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Turning terrible into terrific: Top toddler tips

Toddlers are generally eager to show their skills and can get frustrated easily. Parents often ask me how to make it through the terrible twos (and often terrible threes) and help their toddler thrive. Here are a few tips to guide you and your child through this this age. 

Make time for play, every day. Playing is how toddlers learn. During play, they learn to imitate their peers and parents. You can help build fine motor skills by using simple tools like spoons and crayons and use toys, books and shapes to build cognitive skills. Play also helps build gross motor skills such as running and helps them become steadier on their feet. 

Play dates are your friend. At this age, self-awareness is beginning and children start to show interest in others. While toddlers can appear to be aggressive and selfish, it is important for them to learn how to interact with peers. Planning supervised playdates with two to three children can help. Redirect your child if aggression is noticed. This also is a great way to teach them how to share. 

Talk, talk and talk. A toddler's vocabulary is expanding daily. Reading and storytelling are enjoyable tools for both you and your child and I highly recommend them. This also is a period of imitations. Make sure to set positive examples both in speech and actions.

Keep them safe. Accidental ingestion is a big problem with this age group. Bright colored items (detergent), liquids in cups (alcohol, bleach) and even larger food items can be sources of emergencies. Children are curious about fireplaces and cooking so keep them at a safe distance to avoid fire and burns. 

Prevent falls by providing a safe environment for play and make sure play equipment is age appropriate. Watch your child around stairs even when gates have been installed. Car safety is paramount and toddlers should always be in car seats with a five-point harness that are weight and height appropriate.

Make mealtime matter. Toddlers like to exert independence especially with self-feeding. It is important to establish good habits during this period. A balanced diet should be offered daily. When veggies are served simply on a plate, toddlers may nudge them aside. Find a creative presentation or slip them into their favorite meal (by pureeing or mixing) or let your little one arrange vegetables into fun shapes and pictures. This makes eating vegetables more appealing and fun. 

Practice (eventually) makes perfect with toilet training. Try to maintain a positive attitude during toilet training. There should be no stress involved as you want to make this a good experience for your child. Focus on what your child is able to do. Will he/she enter the bathroom willingly? Is your child open to getting undressed in the bathroom? These are great ways to start the training process. Also, be sure to schedule time to sit on the toilet. The best time for getting results is 20 to 30 minutes after meals.

A little praise can go a long way. Praising and rewarding your child for good behavior provides positive reinforcement and encourages the development of desired action and behaviors. And, because this can be fun yet trying time as a parent, be kind to yourself and remember that you are doing a good job, too.

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