Top 10 top tips for chill-out toddlers
Life with a young child can be an emotional rollercoaster, but how can you create a calm peace when they get too upset or over-excited?
While all children like to have fun, it can often turn tricky when they get too tired or too excited. Not all tears are about attention seeking, and it's important to stand back from the situation and address something which may have genuinely upset your child, but bear in mind that small children find it hard to articulate themselves except through tears and extremes of emotion, and try to avoid belittling their upset if the distress seems to you to be caused by something minor. (You don't need to over-react, but don't laugh at them, either.)
Top 10 tips for chill out toddlers
- Cuddle-time – even the biggest tantrums can sometimes be managed by simply taking yourself and your child away to a chair and giving them a cuddle, calmly asking them what the matter is, or changing the subject and finding something else to talk or joke about. The cuddle also recognises your closeness without entering into an argument about their behaviour or the cause of their tantrum. Yes, it is a form of attention, but in a less confrontational way than other rewards that an attention-seeker might have wanted. (And remember, resolving early upsets calmly will hopefully avoid later attention-seeking becoming a habit.)
- Soft music or singing – with babies and small children, cuddling and gently singing to them can really help. Singing evens out your voice compared to normal speaking tones. Plus, if your child is upset at a party, or at breakfast time, for example, think about what other noises and distractions are going on. Is the radio or TV on? If they are too loud or rowdy, change channel or radio station, or take your child away to another room and find some mellow music to put on quietly.
- Tell a story – changing the subject is a very good way of taking your child's mind off what has caused their distress. You could either make up a story on the spot (if you're out and about) or grab a favourite story book. Even young babies enjoy having soft fabric books to divert their attention.
- Change the scenery – if a playground incident or an argument with another child/sibling in your lounge has caused the upset, think about trying to take your child completely out of the situation. This doesn't mean you have to add to the upset by storming off with your child, but if a small child isn't enjoying, say, the rough and tumble of a friend's party, a good parent host will understand if you just want to head off into another room for a while with your child. In a playground, perhaps suggest a walk to collect leaves or look at a duck pond nearby, for example. If you're stuck indoors, try to get out and get some fresh air, even if it's just a walk around the block after teatime and before bath.
- Play games – as your child grows, you'll get to know what works best when you have to ride out an upset. Some children may well enjoy some rough and tumble play 'bonking daddy on the head with a cushion' etc. But for most, calming games that are not too difficult (which would risk further frustration) work very well. For even very young babies, playing 'peek a boo' with mummy or daddy works incredibly quickly, but older children might enjoy a simple jigsaw puzzle, or you just getting down onto the floor facing them, and playing silly word games (how many words rhyme with 'cow' or 'dog'). The fun of inventing nonsense words is very popular with toddlers, especially while they are still learning to speak.
- Not all TV time is bad – as long as your days are busy with other activities too, a bit of downtime in front of favourite DVDs or programmes is not a bad thing. Ideally, sit with your child, choose something mellow to bring his fury back down, and if it feels right, have a calming chat about the nice things you are watching.
- Get handy – on rainy days when children get restless or upset and a run around the garden or park is not an option, playing with water, sand, play dough or finger paints is a great distraction and creative at the same time. Get your child to kneed some modelling dough to work out those tensions, but make sure you do it somewhere that you don't mind getting messy – there's no point de-stressing your child if you are going to be left stressed-out afterwards!
- Bake cakes – another good rainy day distraction for toddlers and children who claim to be bored with their toys or have got themselves into a bit of a stew. Pick something easy like fairy cakes, or making little sandiwches for lunch, and get your child to do the bits that don't involve sharp utensils!
- Soothing massage – with babies, baby massage is a wonderful way of chilling out and bonding with each other. Don't force it at first if your baby is wriggling around and too upset, just try stroking arms and legs, or laying your baby on your lap and gently rubbing his back. With older children, you can lay them down on their bed with you or sit together on the sofa and gently rub their back or (if they like it) tickle their tummy.
- Bring bath time forward – even if it's the middle of the day, many children love having a bath. Make it seem special and funny to be doing it even when it's not your usual bath time, and sit with your child blowing bubbles or playing gentle games like singing and acting out 'five little ducks', for example, rather than getting everything too frantically splashy.
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