They’ll find you anywhere: hard-learned facts about raising toddlers

Everything you needed to know about toddlers but never dared ask

Days can seem endless, you will long for nap-time and bedtime

Days can seem endless, you will long for nap-time and bedtime


Babies begin to toddle at different ages. They may even start to walk – but then stop again, deciding it’s more fun to crawl, bum-shuffle, or be pushed. However, once a baby walks and talks you enter a new era of parenting, and even as memories of toddler years are overtaken by the challenges of tweenagers and teenagers, some hard-learned facts still resonate. Here are 30.

Silence spells danger

Investigate immediately. Havoc requires less than a minute.

Toddler-proofing is essential

Remove or make safe any hazards she can pull down, or fall on to – for example, wires or furniture. Install a stair guard on the bedroom door before she escapes from her cot.

If they decide 5am is wake-up time, it’s yours too

And he may still not “sleep through”, awoken by nightmares, the urge to pee, or the need for a cuddle. If you’ve never considered bed sharing, you may now.

Tidying up more than once a day is a waste of energy

Once she’s in bed, use a box or corner to corral all her debris.

Patience is a much underestimated virtue

You don’t know what restraint is until you watch a toddler dress without assistance. Breathe deeply and remember it’s all part of teaching independence.

They set the pace

If you want him to walk, he’ll want to be pushed. If you’re in a hurry, he’ll want to walk – slowly. Curiosity means that even the shortest stroll can take hours as he stops to reconnoitre everything and watch the birds, cars, dogs, digger . . .

They can find you – anywhere

You will not be using the bathroom alone for a while.

However, you can lose them – anywhere

Many toddlers never wander out of view. Others want to explore. This is why parents develop eyes in the back of their heads, and the sides, because as you blink they will make a bolt for it. It’s time to get fit.

Serious attachments will be formed

She will become passionately attached to at least one object – for example, a soother or soft furnishing. Buy at least one duplicate, or you will require the kindness of strangers on social media to track down a replacement for “blankie” or “binky”.

Being a toddler or threenager is a whirligig of emotions

Joy, anger, sadness, terror are all often unbridled, and impossible to control. A meltdown or tantrum usually means he is in the grip of tiredness, hunger, overstimulation or frustration. Getting angry with him just prolongs it. Distraction can help.

Letting them make small decisions and choices can reduce conflict

Apple or carrot? Water or milk? Red or blue T-shirt?

Pick battles or prepare for constant war

Her insistence on wearing the same outfit every day, or eating anything but crackers for lunch, isn’t as important as ensuring she doesn’t open the garden gate, or is strapped into the car seat. Wrestling a wriggler into a car seat may induce tears.

Repeat after me. . .

Be prepared to sing/recite/read/play the same song/rhyme/story/game over and over and over – and over again. Don’t dare skip even one word or action.

Toys are a personal choice

Educational handcrafted toys are likely to be ignored in favour of cardboard boxes, kitchen utensils, and of course anything that emits bells, whistles and irritating noises until the batteries are yanked out.

They will have favourite games

These may include: head-butting adults in the legs or groin, running around in circles until he falls down, making fart sounds and laughing uproariously, pushing or pulling things between A and B, moving Tupperware in and out of an unlocked press, or “posting” everything valuable you own down the gap in the floorboards.

Throwing things may not be bad behaviour

Apparently repeatedly throwing or dropping food, liquids, blocks or whatever else comes to hand, teaches her about movement and trajectory. Sigh.

They like chores

Don’t trust him to wash dishes just yet, but he will love the “big boy” responsibility of fetching and carrying, and cleaning those cupboard doors, though he may get distracted and decide to paint them with nail polish instead. (They do grow out of this.)

Every day brings a new set of food rules

What do you mean, that’s the way I liked my apple cut yesterday?

Try not to get hung up on what she eats or doesn’t eat

Leaving finger-friendly food within reach (or on your plate) so she can graze may be all she needs some days or even weeks.

They love bottoms and bodily functions

However, he’ll dictate when it’s time to be toilet trained.

They need to let off steam

You will need energy to keep up with theirs. Walks, running, wrestling, jumping and swinging are essential unless you want them bouncing off the ceilings, and you.

You need to let off steam – without them

Or you will be bouncing off the ceilings.

Supermarket shopping without a toddler feels like a holiday

You will feel giddy with excitement as you choose your fruit and veg.

Holidays with a toddler can feel as frenetic as a supermarket on Christmas Eve

However, you will be in the heat or rain and away from your familiar home comforts.

Days can seem endless

You will long for nap-time and bedtime. However, when he finally falls asleep he will look so adorable you will have a brief (very brief) urge to wake him up for a hug.

Few hugs match up to the unconditional embrace bestowed by a toddler

She probably won’t want to hug or kiss extended family or friends – don’t make her.

Once they can speak they will shame you

As soon as he can string a sentence together he may repeat anything he hears. This includes the expletives expelled while driving and the remarks about your neighbour.

There will be questions

Lots and lots and lots and lots of questions.

You will soon loathe playgrounds

You will spend many of your waking hours in playgrounds. Find the rare ones with a toilet, changing facilities and coffee.

Some day you will miss playgrounds

Though it’s hard to imagine, she will eventually stop wanting a “go on the swings”. You think now that you will be glad, but you will be sad. Very sad.

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