Toddlers can be wonderful, when the little darlings are sleeping -- or when they're willing to cooperate. By the time children reach toddlerhood, they're learning to assert their independence, which can make it a lot more difficult to gain cooperation. Introducing routines early gets kids into healthy habits. Once habits are established, toddlers gain a sense of stability and familiarity that keeps them on track and decreases their resistance.
Transitioning into a new day is easier for a toddler if she knows what to expect. Have a set wake-up time. Start the day off with a smile by greeting each other with hugs and kisses. If it takes a while for your toddler to shake off sleepiness, get her into the habit of sitting quietly with a book or toy, or put on some soft but cheerful music to ease her into the day. Give your toddler a choice of what to wear and make getting dressed a part of the start of each day.
Basic hygiene habits should be built into your daily schedule. Get your child into routines like brushing teeth, bathing and washing hands before and after meals. Other routines for toddlers should include putting his dish in the sink, putting a toy away when he's done with it and making his bed. It doesn't matter how well he does these things. The important thing is letting him practice doing basic things for himself. If you don't teach him to be clean now, it will only be harder to get him to do it later.
Instilling healthy eating habits in your child is an essential part of good parenting. Meal time can be a peaceful, communal time for the family. Keep meals and snacks on schedule. This will avoid your toddler getting into the habit of mindless eating out of boredom or for consolation. During meals and snacks, offer your toddler a variety of different healthy foods so she'll get used to them -- after all, what 5 year old is going to request broccoli if she's never had it?
It's important now more than ever that children get into a physical activity routine. In this digital age with screen-focused forms of entertainment, children are spending more and more time indoors, sitting down and pushing buttons. Set a daily time once or twice per day to go outdoors or to a large space for running, climbing, playing ball or other physical activities for at least an hour. Don't let activity end there -- throughout the day, introduce briefer activities get your child up and moving. These don't always have to be rigidly scheduled; you can be flexible, but getting up for a little dancing, a brief tickle fight or a quick game of Simon Says will keep the child active and fit.
Easing your child out of her day is as important as easing her into it. If you want your toddler to learn how to sleep through the night in her room without fuss, a bedtime routine can help you achieve that. Start by winding down with calm activities, such as a warm bath and story time. Put your child to bed at the same time each night, and give hugs and kisses. Don't let your child fall asleep in different rooms -- get her used to going into bed herself, and if she gets up keep returning her to the bed and tucking her in. It may take a while if your child isn't used to it, but a steady routine will win out if you're consistent.
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