Taking care of a toddler is no small feat.
Whether you’re babysitting for an hour, or have your hands full day after day with one or more of your own, you can survive this. You just need a few skills to help keep your sanity intact.
Disclaimer: This article is in no way intended to replace common sense, individual needs, or the advice of competent professionals. It is simply the opinion of one mother of 5 who, let’s be honest, doesn’t always know what the heck she’s doing.
Don’t let them smell your fear
I’m serious about this one. Have confidence that you can do this. If you’re a wuss about it they’ll wreak havoc on your life.
I’m not saying you need to go out and buy a ton of pricey safety equipment. What I am saying is this: think about what they will want to play with that could kill them or could permanently break, and get it out of reach. There’s no need to lock every drawer, or cover every outlet. In fact, kids love playing with Tupperware and pots and pans so let them access the drawers, just keep the chemicals, breakables and sharp objects up high. Most toddlers will pull off the outlet covers and stick them in their mouths anyway so buying those is a waste of time and money. Besides, they shouldn’t have any sharp metal objects that could make outlets a danger. Although they could lick the outlets and that would be bad. OK the outlet covers are your call: buy them if you think the toddler might lick the walls.
Don’t leave them unattended.
Sounds obvious, but you would not BELIEVE how quickly a toddler can go from sitting-quietly-on your-lap to dipping-the-remote-in-the-dog’s-water-bowl (true story).
Prevent them from building complex structures.
Toddlers are known for their surprising ingenuity in creating ways to get what they want. They’ll push a chair over to the counter, stack things on top of it, and scale it to get to the top of the fridge. Make sure chairs are pushed in or moved away or turned around or whatever you need to do to keep them from being used as toddler scaffolding. They’re clever, so be more clever.
Toddlers are very easily distracted. They’re like ADHD puppies hopped up on sugar. And crack. This can make your life miserable OR you can use this to your advantage. If all they want to do is get into important documents, show them the stickers. If they won’t stay away from the toilet, lure them with a toy.
Toddlers love toys that aren’t toys.
Again, use this to your advantage. They can be kept occupied by such seemingly mundane activities as shaking keys, putting small objects into cups, rolling things, flipping light switches, and pulling wipes out of the box. Sometimes wasting all the wipes in the box is worth the 10 minutes of quiet distraction.
Plan on cleaning up after them later.
They will make a massive mess. Just let them. It’s easier to scoop all the wipes up off the floor later than it is to keep picking up wipe after wipe as they toss them willy nilly.
Be firm when you absolutely have to.
They are still learning, so if you yell “No!” you had better mean it. Otherwise, it will lose all meaning completely. Reserve it for things like biting you on the arm or eating dog poop. If they are doing things they shouldn’t, your first line of defense is distracting them, then try picking them up and moving them somewhere else. But of course, if they’re running into oncoming traffic, forget worrying about discipline styles, just run and get them out of there.
Toddlers get hangry faster than anyone. They need almost constant snacking. And feeding them crackers and cheerios not only feeds them, it keeps them occupied for awhile. Win/win!
Toddlers are busubusybusy. Prevent them from melting down with hide-and-seek, dancing to music, playing chase, and going for walks outside.
Know that toddlers bonk their heads all the time.
They’ll get hurt. They’ll scream bloody murder. But unless they are unusually drowsy, dizzy or irritable; or start vomiting or bleeding from their nose, mouth or ear; they don’t have a concussion and they’re going to be just fine.
Watch for gagging.
It happens a lot for those who eat stuff off the ground, so just plan on it. And keep in mind that if they look like they are choking but they aren’t making any noise, then they probably aren’t getting any air. You can always do a quick finger sweep to get anything out of their mouth. Even if you don’t get the object, they’ll probably throw up from having you stick your finger in their throat. Either way, obstruction removed. You can also follow this link to find out the proper way to do the Heimlich on a baby or child.
TV is not the devil.
Sometimes both they and you are inconsolable and the only thing you can muster energy for is putting on a kids cartoon while you both sit on the couch. Sure, TV is a last resort, but when you do it together it’s bonding!
Toddlers will love you forever.
They have lots of love (and hugs and slobbery kisses) to give and if you give them the slightest bit of attention they will be your best friend forever.
Know that there’s no best way to care for a toddler.
Do what works best for you and them. It’s OK if it takes some trial and error, you’re just trying to avoid the big errors.
Toddlers are amazing little explorers and scientists. You will be fascinated by trying to see things the way they see them as they discover them for the first time. And cut yourself some slack. Toddlers are a lot of work, so if you aren’t getting much else done, that’s OK.
Take a break.
When they go down for a nap or you get relieved by someone else, go do something for yourself. You deserve it. You need it.