Talking to your toddler about trying new things

Every child’s temperament is different, so while some toddlers may throw caution to the wind when it comes to trying something new, it should come as no surprise that others can be much more hesitant.

Anxiety around trying new things is common for toddlers, so if Baby doesn’t jump right into unfamiliar situations, you needn’t be alarmed. However, it’s natural to be concerned when this resistance regularly gets in the way of your child trying out new activities.

Since being reluctant to trying new things is often fear-based, there are a few common strategies for helping toddlers feel more comfortable dealing with changes in everyday events.

  • Keep personality in mind: What worked for Baby’s older siblings, or cousins, or your BFF’s kid, may not work for his, so remember to keep his specific feelings and personality in mind when presenting new activities.
  • Emphasize safety: One reason a toddler may not want to climb a play structure or come down the slide like his friends may be rooted in a worry of being unsafe, or getting hurt. You can make sure he knows you’re right behind him, and will not let him fall, or even offer to hold his hand, or go first, the first time, to show him that everything will be fine.
  • Give a little nudge: Sometimes, it may fall to you to encourage Baby to break out of his comfort zone a little, especially if his fears begin to interfere with day-to-day activities. Even when it’s appropriate to give him a little push towards new things, though, it’s important to stay sensitive to his needs while steering him in the direction of age-appropriate new activities.
  • Offer praise when Baby tries new things: Whether you want Baby to try swimming in the pool or just a bite of a new food, you’ll want to praise steps in the right direction, no matter how small. If he dips his foot in the water, or even nibbles the edge of a sandwich, be sure to encourage that behavior by letting him know he is doing well by taking a chance on something new, and that you’re proud.
  • Take it slow: Pushing a child towards something he is not physically or emotionally ready can backfire, and even if it doesn’t, it generally doesn’t lead to anyone having much fun. There’s nothing wrong with taking baby steps when it comes to trying new things, and allowing Baby to get comfortable with new experiences over time, if that’s what he seems to need.

The world is full of new experiences for toddlers – most of the experiences in it are fairly new to them, so Baby is headed towards years of new things to come. This means that figuring out the best way to introduce new experiences to Baby is a skill that you’re going to be using for years to come. If it’s tricky sometimes, just remember that your future self will thank you for what you’ve learned!

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