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We all want our children to grow up feeling safe, secure, and happy. The good news is, there are small, simple things we can do that will help make a big difference to their development and their wellbeing now and in the future. And it can also make day-to-day life easier. 

Here are 4 positive ways to help look after your toddler’s wellbeing and mental health.

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1. Give them choices

We all feel happier when we have control. But sometimes (maybe a lot of the time) what we want our kids to do and what they want to do are very different. But letting toddlers have some control over their own lives (within reason!) can be good for them. It begins to teach them responsibility, the impact of their own decisions, and can make them feel trusted. This can all help make for happier, more confident kids.

Tip #1: Give them fixed options

Giving your wee ones options to choose from is a great way to let them feel in control and avoid tantrums. Remember, you’re still in control of the options. So there won’t be any ice-cream for breakfast or going to school dressed as Spiderman.

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Tip #2: Dressing for the weather

We know getting a toddler dressed in the morning can be a big job. Why not try looking out the window together and letting them decide what to wear that day. You can ask them “What’s the weather like?”, “Does sunshine mean we wear shorts?”, “Does a rain cloud mean we need a coat?” It’s a great way for toddlers to learn as they choose.

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Tip #3: Let them choose new foods

toddler in chair picking at some broccoli

As toddlers become more aware of what’s on their plate it can be hard to get them to try new foods. Instead of surprising them with something new to eat, try showing them two new foods together and ask them which one they would like to try today. This is a clever way to get them to try lots of new things, not just foods.

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2. Work together

Working together can be a fun way to get things done and avoid any arguments over chores. It also helps your children learn how to work with others, which is a great skill to have early in life. Knowing wee ones, you’ll probably do most of the work for them. But they will still feel good about themselves for helping.

Tip #1: Build their confidence

Building blocks and jigsaw puzzles are great for entertaining and teaching toddlers. Making things together can be a ton of fun. It helps wee ones learn to follow instructions and be creative. And it can be a nice distraction from anything stressful that’s going on, for them and for you.

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Tip #2: Turn chores into treasure

Toddlers leave stuff behind them like it’s their favourite game. So why not flip that game around? Try sending them to find their things like it’s a treasure hunt. They can search for socks for the washing basket, or toys for the toy box. Whatever it is, if you make it feel like treasure going in the treasure chest, your wee one can be your biggest helper.

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3. Build trust and confidence

All kids are different: they all have their own unique qualities, skills and talents and are good at doing different things. Encouraging them to develop the things they’re good at and practise the things they’re less keen on will help them build up their confidence.

Letting your kids take control of certain things is a great way to build trust between you. It will also boost their confidence when they achieve tasks successfully.

Tip #1: Dress the teddy

If you have a teddy and some spare socks handy, ask your toddler if they can put the socks on the teddy for you. This is a good way to build confidence for dressing themselves later. And it can also be a great distraction to help you dress your wee one in peace.

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Tip #2: Make milk less messy

Success builds confidence, so try to make things easier where you can. For example, at breakfast, instead of a heavy milk carton, try popping some milk in a small jug. Your wee one will feel great when they pour it on their cereal. And you’ll feel great not mopping it off the floor!

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Tip #3: Turn anything into a game

Try adding a fun twist to normal tasks, like packing your bag for nursery or a little trip away. Ask your wee one if they can pack a bag before their favourite song is over. It might be a bit messy, and probably full of toys and no underwear, but tell them how amazing they did… then sneakily add the underwear when they’re not looking.

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Tip #4: Try this recipe for trust

Cooking is a great confidence boosting skill – and even toddlers can play their part in the kitchen. Letting them help with simple things like mixing ingredients, washing fruit and or putting veg on a pizza will show your toddler that you trust them. And you can chat to them about other things while you work together. Our page on cooking with the kids has lots of tips to help. 

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4. Make them feel safe

Families look out for each other. We feel safer when we are with each other. And if one of us is worried about something it can affect all of us. Here are some tips you can try to reduce worry and help your children feel safe.

Tip #1: Take a deep breath

Every day has ups and downs. If you feel worried about something, try taking a deep breath and focusing on family time. Even 15 minutes of fun together is a great stress reliever, and it helps your wee one feel safe too.

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Tip #2: Try to stay consistent

Whether your toddler is behaving like an angel or driving you round the bend, try to react to situations calmly and consistently. This helps them learn how you will respond and makes them feel safer. It can also teach them good habits. For example, if you praise them every time they tidy away their toys on their own, they’ll probably do it more often.

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Tip #3: Show them you understand

Your wee one will look to you for help dealing with their emotions. Try copying their facial expressions to show them you understand. This will help them feel safe while they experience different emotions.

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