Helping your fidgety toddler settle down

Toddlers are natural bundles of energy, which can make convincing them to settle down for certain activities – even activities that can be as much fun as story time – tricky. The reality is that most toddlers Baby’s age aren’t simply unwilling, they’re actually unable to sit quietly and focus for extended periods of time on demand. You may not be able to settle your little mover with verbal requests just yet, but here are some ways to help them start to learn to stay put when you ask them to.

  • Allow choices: Toddlers tend to respond more agreeably to requests when they feel like they have some control, so when it’s time to settle down, give Baby the chance to make a choice about how they're going to spend their quiet time, if you can. Ask them to choose between two books at storytime, or let them pick a treat when it’s time to sit for their afternoon snack. Giving options can help to cut back on loud protests during quiet time.
  • Anchor with interests: If your overall goal is to increase the attention Baby pays during an activity, start by getting their favorite things involved to keep them focused. Working on puzzles or coloring some pictures together can give them some practice sitting still for long enough to complete a task. As they get that down, gradually move toward increasing attention for non-preferred activities.
  • Keep expectations consistent: Children thrive on routines, so expecting the same level of patience and restraint on a regular basis can start to wear away the resistance to it. Bending the rules some of the time can confusion, whereas consistently following through with your expectations on a regular basis can provide a sense of security, even if your toddler resists.
  • Burn off that energy: For some kids, a little extra restlessness is just a sign that they need a bit more physical activity, so if running and climbing seem to be all Baby wants to do, make sure to set aside some time in your day to let them do just that. Offering that outlet means that they'll have burned off some of that energy by the time it’s time to settle down a little.
  • Forgive fidgeting: A bit of movement is to be expected at this age, and some children actually learn better when they’re in motion. If you’re in a situation where Baby needs to sit still, try soothing them by swaying or bouncing them on your lap. Now that they're a bit more mobile, you can also give them a break from more formal situations now and then to take them outside to run around for a few minutes before bringing them in again.

Baby may be little, but their need to move around is pretty big. Be sure they are getting an appropriate amount of outdoor or active play each day to get that energy out in an appropriate setting. If you’re concerned that their fidgeting or movement seems to stand out more than their peers’, or if they seem to fight against quiet time with great resistance, don’t hesitate to talk to their doctor about it.

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