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Troubleshooting Your Toddler Problems and Solutions


Toddlers can be a tricky bunch. From throwing food to climbing out of the crib, toddler behaviors frequently frustrate the most patient moms. Here we offer tried-and-true solutions for 10 common concerns. Good luck and remember, it’s probably just a phase!

1. Won't Keep Shoes On

toddler taking his shoes off

You can (and should) explain the importance of wearing shoes and socks to your toddler, but don’t expect logic and reason to prevail in this case! You might be better off using the fun and silly route. Turning your little one’s shoes into “monsters” that must “eat” her feet is one option, or try singing a song about your toddler and her shoes (“Kylie’s wearing red shoes, red shoes, red shoes”).

2. Rips Off Diaper

Baby walking in diaper

Layer a onesie or bodysuit under your toddler’s clothes. Even if he can take off the top layer of clothes, he won’t be able to remove the onesie to get to the diaper. Alternately, try using duct tape around the waist of the diaper. Just be sure to have child-safe scissors in your diaper kit when it comes time to change him.

3. Refuses to Wear a Sunhat

toddler wearing a colorful hat

Modeling, repetition, and discipline seem to be what it takes to get a toddler to wear a hat. First off, you need to wear one. Secondly, you have to be persistent and repeatedly put the hat back on your toddler’s head every time he pulls it off. Eventually, he might keep it on. And finally, you must be firm. Tell your toddler he has to wear the hat or you’re leaving the playground or beach. If he continues to take it off, pack up and leave. No sun hat, no outside play.

4. Bites

toddler biting a sofa

First things first: consider why your toddler seems to be biting. Toddlers bite because they are bored, overstimulated, teething, experimenting to see the reaction, and more. If it’s for attention, make sure you’re not feeding the situation by making a big deal out of it. Instead, calmly tell your toddler “No biting. Biting hurts,” and direct your attention instead to the injured party. Then redirect your toddler to something constructive.

5. Climbs Out of Crib

a toddler leaning out of a crib

A toddler who can climb out of his crib is in danger of hurting himself, so don’t chalk this one up to a phase that he’ll outgrow. Unfortunately, there aren’t many options for dealing with the problem. If you haven’t already, try lowering the crib mattress. If the mattress is already as low as it can go, it’s time to move your little one to a real bed, be it a toddler bed, a twin with safety bar, or a mattress on the floor.

6. Throws Food

toddler holding a strawberry

Try these tricks to hopefully stop your little one from flinging food: first, give him less. Many toddlers start throwing food when they’re full and finished. Having fewer leftovers on his plate means less to throw. Secondly, tell him in a firm voice that throwing food is not ok and that you’ll have to take his plate away if he continues (then remove the plate if he does). Third, give your little with a small cup or extra plate and explain it’s their “no thank-you spot” and that any food they don’t want should go there instead of on the floor. Little ones who like to sort and rearrange will love having a special place for their unwanted lunch.

7. Hates the Bathtub

a toddler crying in a bathroom

It’s common for toddlers to develop a sudden, seemingly out-of-the-blue fear of the bath. Let your little one know that you understand she is afraid but that there is nothing to worry about. But don't force bathtime. Instead, head to the kitchen sink for frequent sponge baths and wipe-downs, and encourage any other water play she might enjoy (playing with the hose, "washing" dishes in a tub). In the meantime, talk about what fun the tub can be, and occasionally fill it up and let her play with the toys and in the bubbles without having to get in. Eventually--often within a few months--your little one will warm up to the tub again.

8. Refuses to Have Teeth Brushed

toddler with a toothbrush in his mouth

Keeping it fun and silly is probably your best bet here. Pretend you want to tickle her teeth with the toothbrush. While she’s in the bathtub, tell her everyone needs to brush and mime like you’re brushing her rubber duckies’ teeth. Make up a funny song that you sing only when brushing; pause the song if your little starts to bite down on the brush or refuse to let you brush. A fun brush that spins and flashes might also do the trick (get two of these brushes: one he can hold and play with while you’re using the other to get the job done).

9. Fights Naptime

toddler trying to climb out of crib

Routine and consistency are key to any sleep routine. Make sure you’re putting your toddler down for a nap at the same time every day. Prepare him with a regular routine--experts often recommend a mini version of your bedtime routine. Your little one should nap in the same place he sleeps at night. Rather than lying down with your toddler, encourage him to become attached to a stuffed animal, blanket, or other lovey. Then tuck him in, shut the door, and hope for the best. If the nap just isn’t going to happen, give him some books and toys and let him know it’s quiet time.

10. Won't Sit for Nail Trims

baby having nails trimmed

Many a mom swears by trimming their little ones’ nails while they’re sleeping. But that's not always possible. Instead, you could try quickly trimming one or two a day, when your little one is in a good mood. Making it fun is another option: try singing "Where is Thumbkin?," counting down digits until the "rocket" blasts off, or pretending that the trimmer is a toe tickling machine. For toddlers fearful of the clippers, letting them watch you trim your nails might be helpful. And for kids with older siblings, observing them getting a mini-manicure could provide the incentive to sit for one themselves. Good luck!

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