One of the best ways parents find they can avoid getting into fights and power struggles with their toddlers as they approach three years old is by giving their little ones as many chances to make choices as they can, and that includes at mealtimes. Meals are some of the sites of the biggest battles during the toddler years, and that means they’re times when parents have some of the biggest opportunities for either victory or setbacks. Offering toddlers choices at mealtime may sound like a trap – won’t Baby just choose to eat nothing but ice cream and chicken nuggets? – but the trick here is to offer choices while still keeping a very tight hold over what the options they have to choose from are.
If you’re matter-of-fact about asking them whether they want green beans, broccoli, or quartered cherry tomatoes with their dinner, there’s certainly no guarantee that they won’t demand to have strawberries and whipped cream instead. But if you stick to the choices you’ve offered them, you’re still giving them the chance to take control of their fate, which means you have a better chance of them opting for vegetables than you might have otherwise. This can work especially well if you take Baby with you to the grocery store and let them pick out tasty or weird-looking vegetables – this way they are part of the adventure of creating your family’s next healthy, balanced meal.
But what if they pick out something you know they won’t like? Give it a shot, anyway. They'll get a kick out of you giving their idea a chance, and, you never know, they might surprise you. If they pick out something you don’t like, that’s even better – you get the chance to put yourself in Baby’s shoes and to model taking a couple of bites of something you don’t like just to try it.
Can snip with safety scissors: Using toddler-finger-friendly scissors to do simple, age-appropriate art projects is a skill that gets used in kindergarten and pre-K classes, so giving Baby the chance to try it out now can actually help them out a lot in the future. On the other hand, handing your toddler a pair of scissors, whether they’re “safety” or not, goes against a lot of parental instincts. Getting a toddler to use scissors isn’t just a matter of handing them an age-appropriate pair and watching them cut out a perfect construction-paper snowflake, though. The snipping motion used for scissors is a fine motor skill that takes some practice, and the opposite-up-and-down motions of the blades can take a bit of observation for toddlers to understand, so try an art project that starts small.
Can catch a large ball: They're still a ways away from being able to catch even a gently tossed baseball, tennis ball, or softball. But a big, brightly-colored kick-ball or beach ball? If it’s thrown from not too far away – especially in an easy, underhand motion that gives them lots of time to react – then it might be something they could definitely grab from out of the air before it hits the ground. Are you ready for your first game of catch with Baby?
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- Rebecca Parlakian and Claire Lerner. “From Baby to Big Kid: Month 33.” Zero to Three. Zero to Three, May 16 2016. Retrieved September 6 2017. https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/1274-from-baby-to-big-kid-month-33.
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