Parenting through the toddler years can sometimes feel less like a rewarding experience and more like waking up and going into battle every day. We’ve written a lot about toddlers this year, and as we wrap up 2018, it feels like a good time to revisit and collect all our favourite toddler posts into one spot.
For your survival, we’ve got peanut butter on a spoon, a toothbrush in the car, a pacifier inside a bear … and every hack in-between.
A playtime hack
Need a few minutes of peace? Let your toddler toilet paper your house.
Babies and toddlers love unrolling, tearing and basically trashing any space with this. I resort to handing over a roll in times of pure desperation, like when I need 5 to 10 minutes to make an urgent call, get something in or out of the oven, or just zone out for a beat.
Other household items mentioned in this post that you can toss at your toddler for a few moments of independent-play bliss: Plastic food storage containers, cloth napkins, bedsheets, buckets and a metal mixing bowl.
When my son was a toddler, he also enjoyed empty cereal boxes. (Oh, speaking of which: Here’s a whole post about how to entertain your toddler with Cheerios.)
A food hack
Is toddler screaming because toddler is hungry and you still have to cut up toddler’s food and every second counts? Don’t grab a knife; go for your pizza cutter.
With a hungry child at your side, you can use the humble pizza cutter to slice everything from pancakes to quesadillas to fried chicken patties into perfectly sized pieces. Slice, slice, slice, slice, slice, done. So fast. Try it.
A clothing hack
Is the process of putting on every last sock or shirt with a tag—or even a pair of pants—a struggle in your home? Go in search of sensory-friendly clothing.
If a child says her clothing “hurts” or “stings” or “burns,” it might not be hyperbole. Instead, she could have sensory processing disorder (SPD). Neuroscientist A. Jean Ayres, who was a pioneer in the field of sensory processing, explained that SPD is like a neurological “traffic jam” that prevents parts of the brain from receiving what it needs to interpret sensory information correctly. Kids with the disorder can’t “just deal with it.”
This post has suggestions for a few brands of clothing that are more comfortable for kids with this sensitivity, as well as a few additional tips for what to do when simply switching clothes isn’t enough.
A travel hack
About to take flight with your toddler for the first time? Here’s what you need to know about aeroplanes and car seats.
One of the traditional perks of air travel with children under 2 years old is saving on the price of an extra ticket by holding the child in your lap. (Granted, those of us who have ever travelled this way might argue it doesn’t exactly feel like a perk at the time, but it does make travel more affordable for families.)
However, more and more parents are opting to purchase tickets for their littlest ones for safety’s sake. And it is indeed the safer option. Strapping them into a secured car seat not only offers more protection in the event of a crash, it also keeps them secure during times of unexpected turbulence.
A bedtime hack
For those nights when you’re out until close to bedtime and you just know that kiddo is going to fall asleep in the car on the way home, keep a pair of pajamas and an extra toothbrush in the car.
If you have a toddler, getting the kid ready for bed before you hit the road makes for a seamless process — if she falls asleep on the drive home, you can usually transfer her from the car to her bed without her noticing. Even if your kids are older, the bit of prep still helps. Our family often has dinner at friends’ houses and right before it’s time to go, all the preschoolers always brush their teeth together, put on their pajamas and do one “pajama dance goodbye” before heading home. (Yeah, it’s adorable.)
Then, once we’re back at our house, my daughter can go straight from the car to her pillow in less than 20 seconds.
My feeling is that no amount of hacks for parenting (managing?) toddlers is enough. So I asked the members of our Offspring Facebook Group if they had other hacks that we should know about. And they didn’t disappoint:
Is your toddler winding up to hit you? One parent suggests giving them a hug before they can make contact while saying, “We don’t hit.” Or, as another parent suggested, high-five them before they can deliver the blow.
Use the “everything has a place” strategy for teaching your toddlers to clean up. Group member Carrie says: “I used to have toy bins that just held everything but my daughter just did not get how to put stuff away. Now each bin holds specific things … for example, one bin is just characters, one bin is balls, one bin is books, one bin is instruments, etc. After we went through that exercise one time, she started putting things away.”
Trying to ditch the pacifier for good? Group member Jenny says Build-A-Bear will put it in a bear for you so that your child can say goodbye without fully letting go.
All those Amazon boxes coming to your house this time of year can serve as fresh entertainment for your toddler. If it’s a big enough box, plop the kiddo inside with a few crayons and you’ve bought yourself 20 minutes of free time.
Need to make a quick phone call? Here’s Austin’s advice: “A small spoonful of peanut butter can buy you an easy 5 minutes of silence!”