Photography by Nicole Duplantis/Clothing provided by babyGap and Joe Fresh
By now, you’re probably super-familiar with the toddler “no” phase. Next up is the toddler “why” phase. “Why dat milk white?” “Why sun gone?” “Why dirt dirty?” “Why bath?” All this will likely push your buttons at some point (you feel like such a parent when you finally resort to “Because it just is, that’s why!”). A lot of it is curiosity about the big wide world—after all, they’re new here. More importantly, this is actually your toddler’s way of having a conversation with you, using their own limited communication skills and vocab. You say something, they ask “Why?” you answer and they ask “Why?” again and again and again. Asking why is how they interact with you, see how you react and find out more about something they think is interesting. Put it this way and answering all those questions gets a little easier to handle. Plus, it’s totally fine to say “Good question. I don’t know. Let’s look it up at home.” Building their brains and building your relationship together is a win-win.
One day soon, if it hasn’t happened already, your sweet toddler is probably going to get all grabby and possessive about a toy car, an empty tissue box, a hunk of Play-Doh or even you. That’s a normal, healthy developmental phase. From your toddler’s POV, if it’s in their hands, it’s theirs. If someone takes it away (or a visiting baby is on your lap and taking you away), it can feel like the end of the world to them. It’s not a forever phase because over the next year or so, until age three or four, they’ll be able to make the cognitive leap that stuff can be owned and shared. Don’t worry that they’re going to become selfish little monsters, and try not to get upset or embarrassed if they are freaking out. Instead, talk about taking turns and how long a turn lasts. Practise passing an object back and forth and saying “Your turn” and “My turn.” It can’t hurt to put those super-special items, like the purple bucket, away before a playdate either. And if they’re worried about losing your lap, offer plenty of reassurance (and make some room).
When it comes to language skills, your toddler will start using more words to interact with others now. That means they’re more likely to use your name (“Mama, let’s run” or “Daddy, want snack”), especially if you’ve made a point of starting sentences with their name. They’re also learning that words can create actions, like “Go away” or “Get water,” which means it’s also a good time to figure out manners. Is not quite two too early to learn? No way! Saying hello, please and thank you and staying at the table for a whole seven minutes to eat a family meal are all reasonable things to work on at this age. What isn’t so reasonable to expect is eating politely with a fork and spoon, talking to people they don’t know and saying thank you for a “meh” gift. Look for teachable moments, like pointing out how good they feel when someone notices their kindness, and be aware that your mini-me is watching, so step up your manners game, too.
There are probably days where it feels like your toddler is a snacking machine. That’s OK because toddlers have both small tummies and short attention spans, so they can get distracted easily and not eat enough at meals. This, in turn, can add up to a cranky, hungry kid, even if they don’t know they’re hungry. Keep healthy snacks on hand so you can help them fuel up and head off a meltdown (sometimes it’s worth just putting food in front of them rather than asking if they want a snack and getting an irrational and teary “No!”).
Who knew something so simple could be so good. Layers of thick Greek yogurt and kiwi that’s been stirred with honey make a great prep-ahead snack. Keep a few mason jars in the fridge for those after-school hunger pangs. Get the recipe: Kiwi Yogurt CupsPhoto: Roberto Caruso
These may look fancy, but they're way easier to make than you think. Medjool dates, dried apricots, cashews and pepitas go for a whirl in the food processor and are pressed into a pan to set. Easy peasy. Get the recipe: Fruit and Nut Energy BarsPhoto: Andrew Grinton
Muffin snacks just make sense. They’re usually packed with goodness, but still kind of resemble cupcakes (it’s all about marketing sometimes). These handheld goodies feature blueberries, candied ginger and Greek yogurt. Get the recipe: Blueberry-Ginger MuffinsPhoto: Roberto Caruso
Ever read the label on a generic box of granola bars? There’s lots of ingredients that are tricky to pronounce. We have faith that you’ll be familiar with every single ingredient in these sweet and salty snacks. Get the recipe: Chocolate Pretzel Granola BarsPhoto: Roberto Caruso
This surprisingly addictive snack is super crunchy when warm, chewy and nutty when leftover (if you actually have any left over). They go beyond snack time, making excellent croutons, too—toss them on soup or in salads. Get the recipe: Oven-Roasted Crispy ChickpeasPhoto: Roberto Caruso
For your savoury snackers, these oh-so-cheesy straws are made with puff pastry and pack the perfect crunch. Stuff them in lunchboxes or offer them up when your crew just needs to get their carb on. Get the recipe: Twisted Cheese StrawsPhoto: Roberto Caruso
These chocolatey morsels totally look like a sweet treat, but get this: They have no refined sugar. It’s all dates, nuts and unsweetened cocoa powder. After a few pulses in the food processor, they’re ready for kids to roll out. Get the recipe: No-Bake Brownie BitesPhoto: Roberto Caruso
Rescue browning bananas with this clever snack. Freeze them with popsicle-stick handles, then kids can dunk their icy bananas in melted chocolate and roll them through their fave topping. Get the recipe: Banana PopsPhoto: Erik Putz
There’s no wrong way to eat an apple. These simple oven-baked chips have a light dusting of cinnamon-sugar and a perfect crunch. Make a few batches—these babies will disappear in a hurry. Get the recipe: Apple ChipsPhoto: Roberto Caruso
When you have the need to feed, get popping with a few handfuls of this sweet and salty snack. Get the recipe: Cinnamon Toast Kettle CornPhoto: Roberto Caruso
Trying to safely strap in a toddler who does not want to be in a car seat is not a fun way to start your drive. Toddlers love motion and don’t appreciate sitting still or being confined, so it’s no wonder that they often aren’t down with the whole five-point-restraint seat belt thing. Try talking them through the process and acknowledging how they feel: “OK, I know you don’t like this and you feel mad, but it’s important to be in your car seat to keep you safe. It’s time to go. All done. Let’s have a hug.” Help them feel a bit more in control by allowing them to get into the car by themselves if they can and then handing over a soft toy or fabric book to keep their interest.
It may feel like diapers are just always going to be part of your life, but the routine really is going to come to an end in the next year or so. Your toddler may be completely disinterested in the potty right now, and that’s totally fine, but others may start to show signs of being ready for toilet training. Here’s what to watch for: if your baby has a diaper that stays dry for one to two hours, feels uncomfortable in a wet or dirty diaper, goes over to the potty and sits on it for a few minutes (even if nothing happens), can pull down their pants themselves or grabs their diaper or hides when it’s time for a poop (c’mon, how adorable is that?). Regardless of when they’re ready for big-kid underwear, one thing you can do to help set the stage is to say how good it feels to be clean and dry after a diaper change to help them be a bit more aware.
There are plenty of things about parenthood that can kill sexy time: cleaning up after gross messes, being exhausted or feeling “touched out” after a weekend with a toddler who crawls all over you and asks to be picked up a thousand times a day. Still, many parents manage to have a sex life after their kid arrives by, say, sneaking off to the spare room for an interlude if there’s a kid asleep in their bed or making a point of some mini-foreplay at random moments during the day so it’s a little easier to get in the mood when there is a spare 11 minutes.
Another totally hot move? A partner who does their fair share of the household chores. True, it’s not an easy conversation, but understanding what may actually be going on in the relationship and using collaborative language (not “You’re being lazy!”) are tools that can help both of you.
Chances are, heading out of the house in the pre-kid days wasn’t something you even really thought about. Going out with a baby was lots of prep but not a huge deal. But getting out the door with a toddler can be a sweaty, frustrating, incredibly long process. They’re not trying to mess with you, but they just don’t get schedules, the passage of time or the need for mitts or sunscreen. Distracting them, singing or asking them to help get dressed are all ways to make departures less chaotic.
Sure, you should probably skip that totally chic, A-list resto (that’s what date nights are for), but you don’t have to spend the next few years exclusively in restaurants that feature cartoon animals, plastic trays and ball pits either. Eating out with a toddler is doable if you think strategically: Call ahead to see if the timing and setting are kid-appropriate, bring some backup food, and keep an eye out for people-watching opportunities (sit by a window or near an open kitchen).
Why, hello there, two! There are lots of easy ways to make a second b-day bash a little bit special: Serve colourful toddler-friendly mini-snacks in ice cube trays or make some way-cool sensory bags with a bit of coloured hair gel and glitter.
Make finger food fun without losing your mind creating miniature works of art by placing nibbly bites into an ice cube tray. Toddlers will love this beautiful buffet spread. Get more information at jenniferbishopdesign.com
Photo: Jennifer Bishop Design via Pinterest
If dinosaurs are an exciting new discovery for your toddler, set out some plastic dino toys and make these super simple dino eggs. Either let tots indulge at the party, or send them home as loot. Get the instructions: messforless.net
Photo: Mess for Less via Pinterest
Whip up this edible, dye-free playdough with ingredients you likely have on hand. No worries when the inevitable hand goes to the mouth. Get the instructions here
Photo: Tony Lanz
Because, chances are, they'll eat it anyway. This edible finger paint is easy to make and fun to squish and spread across a canvas. Get the instructions at kidscraftroom.com
Photo: Kids Craft Room via Pinterest
Blow their little minds with an easy-to-make bubble snake. All you need is a water bottle, scissors, a sock, dish soap and water. Get the instructions at onelittleproject.com
Photo: One Little Project via Pinterest
Chubby fingers do well with a similar full-body crayon. Make these easy melts, lay out the craft paper and watch the little Picassos go to work. Have juice boxes on hand in case of meltdowns. Get the instructions here
Photo: Tony Lanz
Keep hands busy with a sensory box of age-appropriate materials. Put everything in a plastic storage bin or separate items into smaller bowls. Get the instructions here
Photo: Tony Lanz
This cake looks fancy and intricate, but our step-by-step guide proves it's not so hard. Throw some paper circles up on the wall, gather some balls and present this cake for a perfectly simple ball-themed party. Get the instructions here
Photo: John Cullen
Keep pint-szied guests entertained with these squishy sensory bags. Here's your material list: Ziplock bag, hair gel and sparkles/glitter. So easy. Get the instructions at nurturestore.co.uk
Photo: Nuture Store via Pinterest
Every parent needs some hacks to streamline everyday meals. Add pasta sauce straight out of the container to hot noodles for a just-the-right-heat-for-toddlers dish, or put some frozen peas or corn into hot soup to cool it down. For an on-the-go snack, stick a short, wide straw through the foil top of an applesauce cup.