a time frame without a ton of accidents along the way. Here are 6 potty training hacks that helped make the process as seamless as possible for my daughter and me.
Make sure your child is ready. There are heaps of great checklists you can reference online to tell if your child is physically ready to start toilet training – doesn’t like the feel of wet or dirty diapers, has a predictable toileting schedule, can stay dry for long stretches of time, etc. – but it’s important to ensure your child is also mentally ready to start using the toilet. Does he or she show an interest in watching you go to the bathroom? Has he or she ever practiced sitting on the toilet? Is he or she excited about wearing big kid underpants? The more engaged and interested your child is, the more successful the experience will be, so pay close attention to your child’s cues.
Wait until you’re ready. Yup. Even if your child is 100% ready to start toilet training, the effort will be completely futile if you’re not emotionally ready yourself. The more impatient and stressed you are, the less successful your child will be, so try to find a time when your schedule is a little lighter and you can stick around the house for a few days.
Keep a log. A great tip to consider before you start potty training your child is to keep a log of his or her toileting activity for a week. How often does he or she pee? What time of day does he or she have a bowel movement? Is there some sort of predictability to his or her toileting habits? Knowing the answers to these questions can make a huge difference in helping you plan ahead.
Set a timer. When D-Day arrives, you want to ensure you are taking your child to the potty at regular intervals, and a tool like a Potty Watch can help. The reminder prompts can be a fun way to keep your child engaged and excited, but if sensory stimuli are troublesome for your child, a Time Timer may be a better choice.
Motivate with rewards. A great way to get kids excited about potty training is to create a reward chart. Sticker charts like this one from Sesame Street are great as you can choose a TV character, animal, or other theme your child loves to make it especially exciting for him or her. Another effective option when it comes to toilet training is to have a ‘treasure box’ filled with small toys in the bathroom. Each time your child is successful in using the toilet, he or she can select and play with one toy for 5 minutes.
Remove sensory distractions. If your child has sensory issues, you must ensure to be cognizant of sights, sounds, and smells that may hinder his or her ability to cope with potty training. A great example is the automatic flush system used in many public bathrooms. While annoying to adults, they can be absolutely terrifying to small children with sensory issues, so plan wisely.
Pro Tip: Keep a pack of Post-It Notes in your purse to place overtop of automatic flush sensors to avoid public toilets from self-flushing!
How to Travel with a Toddler: 6 Tips to Consider
Traveling with a toddler can sound pretty scary, but with a little planning and preparation, it can actually be quite pleasant. Here are some things to keep in mind before you embark on your journey.
Schedule travel times effectively. While it’s not always possible to schedule your travel around naps and bedtime, you are much more likely to have a smooth journey if you start off with a well-rested child. So if you can manage it, book your travel for first thing in the morning, and put your child to bed earlier than normal the night before to make sure he or she is well-rested.
Don’t ignore illnesses. When it comes to planning a trip, there’s always a high degree of probability your little one is going to get sick the day before you travel. It’s Murphy’s Law! And while you are likely busy packing and organizing that day, I highly recommend having your child cleared for take-off by a doctor if he or she is under the weather. I also recommend buying travel insurance when you book your flights. The $15 you’ll spend on the insurance is better than the hundreds or thousands of dollars you could be out if your kid starts throwing up in the TSA line and you have to cancel completely!
Bring medication and a first aid kit. You never know when your child is going to hurt herself, spike a fever, have an allergic reaction to something, develop diarrhea, or start projectile vomiting when you’re nowhere close to a medical clinic, so never (ever) board a plane or embark on a long car ride without a miniature pharmacy in your purse or carry on luggage. At the very minimum, I recommend packing Children’s Tylenol, Children’s Advil, an anti-nausea formula like Gravol, an antiseptic like Neosporin, and plenty of different sized bandaids.
Pack lots of snacks. When traveling with toddlers, you probably don’t want them eating a ton of junk food while you’re stuffed in the car or in an airplane. Pack your favorite healthy snacks and ensure you have an empty water bottle or sippy cup with you that you can fill once you get to your gate and at regular intervals throughout your travels.
Bring a change of clothes. As someone who has been spilled, peed, and puked on while traveling, I highly recommend bringing a change of clothes for everyone!
Make a surprise travel bag. Once you’ve gathered a bunch of kid-friendly travel activities (see below for some of my favorites for toddlers), stash it all away in a special backpack your child isn’t allowed to peek at until your journey begins. I’ve been doing this with my daughter since she was about 2, and it’s a lot of fun for both of us.
Mom Hacks: How to Keep Toddlers Entertained While on The Go
Whether you’re in the checkout line at the grocery store, sitting in a doctor’s office, taking a family road trip, or braving an international flight, having an arsenal of activities at your disposal can go a long way in helping you maintain your sanity. Here are 7 of our favorite ways to keep toddlers entertained while on the go.
Peaceable Kingdom Sticker Fun. These reusable stickers are good for hours of entertainment, and they have so many themes to choose from. I like the airplane theme when we travel, but you could just as easily go with “Mermaids”, “Funny Faces”, or “At the Zoo.”
Busy Books. There are so many of these available for purchase on Amazon and in most book stores, and I bet there’s one for your child’s favorite movie or television show. Each set comes with a figurine and a playmat along with a story for hours of entertainment!
Melissa & Doug Sticker Pad Sets. It’s no secret that kids LOVE stickers, and since they are small, compact, and extremely inexpensive, I recommend keeping a pack (or 10) in your diaper bag, purse, and the glove compartment of your car so you’re always prepared for emergencies!
Magnetic Go Snakes n’ Ladders. This travel game is perfect for planes and cars, offering a fun way you can spend some one-on-one time with your child while on the go.
Aquadoodle Travel Doodle. If your child likes to draw, the Aquadoodle offers a mess-free way to get creative when you’re out and about.
LeapFrog Leap Pad. I bought my daughter her first LeapFrog tablet when she was 16-months-old (true story) and had immediate buyers remorse as I was convinced she was way too young to grasp all it had to offer. I was so very wrong. She mastered it within a week, and we went through FIVE LeapFrog tablets between then and her fifth birthday. From videos and games to ebooks and kid-safe web browsing, it’s the perfect travel companion for little kids!
The Everything Kids’ Word Search Puzzle and Activity Book. If you’re looking for something you can do together with your child while you’re on the go, this activity book has lots of great ideas you can try.
Mom Hacks: What to Do When Your Toddler is Sick
Sickness is never fun, but it can be particularly difficult during the first few years of a child’s life when they can’t accurately tell you what’s wrong. Here are some natural ideas you can try to keep your little one comfortable when sickness strikes, as well as links to longer articles we’ve written on each type of illness and our recommended strategies to help you and your little one get back on track.
If your child has a fever…
- Keep him or her hydrated
- Serve frozen treats like popsicles to help him or her feel cooler while also soothing a sore throat and increasing your child’s liquid intake
- Apply cold wash cloths to your child’s forehead and the back of his or her neck to help bring his or her fever down
- Whip up a batch of chicken noodle soup to keep your child hydrated and nourished
- Make sure your child is getting enough sleep so his or her body can fight off whatever illness is causing the fever to occur
For more information about fever in children – what to look for, when to worry, and other natural fever reducers like cold sock therapy – CLICK HERE.
If your child has an ear infection…
- Hold a warm compress over the infected ear(s) to relieve pain and pressure
- Increase fluid intake (swallowing can help open the eustachian tubes and relieve discomfort)
- Make your own salt sock by filling a large white cotton sock with about 1 ½ cups of coarse sea salt, tying a knot to keep the salt in place, and warming it in a skillet. Make sure it isn’t too hot to the touch, and then hold it over your child’s infected ear for immediate pain relief
- Try essential oils. The calming effects of lavender oil combined with its ability to soothe pain and improve respiratory issues is a great place to start, and eucalyptus oil is another favorite as its anti-inflammatory properties can help reduce inflammation in the eustachian tubes while also helping to alleviate congestion. Tea tree oil also works due to its anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties.
If your child has a sore throat…
- Have him or her gargle with salt water to reduce swelling and discomfort
- Add honey to warm water (or have your child lick it directly from a spoon!) for quick relief
- Use popsicles to reduce pain and increase hydration. Allowing your child a popsicle before meals is a great way to help numb the throat to make eating more tolerable
- Brew lemon water and/or chamomile tea as they both have antioxidant properties
If you need more creative – and delicious – ways to keep your child comfortable when a sore throat strikes, learn how liquid Jello and a bag of marshmallows can help, as well as when to seek medical care HERE.
If your child has a stomach bug…
- Reduce liquid intake as it can make vomiting and diarrhea worse. Start with one tablespoon of water or flat ginger ale and once that can be tolerated, slowly increase from there
- Use electrolyte solutions like Pedialyte to ward off dehydration
- Stick to the BRAT diet – bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast
- Alleviate stomach pain and spasms with a heating pad
- Reduce nausea with ginger ale, ginger tea, and/or acupressure Sea-Bands
For more tips on how to maintain your sanity when a stomach bug hits your family, including great household hacks to make clean-up easier, CLICK HERE.
Whew! That was a lot of information. I hope this collection of parenting hacks makes the toddler years more enjoyable by helping you prevent and diffuse meltdowns, master potty training like a pro, embark on family outings and vacations, and navigate sick days without too much misery.
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