Toddler parenting tips provide great insight to help you raise a happy, healthy child. Parenting toddlers can seem like a losing battle at times, especially for first-time parents. Their high levels of energy, never-ending questions, and the bundle of emotions are undoubtedly overwhelming. As children grow, so do their needs and expectations. Before you were thrown into this new journey of parenthood, no one ever did give you a user manual for your child, did they?

Let’s take a closer look at what to expect during the toddler years. We’ve collected parenting tips from other moms and dads just like you. We’ll cover everything from diet and nutrition, to sleep, safety, and health concerns. By the end of this article, you’ll be able to breathe a sigh of relief as you tackle parenting with a new insight on all the questions you had.

A Day in the Life of a Toddler

Toddlers are nonstop. From the minute they open their eyes in the early morning hours, they are eager to show off their new skills and put their energy to work. They love to explore, climb, eat, sleep, and play for hours on end. The good thing about toddlers is that they take pleasure in simple activities. Pouring water from one container to another, rolling a ball, picking up rocks, or playing peek-a-boo are a few things your toddler might enjoy.

The best way to handle the toddler years is to create a consistent routine for your young child. Set a routine with the following activities:

  • Eating
  • Sleeping
  • Playing
  • Diaper changes
  • Potty training

Once you set a routine, toddlers will fall right into the pattern. You will notice that any change in the routine can result in significant changes in your child’s mood or behavior. As toddlers get older, you’ll have to make more time to play and find creative ways to let them help you in your daily activities. The great thing about toddlers is that they often like to play on their own. Simply sitting with them while they play, doing your own activity, will keep them happy and engaged.

Toddler Diet and Nutrition

One of the most important things to consider when caring for your child is their diet and nutrition. It’s essential to keep your growing child well-fed with nourishing, healthy foods. This is the best way to fuel their brain and body as they develop through the different stages of childhood. According to the American Heart Association, the recommended number of calories a toddler needs daily will change from child to child. Medical needs and physical activity will also need to be taken into account.

How Many Calories Should Toddlers Eat in a Day?

As a basic rule of thumb, toddlers need to take in between 900 and 1,200 calories per day. Most children require around 1,000 calories when they hit the age of one. Regardless of the recommended caloric intake for your child, calories should be evenly distributed throughout the day. Divide your calories into three meals per day, with a snack in between breakfast and lunch and lunch and dinner.

Before you get hung up on the days when your child won’t eat enough or won’t stop eating, understand that little ones sometimes have weird feeding patterns. Some children need to eat a ton of calories for breakfast, while others have a hard time eating anything at all. Some children stick to three meals a day, while others tend to graze all day. And everything can change from one day to the next. Additionally, growth spurts may make it seem like you’ve been starving your child for days.

Now that you understand the basics of nutrition and caloric intake for toddlers. Let’s talk about what types of food they should eat. For children without food allergies, do your best to incorporate the following into their diet:

  • 2 ounces of meat or legumes
  • 3 ounces of grains
  • 2 servings of dairy
  • 1 cup of vegetables
  • 1 cup of fruit
  • 3 tablespoons of fat or oil

Don’t get upset if your child refuses to eat at times. The great thing about young children is that they won’t refuse food when they need it, so even if they aren’t eating, chances are they are getting what they need. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents to prepare toddler portion sizes to equal a quarter of an adult portion size.

Basic Nutrition Guidelines for Food Intake in Toddlers

While counting calories is a great way to ensure your toddler gets the right amount of nourishment each day, there’s something more important than calories when it comes to childhood nutrition. Be sure your child is taking in quality food. Toddlers should eat a balanced diet with a wide variety of nutritious foods. Here are some tips for toddler nutrition:

  • Pick your battles. Sometimes toddlers may need some sort of dip to eat those carrots or a handful of brown sugar to get down that oatmeal. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Remember, it’s better to get nutritious foods in this way than to not get them into your toddler at all.
  • When it comes to toddler beverages, stick to water and milk. Juices are high in calories and sugar. They can become addictive to young children and lead to other health problems, such as tooth decay and obesity.
  • Snacks are healthy in moderation. Offer your toddler two to three healthy snacks a day in between meals.
  • Be consistent with your diet expectations for your child. Don’t make food a big deal. If your toddler refuses, remove the food but try again another time. The key to healthy nutrition in young children is to not make the process a power struggle. Keep nutrition a happy time, and don’t attach negative emotions to it. If your child continues to refuse healthy foods, don’t stop offering. You never know when things might turn around.
  • Toddlers can be picky eaters. Be understanding. If food refusal is an issue, offer choices to your child. This can help promote independence and give your toddler a sense of pride.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that babies give up the bottle entirely by age 1 and no later than 18 months. Talk to your pediatrician if your child has an issue giving up the bottle.
  • Booster seats are a great resource for parents during feeding time. Most children are able to transition from a high chair to a booster seat by 18 months of age. Boost seats can reduce mealtime tantrums as your child feels more freedom and begins to enjoy their time with your family during meals.

Physical Activity in Toddlers

Believe it or not, physical activity is important for toddlers. We’re not talking about to the gym to hop on the treadmill or lift some weights. But toddlers should have at least 30 minutes of structured physical activity each day. In addition, at least an hour of unstructured physical activity is important for toddlers. Toddler activity doesn’t need to be complicated. According to the Society of Health and Physical Educators, simply walking outdoors, going to the park, or playing in the neighborhood are good options.

Encouraging toddlers to be physically active isn’t usually a difficult task. And the good news is that play is work for young children. The simple act of playing helps toddlers:

  • Develop motor skills
  • Promote fine motor skill development
  • Learn important concepts like colors, numbers, and shapes
  • Sharpen problem-solving skills
  • Promote critical thinking
  • Enhance creativity
  • Develop focus
  • Support cognitive development

The most difficult thing about physical activity with toddlers is that they are always on-the-go, so keeping them interested in one task can be difficult. As your toddler’s attention span increases, so will your ability to manage their activity. Toddlers thrive off of both individual and group activities. Scheduled activity is a great way to add structure to your child’s life, introduce new skills, and support appropriate childhood development physically, emotionally, and mentally.

Toddlers are naturally curious and eager to learn. Luckily, most communities have a wide variety of options when it comes to toddler activities. From no contact group sports to structured exercise like yoga, there are plenty of opportunities to sign your toddler up for some structured playtime. You might even find a class that you and your child can enjoy together.

Keeping Toddlers Active At Home

When it comes to keeping toddlers active at home, finding things to keep your little one occupied can be a challenge. The great thing about toddlers is that they love staying close to their families. Keeping them active can be as simple as getting them involved in what you’re doing throughout the day. While it might not be the fastest option to get things done, allowing your little ones to help in small ways can also teach them important skills.

Children should actively participate in household chores that are age-appropriate. Letting your children be involved in parts of your chores that they are capable of accomplishing is a great way to introduce responsibility. Find a list of age-appropriate daily chores for children of all ages. For example, a young toddler can help you pick up toys, throw garbage in the trash, or put books back on the shelf. Older children can help set the table, wipe up their own messes, and make the bed.

It’s important to talk to your children throughout the day, as well. This will help them build their language skills. No matter what you do at home, be sure to spend some time playing with your child. The more your child exercises their imagination, the brighter their future.

Health & Safety for Toddlers

So we’ve covered nutrition and activity, but what about health and safety. As a new parent, this is probably at the front of your mind. As toddlers begin to crawl, walk, climb, and run, watching them explore their new-found mobility can be scary for parents. It takes a matter of seconds for toddlers to get hurt, but you can’t keep them in a bubble! In addition to keeping them free from harm, it’s important to schedule regular wellness visits and make sure they get adequate sleep. All these parts come together to help your child hit their developmental milestones as expected.

How Often Does My Toddler Need to See a Doctor?

Toddlers don’t just go to the doctor when they get sick. Wellness visits are an important part of normal childhood development. It helps your pediatrician stay informed, ensures your child is thriving and can help detect issues early on. Children should see doctors at the following age brackets during their toddler years:

  • 12 months
  • 15 months
  • 18 months
  • 24 months

During your wellness visits, you can expect your pediatrician to screen for the following:

  • Autism at 18 and 24 months
  • Developmental delays at 9, 18, and 24 months
  • Obesity checks assessing body mass index annually starting at 24 months
  • Lead screening risk assessment at 6, 9, 12, 18, and 24 months
  • Tuberculosis testing for high-risk patients at 1 and 6 months and yearly beginning at 12 months

In addition to these screenings, your pediatrician might discuss sleep and eating habits, and behavioral issues. Be sure to discuss any significant changes to your environment, as they can drastically affect a child.

Safety Parenting Tips for Toddlers

Injuries are a normal part of childhood, but avoiding serious injury should be a top priority. That’s because the leading cause of death for children under the age of 4 in the US is injury. Most injuries are preventable. Here’s a list of some basic safety tips from the AAP:

  • Firearm hazards: Never leave firearms loaded or in an unlocked, accessible area. During the toddler years, you might even consider removing firearms from the home completely. If you do choose to keep a gun at home, keep it locked in a safe place. Store ammunition separately and keep your gun unloaded. If your child is going to a friend’s house or daycare, discuss how firearms are stored and assess the risk.
  • Poisoning: Toddlers love to put everything in their mouths. That’s why safety caps are crucial for toxic household products and medications. Keep anything that could be poisonous out of sight and reach. Store the number for poison control in a convenient location. Add it to your phone contacts or post it in your house in case of an emergency.
  • Burns: Since toddlers love to touch everything they see, they are at high risk of getting burned. Grabbing a hot over door or pot handle can do serious damage to your child’s skin. To avoid injury, keep your toddler out of the kitchen while you are cooking.
  • Falls: When it comes to falls, you can expect they are going to happen time and time again when you have a toddler. While most falls aren’t a problem, stairs, sharp edges, and open windows can be life-threatening. Invest in baby gates to keep your children away from areas of the home that pose a risk. Don’t leave chairs easily accessible where children can climb to dangerous places.
  • Drowning: It only takes 2 inches of water for a toddler to drown. Consider how little that is! Keep bathroom doors closed. Never leave your child alone near a tub, pail of water, swimming pool, or another body of water. Keep your children within an arm’s length when near any source of water.

Time to Catch Some ZZZ’s

As we wind down this article, let’s talk about sleep. Sleep issues can be common in toddlers. Some toddlers may have an issue sleeping through the night. Unfortunately, lack of sleep can lead to crankiness and toddler tantrums. Keep in mind that toddlers need to sleep for 14 hours a day. While that might seem like a lot, this is where sticking to a routine can be extremely helpful. Incorporate an early bedtime into your child’s routine and plenty of naps when needed.

The toddler years are usually when most children transition from a crib to a “big kid bed.” It’s important that you don’t put too much pressure on this transition. There is no black and white answer to what age children should make the switch. If your child is still comfortable in the crib, let them wait until you feel they are better prepared.

Younger toddlers usually continue to take two naps a day. You shouldn’t try to change this until you start to see that your child outgrows the naps. The transition out of naps generally comes on its own. Family schedules will also dictate your child’s sleep schedule. Be sure that above all else, you make sure your child gets the sleep they need to remain happy and healthy.

Navigating the toddler years can be a struggle. Toddlers want to learn and explore as much as they can. Juggling the responsibilities of adulthood, work, relationships, and other children can make a toddler seem like so much work. Just remember, the years go by in the blink of an eye. Learning more about your toddler’s development and finding helpful parenting tips like the ones above can lessen the burden of these challenging years. The more equipped you are with knowledge, the easier it will be to parent with confidence.

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The toddler years are tough. Luckily, we’ve put together helpful parenting tips from parents just like you. Read on for more info on childhood development.