Toddlers are pretty awesome. They love nothing more than exploring and causing mischief, and will drop everything — literally — just to give you a cuddle. They’re affectionate and adorable… well, most of the time. For most of the day, your toddler is the absolute best person to be around, and other times you’ll find yourself wondering if you’ve unwittingly signed up for some kind of psychological experiment into torture. This is because toddlers are really good masters at driving their parents crazy.
They will ignore all of your rules, press all of your buttons, do things you’ve asked them not to, and always seem to be up to something sneaky. Most afternoons you probably find yourself taking deep breaths on a daily (hourly?!) basis, desperately trying to find your happy place while your toddler uses eyeliner to draw yet another masterpiece on the wall. Would it make you feel any better to find out that many of the things your toddler does are actually important for his development, even if they’re driving you crazy?! Maybe.
Hopefully. Here are some annoying — but important — toddler pastimes:
Annoying Toddler Habit #1: Playing With Their Food
Mealtimes are fun, aren’t they? You spend ages preparing a delicious, nutritionally-balanced meal for your tot, only for it to go mostly uneaten. Perhaps a few measly mouthfuls make it into his tummy, but the rest is smeared across his head, slapped onto the floor and jammed up your nose (don’t ask). The good news is that playing with food is actually a learning process. Your toddler is conducting a very intense scientific experiment into the texture, smell, feel and taste of the food in question. Oh, and whether it can fly, of course (spoiler alert: it can’t, sorry carpets). Giving your child the freedom to explore his food, may actually increase his willingness to eat some of it. One study even found that toddlers learned the names of food faster if they were able to play with their food at mealtimes. The pasta on his forehead may not make him look like a genius just yet, but it could be helping.
Annoying Toddler Habit #2: Making A Mess
It’s not just mealtimes when toddlers like getting messy, heck, they’ll be messy all day long if only you’ll let them. Most toddlers love nothing more than getting dirty. Messy play, jumping in puddles, cooking in a mud kitchen, and finger painting all score pretty highly on a toddler’s to do list. However, messy play is great for developing motor skills. It engages all the senses, allows children to manipulate materials, and helps with independent play, because there is no specific aim to messy play. Messy play is about fun and creativity, and is great for motor skills and development.
Annoying Toddler Habit #3: Getting Distracted
Toddlers are the absolute worst people to employ if you need something done in a hurry. Not only are they likely to fall asleep on the job, smell a bit like poo, and cry for their mum, but they’re also likely to get distracted. Even something as simple as walking down the street can take anywhere up to two hours because toddlers need to carefully inspect each and every pebble, grate and leaf they pass. It might seem like they’re just messing around, but they’re actually very busy taking in the world around them, learning, remembering and storing information for a future date. After all, who knows what the future holds, their life might one day depend on correctly knowing what was down the grate that day, and then you’ll be glad they spent so long staring into it.
Annoying Toddler Habit #4: Saying No
Your toddler’s main pastime seems to be saying no. More specifically, refusing to do absolutely anything you ask of him. No he will not brush his teeth. No he does not want to go to see grandma. No he will not get dressed. Sometimes it feels like you’re having a day long battle with an unhinged enemy. Fear not though, this contrary attitude actually has a very important role to play in your son’s future. You see, it takes a while for babies to understand that they are a separate person. They believe they are at one with their mothers (aawwww!), which is why they freak out when you leave a room. They feel like a part of them is missing, and it doesn’t feel very nice. I’d be pretty upset if half of me was missing too. But toddlers are wise, and they are beginning to understand that you are separate people. This newly discovered sense of self is what keeps your toddler shouting ‘No!’; he’s just trying to take some control for her own life, and annoying as that may be, it’s good for him.
Annoying Toddler Habit #5: Tantrums
Unfortunately, knowing this will not make you feel any less embarrassed the next time your toddler kicks a stink in the grocery aisle. You’ll still go bright red and feel like everyone is judging you, but tantrums are actually really important for your toddler. Temper tantrums happen because your toddler has built up a lot of emotions and needs some way of getting rid of them – they aren’t as emotionally developed as we are, so they don’t know what to do with these intense storms. It doesn’t do anybody any good to have fear, anger, frustration and sadness bottled up inside, and a tantrum is your toddler’s way of releasing all of these emotions so he can start afresh. Sure, it may not be pretty, but it is important.
Annoying Toddler Habit #6: Bouncing Off The Walls
You know those days when you just want to sit down with a nice cup of tea? Why are they always when your child seems to be bouncing off the walls? All you want is some peace and quiet! Well, toddlers have a lot of energy, you’ve probably noticed this at bedtime when your toddler is still zooming around the room at full speed. And they need to use up some of that energy, and that means running around, climbing things and jumping. Don’t worry though, at the end of all of that moving around, they’ll be exhausted and ready for a kip. To make your life a little easier when they’re bouncing off the walls, remove the walls by heading out for an adventure. It’s much easier to cope with energetic kids in the great outdoors, and the fresh air will do you all some good.
Annoying Toddler Habit #7: Clinging To You
Some days your toddler is the most confident kid at playgroup, and other days he is behind you as soon as you step through the door. Some days he will spend entire playdates snuggled firmly in your lap, refusing to leave your side. This can be pretty frustrating, not just because you want a break but also because you worry about why he’s acting that way. Don’t worry, this is normal behaviour. He’s just feeling a little nervous about something, and being with you is making him feel safe.
Annoying Toddler Habit #8: Asking Why
Oh, the why phrase. It’s infamous, and nothing but deserving of its reputation as being an exhausting stage of toddlerhood. Being asked why something is the way it is a couple of times is fine, anyone can handle that. But the why phase goes deeper, and your kid will still be asking long after the question has stopped making sense, and that’s pretty hard to deal with. It’s a frustrating phase, but your toddler is simply keen to learn more about the world, so do your best to answer his questions. Curiosity is a great personality trait, and though it may prove difficult now, it will be invaluable in the future. If you can’t answer the question, look up the answer together.
Annoying Toddler Habit #9: Reading The Same Stories
Despite the fact that you have hundreds of children’s books and live next door to a public library with even more, your toddler always insists on reading the same stories over and over again. You are probably incredibly bored of these books, and spend your free time coming up with ways to misplace them. Your toddler loves the books because he knows what’s going to happen, and this repetition is important for speech development and, much as you hate it, could be helping him to communicate better.
Annoying Toddler Habit #10: Pushing Boundaries
Every rule you set, your toddler tries to break. You seem to spend all day arguing about the same things, with you repeating the same rules over and over again. It’s frustrating, to say the least, and you will wonder whether your toddler is doing it all on purpose. Well, he is, but not to drive you crazy. Pushing boundaries is an important part of being a toddler. Boundaries are important for toddlers, and help them to feel safe and secure. Continue to set limits and maintain boundaries, no matter how many times you have to remind your child of them.