10 top tips for life with a toddler

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 Photo: Getty Images

While working as a nanny for some of the world's most well known people, I have had the absolute pleasure of caring for many toddlers - the little people who always think they are much bigger than they truly are! 

Unsteady steps and being fussy with food go hand in hand with the pure innocence and unconditional love these little ones have for you – but if there's one thing a toddler really shines at, it's how to keep you on your toes.

Here are some tips I've picked up in my years as a nanny …     

1. Stay cool

If you find yourself overcome by the persistent powers of a toddler, don't fall into their trap – just breathe!

By staying calm and regulating your breath when dealing with a tantrum or two, you can put more of your energy into diffusing the situation rather than exhausting yourself. 

You can even teach your toddler the popular technique of 'Blowing Out The Candles' – using imaginary candles of course, but this can calm and distract them at the same time.   

2. Make a game of it

As Mary Poppins famously said, "In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun and snap, the job's a game!"

Most toddlers don't enjoy packing their toys away, picking up pieces of food they have dropped on the floor, or helping you get them into their pyjamas. If, with a little imagination, you can turn it into a game, the job will be done in no time – try racing to see who can get dressed first, or sing a silly song while cleaning up. 

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3. Stick to your routine

Routine, especially for this age group, is so important for many reasons – most importantly, your toddler will know what to expect and will be less inclined to challenge you if things aren't running smoothly. 

One idea? By getting used to having quiet time after lunch, with some soothing lullabies or music, your toddler will learn that it's time to chill out – and maybe even give you a few minutes to yourself.

4. Get as much rest at you can

With a routine comes a time to recharge your batteries! Getting some well- deserved regular rest will help you create a happy and relaxed mood, leaving you ready for your next 'toddler test'.

5. Exercise = energy

As most parents know, there's no room for running out of steam when it comes to entertaining a toddler, as you need to be consistent and fully energised. 

Eating a well balanced diet and exercising will lower your stress levels while boosting your energy – and hopefully help you sleep well, too.

6. Empathise

When everything gets a bit much for your child, try to be as tender as possible. Empathise with your precious little person!  Once he can feel that you understand him and are on his side, he'll be less likely to continue complaining.

If a tantrum develops, stay calm, stay close, and guide him by showing that you're not upset and only want to help.

Another tip? I find distraction is the best 'tantrum tamer' around.   

7. Prevention is better than a cure

If you're going out with your toddler, it's important to have a plan in place. If you know that she becomes irritated and moody when tired, for example, make arrangements to go out after nap time, rather than before.

If an older sibling is having a play date after school and your little one wants to join them, have some activities or games prepared for your littlie – you can have a toddler party for two so she won't think she's missing out.

8. Snack attack

These little bundles of energy are growing all the time and need to have plenty of healthy snacks that are safe too (especially while feeding themselves). Think ahead and try to always have a variety of fresh and tasty foods at the ready.

A great habit to encourage is to always be sitting if he or she is eating – if you do it, sure enough they will do the same.

9. Communication is the key

Every day involves educating your toddler, so good communication skills should start as early as possible.

Be positive! Instead of yelling "Don't run!", ask your little one to walk. By simply asking 'not to run', you are also leaving many other options for a usually clever little person to choose from – jumping, skipping, hopping, etc. That's probably not what you want!

10. Their number one role model is YOU

I've saved the best tip 'til last! It really doesn't matter if you're a nanny, a parent or another kind of caregiver, the very best thing you can do for your child is to be the best you can be.

Remember that toddlers are like sponges – they're always soaking up as much as they can, so good manners, excellent communication skills and a big smile will give them a fabulous head start in life. 

Your little one will watch your every move and try very hard to imitate as much as they can, so it's your responsibility to give them somebody great to imitate – and that's you!