Toddlers are notorious for tantrums and meltdowns. They are skillful ninjas that have mastered the dodge-and-run tactic. They are professionals at saying, “NO.” They are choosey with whom they share their love and affection.
Loving a toddler is not all hugs and kisses, especially if the hugs and kisses aren’t from mommy. As much as we’d love to eat them up because they are just so cute and cuddly, toddlers have their own set of criteria for feeling loved.
So How DO You Love a Toddler?
For me it’s been a lot of trial and error. I’ve been doing a lot of observing and following instinct. I am sure you have relatives that struggle with how to love your toddler too! Some people think that toddlers want to be held, coddled, kissed, and hugged all the time. You may hear the occasional, “He doesn’t want me to hold him anymore.” “Doesn’t he like me anymore?”
Do you ever just cringe when your two-year-old screams at people she typically loves and says, “NO! Go away!”? Oh, the complexities of toddlerhood! How will we ever get through this? Well, there is hope. Here are five tried and true ways to a toddler’s heart.
5 Ways to Love a Toddler
1. Take Your Time
Because they will definitely take theirs! Toddlers live in the moment. They don’t have a concept of time. They are all about the here and now! So plan a little extra time when getting ready for bed, taking a bath, or walking out to the car for errands. Let them explore on the way. Take notice of what they notice. If you plan the extra time, you won’t feel so rushed when it’s time to get in the car, ready for bed, or into the bath.
2. Get on the Floor & Play with Your Toddler
“You build a tower, mommy!”
Nothing says “I love you” more than getting down to their level and down to their kind of play!
This is a great opportunity to connect with your toddler. They are learning how to play and your time with them on the floor is monumental in their eyes. Listen as the conversation flows. Watch as their creativity soars. Tell them how amazing and bright they are!
Go ahead and build that glorious tower only to have it knocked down with absolute joyous celebration. Rejoice with them. Then build again. And again. And again.
3. Get Crafty with the Little Creatures
Get out the crayons, paper, glue, paints, popsicle sticks, and sit down beside them as they create. Set the Type-A personality aside and allow your toddler to be creative. They will color outside the lines, they will get glue everywhere, they will smear and mix paints. Let them. Let them be little, and let them love you by sharing a part of themselves with you. You’ll be amazed at what their little minds can create.
4. Catch Me if You Can
Master Ninjas. Sneaky little stinkers. They love to run and be chased. Watch as they demonstrate their independence. They will test you. They will want to prove how brave they are all while turning to make sure you’re still there to follow. Help them to learn when it’s okay to play this game and when it’s not. When a toddler plays this game with you, they have complete trust in you to follow along and be there for them when they run a little too far.
5. Create a Routine for Your Toddler
Toddlers love routine. In fact, my own child has loved routine since the day we brought her home from the hospital at 4 months. She thrives in routine.
Having a regular schedule helps a toddler feel safe and loved. One of my toddler’s favorite things to do when she is at her Auntie’s house is to spend time playing with the play stove. She knows that when mommy and daddy go away, she gets to play with Auntie and play on her toy stove. When Nana comes over, my toddler knows that Nana love to do arts and crafts with her. Routines makes her feel safe and looking forward to what is to come. Routines also create a bond between you and your toddler as well as with loved ones.
It’s easy to get discouraged when your toddler isn’t as affectionate or needy as they once were. When they aren’t so little to hold in your arms for hours, it’s easy to wonder where the love went. It’s there! We just need to connect with them at their stage of independence, creativity, exploration and wonder.