Teach Your Toddler Healthy Hygiene Habits

Toddlers are messy by nature. Whether your little one has a tendency to find herself elbow-deep in backyard mud piles or catches more colds than you can count, chances are you’re ready to teach her a hygiene lesson (or two!). Luckily, she isn’t too young to start learning how to keep her body clean and healthy. Use these toddler care tips to show her how easy -- and fun! -- good hygiene can be.

Washing hands
Toddlers are hardwired to explore anything they can lay their hands on, which leaves those little mitts pretty darn dirty. To keep germs at bay, practice scrubbing together before meals and snacks, after petting the dog, and at the end of each of your toddler’s potty training sessions. Make the task something she looks forward to by using soap in fun animal shapes, singing a song while you lather, or washing her doll’s hands at the same time. Stay close by to make sure she’s doing a thorough job (she should lather for about 20 seconds).

Brushing teeth
After breakfast and before tucking in at night, help your toddler brush her baby teeth. Allow her to practice brushing her pearly whites. This will foster independence and help make the task feel like it’s something she’s choosing to do instead of being made to do. But after she’s had a go, be sure to do a spot check. Using a tiny smear of toothpaste (it is typically recommended to use toothpaste after 24 months, but be sure to check with your doctor or dentist before making the introduction), aim to brush for about 60 seconds (set the timer on your phone or use one from the kitchen).

Covering coughs and sneezes
Explain to your toddler that germs fly out the mouth and nose during a cough or sneeze, so she should try to “catch” them to prevent sickness from spreading. Encourage her to cough or sneeze into the crook of her elbow, as if she’s a vampire raising a cape in front of her face. This toddler care tip may take practice as coughs and sneezes can take your tot by surprise, but if she looks like she’s about to sneeze or cough give a quick “Catch those germs!” reminder to help make covering her mouth a habit.

Teaching your child these toddler care basics requires patience and lots of encouragement, but with time your tot will eventually learn to love these healthy habits. And once she’s an expert, she may just start reminding you to wash up and cover your coughs!

Photo by ???????? Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

The Top Toddler Playdate Tips

Those first toddler playdates can be so sweet (for kids and parents). What's not so sweet is when the fun suddenly morphs into a toddler tantrum and a fight over toys. Here, some must-know parenting advice to ensure that toddler play during playdates is as fun-filled and stress-free as possible for everyone involved.

When to schedule your first toddler playdate

Your child probably won’t start truly interacting with other kids until age 3. (Before this, you may find that toddlers sit side by side during playdates and do not actually engage with each other -- which is called parallel play.) Signs that your child is ready to play with a friend include being more aware of other people’s feelings (asking why another child is sad, for example) and showing curiosity about what her neighbor is doing or playing with. Keep in mind that at this age, your child probably hasn’t yet mastered the idea of cooperation and doesn’t have enough vocabulary to explain her frustrations. This means you should be ready to do damage control if tempers start to get out of hand during toddler play.

How to prepare for a playdate

Start by reaching out to the other's child's parents and setting some mutual goals for toddler play. Agreeing to keep the playdate short will help ease the frustrations that result when kids are overly tired or stimulated. Once you’ve scheduled the playdate, give your tot a heads-up. Tell her that Sally is coming over to play and that she’ll need to share her toys. Let her choose some special toys that can be put away, and not shared, during the playdate. Practice how to be a good friend by taking turns and sharing toys with your child -- it will help her understand these expectations.

What to do during the playdate

Once you’ve completed all your preparations, you’re ready for the big day! You'll want to stay in the room during the first playdate, but you don’t want to be overly engaged. Your job is not to direct toddler play but to be readily available if needed. If things do become heated, feel free to dive in. A simple explanation can work wonders: “Sally hasn’t had a chance to play with the doll yet. How about we set a timer for you to play with it for three more minutes, then you can give it to Sally.”

Keep in mind that there’s no such thing as a perfect playdate. Whether toddler play ends in hugs or tears, your child will still have gained valuable social skills that will set her up for future friendships.

Toddler Play Idea for a Rainy Day: Treasure Hunt

Location: Indoors

Promotes: Cognitive and motor skill development

Toddler play doesn’t need to take a rain check on a drizzly day. Use the time stuck at home to your advantage with a rainy-day treasure chest hunt.

What to play
Toddler development -- both cognitive skills and motor development -- can benefit from a rainy-day treasure chest hunt. First, decorate a spare storage bin with stickers and fill it with age-appropriate toys for your toddler. You can throw in puzzles, which will help your child with shape recognition and hand-eye coordination, as well as playthings that encourage your tot to use his imagination (e.g., toy figurines and pretend food). Finally, toss in some items connecting with reading, such as alphabet letters, books, and even some catalogs he can flip through. Then, send your toddler on a treasure hunt -- under your supervision -- to find the specially decorated box.

Tricks and tips
Provide easy-to-follow clues for your child on pieces of colorful paper. Don’t make the clues too complicated -- your toddler isn't quite able to follow long or detailed instructions. Instead, opt for pictures instead of words. If you hide the treasure chest in his room, draw a picture of his bed; if it’s in the bathroom, draw a picture of the potty and let him find his way to the hidden treasure.

After your toddler plays with what's in the box, put it away and out of your child’s reach, and don’t take it out again until the next rainy day. This will help make the contents seem very special. Dreary, wet days may even become something he looks forward to!

Learning and growing
Use the treasure hunt to help promote problem-solving skills, a key part of toddler development. If your toddler is having trouble finding the box, talk through the problem with him instead of just providing the answer (e.g.,“This is a picture of a potty. Do you know where in the house you can find the potty?”).

What you’ll need
A medium-sized storage bin, fun stickers, and a few small toys to encourage toddler play, such as blocks, books, puzzles, dress-up clothes, and soft animals.

This indoor game can be so much fun, you might find your child longing for rain to come, not to go away!

Photo by ???????? Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

Toddler Play Tip for Multiple Kids: Musical Chairs

Locations: Outdoor and indoor

Promotes: Social skills

Whether you find yourself hosting a toddler playdate or just surrounded by a group of kids at a birthday party, you’re probably wondering how to entertain them. First, it’s helpful to know where your child stands in terms of social skills. Between 18 and 36 months, your tot may start to learn what it means to play and interact with others. You might find that she simply plays alongside other children instead of with them, which is entirely normal. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t introduce activities for toddlers that involve more than one child. This variation on musical chairs will get everyone moving and laughing.

How to play
Place multiple pillows on the floor, making sure you have more pillows than the number of kids playing the game. Put some music on and play DJ by stopping and starting the tunes on a regular basis. Instruct the tots to sit on a pillow every time the music stops.

Tips and advice
Encourage creative toddler development by asking the toddlers to perform different moves while they follow your lead. Show them how you would dance like a chicken or walk like an elephant. They’ll have a blast mimicking your animal gestures and may even come up with some of their own. This game is more about having fun than following the rules, so don’t worry if some of the toddlers continue to boogie even when the music pauses.

Learning and growing
Creativity and self-expression are important components of your toddler’s development, and creative toddler activities like dancing will help encourage your child’s flourishing imagination.

What you’ll need
Multiple pillows and a source of music, such as a CD player or an MP3 player hooked up to speakers.

Entertaining a group of  young children is less stressful and more enjoyable when you include music and dance, imagination and creativity. They won’t be the only ones having a ball -- you will too!

Photo by Paloma A. on Unsplash

Stimulating and Easy Toddler Day Trips

If you have a toddler, you know how important it is to get out and about. Kids this age need to explore and learn about their world, and toddler day trips are the perfect way to do this.

What to pack

Before heading out the door, always remember to pack supplies so that you are prepared for anything your little one needs throughout the day. Make sure to pack blankets, a change of clothes, and snacks. And don’t forget some extra diapers!

Visits to zoos, aquariums, parks, and children’s museums are great activities for toddlers. You don’t always have to plan big, extravagant outings to have fun. Check out these easy and engaging options for great toddler day trips.

Day trip no. 1: Picnic in the park

What kid doesn’t like a trip to the park? Pack a big basket of snacks and toddler-friendly foods, a blanket, some sunscreen, and plenty of toys for the outdoors (such as balls, shovels, and pails). Bonus points if you can picnic next to a playground, but any large field or play area will work.

Day trip no. 2: Visit the zoo

Going to the zoo is a not to be missed excursion with your little one. Engage her by telling her the names of the different animals and even mimicking the sounds they make – she’ll love it!

Day trip no. 3: Take public transportation

It may sound silly, but activities for your toddler that involve taking a bus, train, or boat ride are sure to provide entertainment. If you have access to local public transportation, hop aboard and travel a few stops. Let your toddler sit by the window -- she’ll be mesmerized by the sights whizzing by. If she starts to get bored, you can always get off and explore a new part of town or even just pop into a local restaurant for lunch or a treat.

Day trip no. 4: See the aquarium

You can't go wrong with lots of fish in big tanks. Your child will be fascinated by all the different colors and types of fish she sees swimming by. An aquarium visit will be fun for the two of you, and it will engage her senses and appeal to her bubbling curiosity.

If you’re not sure where to go or what to do, contact your local chamber of commerce or city hall and ask about activities for toddlers in your area. The staff should be able to direct you to local museums or other special events designed for families and children.

Still stumped for ideas? Let your tot decide on today’s trip! She might say that she wants to take a walk to the playground or head to the ice-cream parlor for a banana split. Toddlers have little control over their day-to-day life, so it might be fun to hand over the reins (within reason, of course!) and let her decide what the two of you will do.

Photo by Andrik Langfield on Unsplash