4 strategies for changing your busy toddler’s diaper

On-the-move toddlers aren’t too keen on sitting still ever, let alone for a diaper change. Here’s how to avoid frustration and get the job done.

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When my son was a newborn, I thought diaper changes were a chore, but at least he stayed still. Now that he’s an opinionated, on-the-move toddler, wrangling him for a change feels like it should be an Olympic event.

“It isn’t about diapers,” says Kathy Lynn, a parenting speaker and author based in New Westminster, BC. “Toddlers are resistant to anything that makes them stay still.” And with today’s diapers that stay dry longer, most kids aren’t bothered when they do wet a diaper, so they’re happy to keep playing. Have a little one who’s mastered the art of dodging diaper changes? Read on for advice on how to eliminate the change challenge once and for all.

1. Get them involved
Julia Smeed of Milton, Ont., has always maintained a respectful approach to parenting her two-year-old twins. “I never just scooped them up to change them,” she explains. “Even when they were babies, I would explain to them what we were doing.” And while she admits that it can sometimes include some negotiating, they’re far more likely to cooperate if they come on their own.

Julie Audy, owner of Calgary’s Expanding Imaginations Child Care who has more than 15 years of childcare experience, suggests involving your child in the process. “Changing their diaper is not a choice, but they can decide which diaper to put on, and where they’d like to be changed,” she says. If your child is really fighting a change and there’s no reason to do it that instant, Lynn suggests leaving him alone and trying again in five minutes.

2. Be flexible
There’s no rule that says a kid has to be lying down to change his diaper. Instead of carrying him to the change table, let him stay with his toys and activities. Keep a small basket loaded with a change pad, wipes and diapers in the living room so it’s easily accessible for you. Ensure that he is in a safe position, such as standing on the floor (not the change table) or even kneeling on his hands and knees, and make the change as quickly as possible.

3. Cause a scene
Toddlers love to be the focus of our attention, so use that to your advantage. Audy recommends taking this time to really engage with your little one. You can sing silly songs, play games (ask him to search for different colours around the room or identify his body parts) and count to 10. Get him laughing—make up an outrageous story that he stars in alongside his favourite toys or friends.     A toddler outside in her diaper    
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4. Talk to them 
Another great way to distract your tot is to set aside some books or toys that come out only when you’re changing diapers. One strategy that Smeed finds works well with her twins is to talk about all of the fun things they’re going to do after their diapers are changed; this also helps them to prepare for whatever activity they are moving onto next, be it snack time or nap time. “One of the nice things about changing diapers is it’s the perfect time to have face-to-face time with your child,” says Lynn. Use that time to smile, giggle and bond.

If you’re still struggling to get your child to cooperate, don’t take it personally. The trick is to keep trying until you’ve found something that works for him. What really helped me was to consider it from my toddler’s point of view: If I am going to disrupt my little diaper dodger from something really fun, I will make it worth his while.

Read more:
How to deal with a frustrated toddler
Why is my toddler so hyperactive

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