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Top Toddler (1-3 years) Questions

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Health & Safety

Q: What can I do to make my toddler's doctor visits easier?

Q: My toddler swallowed a crayon. Should I call 911?

Q: My baby is a year old. Can I turn the car seat around now?

Eating & Sleeping

Q: How much sleep does my toddler need?

Q: How can I deal with a picky eater?

Q: Should my toddler be taking a supplement?


Q: When is my toddler ready to move out of the crib and into a bed?

Q: What's the best way to discipline my toddler?

Q: I can't get my toddler to get dressed without a fight. How can I fix that?

Q: My sweet baby has become an impossible toddler. How do I get her to listen?

Health & Safety

Q: What can I do to make my toddler's doctor visits easier?

A: You know that Norman Rockwell painting of the beautifully behaved child in the kindly doctor's office? Well, replace that image with one of a squalling child and a red-faced, extremely annoyed-looking doctor, and you'd be closer to the truth.

The doctor says:
"As a parent and as a pediatrician, my advice is that you follow your pediatrician's cues. Many parents try to be helpful by orchestrating positions or trying to 'pre-calm' their children--only to make the situation worse. There are a few truisms when it comes to children this age seeing a doctor. First, this group will get upset the second the doc either walks into the room or goes near them. Second, looking in ears is never a good thing for a child. Third, it doesn't have to hurt for a child this age to cry. (Whether I give the child a shot or touch his or her elbow, cries will occur!) I've found that getting the physical exam over with early in the visit is helpful. Once the stressful part--the exam and/or shots--is out of the way, the pediatrician can finish by taking the child's health history and talking with the parents. Your pediatrician may have a different way of doing things; whatever it is, go with it because I bet it will work. We pediatricians all spend a great amount of time and thought fine-tuning our approach to kids of different ages."
--Dr. Gwenn Schurgin O'Keeffe, MD, FAAP, is the CEO and Chief Editor of Pediatrics Now

What to do
Dr. O'Keeffe recommends that you:
• Position your child the way the pediatrician asks.
• Don't make promises to your child that you can't keep, such as, "It's okay honey...this won't hurt." Looking in the ears may hurt in a child's mind, and shots clearly do; lying to your child will only make things worse.
• Let the pediatrician do the explaining--you just do the hugging after.
• Prepare your child by reading him or her children's books that explain what happens during doctor visits. Dr. O'Keeffe likes the picture books written by Dr. Charlotte Cowan--especially The Little Elephant with the Big Earache. For more information, go to

MomLogic Moms say:
"I had a problem with my daughter being petrified of the doctor for a while," says Stefanie, Mom of three. "What worked for us is getting her a cute little doctor's kit and playing make believe. I'd check her heart and lungs, poke her tummy, and check her knee reflexes, and then let her do the same to me. After doing that, she was actually excited to go to the real doctor and knew what to expect!"

Other moms suggest that you:
• Take your child to a few of your own doctor's appointments first (to help your child get used to the doctor environment).
• Tell your child exactly what to expect ahead of time, so she¹s not surprised. (Be honest!)
• Role-play a doctor's visit with you as the patient and your child as the doctor.
• Call the pediatrician's office before you head out and make sure they're running on time. (The less time you spend there, the better!)
• Bring your own books to the appointment (the ones in the office are totally germ-infested!).
• Bring a few of your toddler's favorite toys along with.
• Sing songs with your child in the waiting room.
• Ask the doctor if you can hold your child vs. putting him or her on that loud, crinkly paper.
• If the doctor only addresses you, explain to your child what he or she has said.
• Don't make a big deal out of it--if you treat it like any other errand, your child will be less likely to freak out.
• Don't stress out yourself. Stay calm!
• Reward your child for going (lollipops, anyone?).

Most Moms agree that things will get better once your child turns three. Until then, good luck!

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Q: My toddler swallowed a crayon. Should I call 911?

A: Kids put everything in their mouths. If your child swallows something, two issues are of immediate concern: Toxicity and the risk of choking.

The doctor says:
"Crayons are made from non-toxic (not poisonous) materials, so don't be concerned that your child has been poisoned. But you should call 911 immediately if there are signs that the crayon is blocking his airway or, later on, his intestines."
--Dr. Rachel Franklin, Mom of twins, Associate Professor of Family Medicine and author of "Expecting Twins, Triplets and More: a Doctor's Guide to a Healthy and Happy Multiple Pregnancy"

Signs that your child's airway is blocked:
• He wheezes or whistles when breathing.
• He's short of breath.
• He coughs constantly.
• He turns blue.

Signs that your child's intestines are blocked:
• He refuses to swallow.
• He declines food or drink even when you know he should be hungry/thirsty.
• He complains of abdominal pain.
• He vomits.
• He has frequent diarrhea without passing a normal stool.
• He passes blood in his stool or vomit.

MomLogic Moms say:
"If your child isn't choking, there's no need to panic," says Stefanie, Mom of three. "The crayon will come out in his poop in about a day or two. But I wouldn't suggest coloring with it anymore!"

Other Moms say:
• Memorize this toll-free poison-control line, just in case he ever swallows something that could be toxic: 800-222-1222.

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Q: My baby is a year old. Can I turn the car seat around now?

A: Yeah, cooing to the back of a car seat does kinda suck.

The doctor says:
"Your baby should be at least 12 months old and weigh at least 20 pounds before you can safely turn the car seat into a forward-facing position. It's not an either/or thing: Your baby must meet both criteria, period. And once he or she does, remember to keep him or her in the back seat to avoid possible injury from the airbags."
--Dr. Rachel Franklin, Mom of twins, Associate Professor of Family Medicine and author of "Expecting Twins, Triplets and More: a Doctor's Guide to a Healthy and Happy Multiple Pregnancy"

MomLogic Moms say:
"Yes, it's annoying--but follow the guideline religiously," says Jackie, Mom of three. "But it's so important to follow the 1-year-20-pounds rule! If you didn't and something happened, you'd never forgive yourself."

Eating & Sleeping

Q: How much sleep does my toddler need?

A: A few hours less than you need him to get. (Kidding!)

The sleep expert says:
"Toddlers generally need 10 1/2 to 12 hours of sleep each night, and somewhere between one and a half and three hours during the day, broken into one or two naps."
--Jill Spivack, MSW, is a psychotherapist and co-founder of Sleepy Planet, where she provides pediatric sleep consultations, leads general parenting groups for first and second time mothers.

Why toddlers need so much sleep:
"In order for children to develop to their peak potential cognitively, emotionally, and physically, they must get enough deep, restorative sleep," says Spivack. "Brain development, learning, and memory are all supported by good 'sleep nutrition.' Sleep deprivation or disruption, on the other hand, has been linked to behavioral and emotional problems. It decreases alertness and physical coordination and increases emotional mood swings--all of which can obviously have adverse effects on a child's behavior."

MomLogic Moms say:
"I found that what Dr. Harvey Karp says is true," says Sabrina, Mom of two. "If you put the kids to bed an hour earlier than you think they need to go, they are better rested and better behaved. Worked for me!"

Other Moms say:
Some kids need more sleep than others. "My kids were different here," says Kathi, Mom of two. "One would sleep forever; the other, not so much."

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Q: How can I deal with a picky eater?

A: The sad truth: Kids can't live on dry Cheerios and Goldfish crackers alone.

The dietician says:
"For picky eaters between the ages of 1 and 3, healthy snacks at regular intervals are key. Toddlers have small appetites, so they won't eat much at each meal. But if you give them regular snacks, they'll get in all of their nutrients. Also, I've found that kids are more apt to eat food that looks fun. Use a cookie cutter to cut grilled-cheese sandwiches into hearts; make Mickey-Mouse shaped pancakes; make smiley faces with love things like that!"
--Debi Silber, RD, Whole Health Coach and the author of "The Lifestyle Fitness Program: A Six Part Plan So EVERY Mom Can Look, Feel and Live Her Best"

Kid-friendly snack suggestions
Debi Silber recommends the following:
• Fruits and vegetables (cut appropriately)
• Healthy dips (peanut butter, low-fat salad dressing, yogurt)
• Whole grain crackers with cheese
• Granola
• Milk-and-fruit smoothies

MomLogic Moms say:
"Relax about it," says Stefanie, Mom of three. "All kids are picky eaters, and it won't kill them. I hated vegetables when I was a kid, and no amount of cajoling could make me even sniff a piece of broccoli. Let your kid eat what they like, but don't knock yourself out making them special meals. If they don't want to eat what you're eating, get them a sandwich or eggs or fish sticks. Let them try new foods when they're ready. Trying to hide veggies in other foods will only drive everyone crazy."

Other Moms say:
• Give them small portions--toddlers have tiny tummies.
• Be honest with your kids about what they're eating and why it's good for them.
• Kids don't usually fall for the hide-the-veggies-in-their-food trick, but there are other sneaky ways to make their meals healthier. One Mom puts ground chickpeas into her mac and cheese; another makes her meatloaf out of ground turkey instead of ground beef.
• When kids are hungry, they will eat.
• Don't make them sit at the table until their plates are clean, but do insist that they try everything at least once. (Eventually their palates will change.)
• Let them pick their foods (give them several choices); they may be craving something for a reason--i.e., their systems may be low on a certain nutrient.
• If kids poop, they're eating enough.
• Take a longer view: Lots of kids have "bad food days" and make up for it a couple of days later.

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Q: Should my toddler be taking a supplement?

A: One the one hand, you want to be sure that your child is getting enough nutrients. On the other hand, some vitamins are stored in the body, so your child could get too much of a good thing. What to do?

The dietician says:
"It's not necessary to give your child supplements if he or she has a well-rounded diet. That means that every day, you're giving your child three meals and two to three snacks composed of nutrient-dense, high-fiber, vitamin- and mineral-rich foods."
--Debi Silber, RD, Whole Health Coach and the author of "The Lifestyle Fitness Program: A Six Part Plan So EVERY Mom Can Look, Feel and Live Her Best"

MomLogic Moms say
"I had the pediatrician test my son's blood, and it turned out that he was anemic," says Kathi, mom of two. "He's been on iron supplements ever since."

Other Moms say:
• Giving your child a Gummy Vitamin every day can't hurt.

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Q: When is my toddler ready to move out of the crib and into a bed?

A: Hint: If you wake up in the morning and find that your child has escaped from his or her crib and is sitting in front of the tube watching Nick Jr., it's time.

The pediatrician says:
"It depends on the individual. It's usually best to wait until a child is as close to three as possible, because kids that age can understand more and are better able to stay in one place. But if your child is already climbing out of the crib, then it may be time!"
--Dr. Gwenn Schurgin O'Keeffe, MD, FAAP, is the CEO and Chief Editor of Pediatrics Now

MomLogic Moms say:
"For toddlers, it's freeing--yet a little scary--to have so much control over getting out of bed," says Jackie, Mom of three. "They like to exercise that independence at first, so be ready!"

Other Moms say:
• Keep them in the crib as long as possible--it's easier.
• Once your child is interested in having her own bed, let her help you pick it out and choose the bedding.
• Expect lots of late-night visits once your child realizes he or she isn't penned in anymore.
• If your child seems happy in his crib and doesn't try to get out, don't rush into moving him into a big-boy bed.
• If he can climb onto the sofa and get down safely (by sliding on his belly), a big bed is probably okay.
• Put a guard rail on the bed in the beginning--toddlers can be active sleepers!
• Don't wait too long to move your child into a "real" bed, or he may end up sleeping with you for many years.
• Once your child moves into a big bed, begin a new nighttime routine of reading him a story and then tucking him in.

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Q: What's the best way to discipline my toddler?

A: Naughty corners? Lost privileges? Yelling like a crazy person? Some techniques are more effective than others....

The parenting expert says:

"Discipline is generally used after a child has done something wrong, but the best way to prevent misbehavior is to notice and mention it whenever the toddler is doing something right. When a child wants to cooperate, a huge amount of annoying behavior will be eliminated."
--Noel Janis-Norton, founder and director of The New Learning Centre in London, is a learning and behavior specialist with over 30 years' experience in Britain and the United States.

How to practice preventive discipline:
Janis-Norton calls preventive discipline--discipline that prevents bad behavior instead of correcting it--"preparing for success." "It's less common, because we parents are so busy and preoccupied that we tend to be reactive," she says. "Even in the most loving household, it's easier for kids to get attention by doing things that are wrong; parents' to-do lists are so long, we just tend to be focusing elsewhere when kids are behaving. But being proactive is essential if you want a calmer life."

To do it:
• Use descriptive praise. Saying "Wow!" or "That's awesome" is less meaningful to children because those words are too general and overused. Instead, be specific: "You came when Mommy called! You put down the scissors when Mommy asked you to!"
• Praise your child frequently, even for small things you would normally take for granted--doing what he or she is asked; leaving the remote alone; sitting still during a meal; standing still when you're putting his or her shirt on....
• Look really pleased when you give the praise.
• Use a happy tone of voice.
• Start early--even a 1-year-old will quickly realize that positive attention (the attention he or she gets by pleasing you) feels better than negative.

MomLogic Moms say:
"We got a chart with stickers on it," says Sabrina, mom of two. "If our daughter does what she's supposed to--brushes her teeth, goes to bed without a fuss, gets dressed in the morning--we put a happy face on that day. Now that we've been doing it for a while, all we have to say is 'Sticker?' and she will stop misbehaving."

Other Moms say:
• Choose a convenient spot in your home to be the designated "time-out" area and put your child in it when he or she misbehaves. Give a warning first; if they continue to act up, give them one minute on the spot for every year of age (two minutes for 2-year-olds; three minutes for 3-year-olds, etc.).
• Find something your child likes and either take it away as punishment or give it to your child as a reward.
• Look your child in the eye when disciplining them.
• Be firm and consistent.

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Q: I can't get my toddler to get dressed without a fight. How can I fix that?

A: Anyone who thinks it's easy to dress kids has never tried to put pants on a squirming, uncooperative 2-year-old.

The parenting expert says:
"First of all, get up earlier! When you're in a hurry and feeling rushed, you forget to smile and talk nicely. Irritable parents amp kids up and make them misbehave more."
--Noel Janis-Norton, founder and director of The New Learning Centre in London, is a learning and behavior specialist with over 30 years' experience in Britain and the United States.

To facilitate the process:
• Corral your child into one room and sit on the floor with your back to the door.
• Choose a room that doesn't contain toys (a.k.a. distractions).
• Instead of rushing your child ("We're going to be late!"), use descriptive praise: "You've got one sock on!"
• Stay calm.

MomLogic Moms say:
"Let your toddler choose their clothes," says Stefanie, Mom of three. "Yes, they may look ridiculous, but at least you won't have to argue every outfit. If you don't want to give them total control, give them a choice between two different outfits or let them choose which item of clothing to put on first. Or ask them, 'Do you want to pick out a shirt or do you want me to surprise you?' Toddlers just like to have their say!"

Other Moms suggest:
"My daughter spent one entire year in a Disney Princess sweatshirt," says one Mom. "It was the only thing she would wear. I bought five of them so we could rotate. I just got sick of fighting with her, so I let her wear it daily. I had to explain to friends and family that we had multiples, so they wouldn't think I dressed her in dirty clothes!"
• Making it a game or race. Use a timer or ask your child, "Can you get your pants on before Elmo is done singing?" They'll do anything to "win!"
• Rewarding them for getting dressed promptly. One Mom tells her kids, "If you stand still while I'm dressing you, you get a sticker on your hand."
• Reminding them that big girls and boys dress themselves. (Kids hate being "babies.")

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Q: My sweet baby has become an impossible toddler. How do I get her to listen?

A: Do you sometimes feel that Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde had nothing on your child? You're not alone.

The parenting expert says:
"When parents say they want their children to 'listen,' they're really saying that they want their children to do what they're told. The problem is, once children are mobile, they start doing what they feel like. Toddlers are especially impulsive!"
--Noel Janis-Norton, founder and director of The New Learning Centre in London, is a learning and behavior specialist with over 30 years' experience in Britain and the United States.

To rein in a difficult child:

There are two kinds of behaviors, explains Janis-Norton: "stop" behaviors (when your child is doing something wrong) and "start" behaviors (when your child isn't doing what you want him or her to do). It's easier for a child to start doing something than to stop doing something, so try to spin your corrections accordingly: Instead of saying, "Don't do that" or "Stop bothering your brother," say, "Put that down" or "Come here" (or whatever the case may be). Here are a few more tips:

• Avoid "armchair discipline." "It's common for parent to just call out the child's name or tell them 'no' from across the room," says Janis-Norton. "But that doesn't do any good. You have to stand up and walk over to the child."
• By the time you walk over to your child, chances are they've begun to alter their behavior accordingly--which gives you the chance to offer praise. ("You're not yelling so loudly! You're starting to put down the scissors!")
• There's a first time for everything, so don't assume that your child knows the "right" way to behave. Explain it once.
• If your child knows that what he or she is doing is wrong, there's no need to speak. "Just standing there and waiting is very, very powerful," notes Janis-Norton. "It often conveys authority much more efficiently than nagging."
• Remove temptation as much as possible, so you'll have fewer things to say "no" about.
• If your child doesn't start to comply with your wishes immediately, don't repeat your request. Instead, remove the object or remove the child.
• Try to be nice when making requests. The friendlier you are, the less likely it is that your child will scream and carry on.
• Be definite and use a firm tone. If you sound tentative, it gives the toddler the impression that you're asking permission--like it's up to them whether or not they should obey.
• Similarly, make statements instead of asking questions. (Instead of asking if they want to eat lunch now, say, "We're eating lunch now.")
• Don't expect kids to turn on a dime, because they can't. "Kids take a long time to transition--that's a fact," says Janis-Norton. "They get stuck in what they're doing; it takes them a while to shift gears."
• Plan your day so you're not racing from one activity to the next (that way, both you and your child will be less stressed, so problems will be less likely to occur).
• Don't let your child use the threat of a tantrum to blackmail you into letting them have their way.
• Get them involved and engaged in next thing that's about to happen: "Now it's time to put on your shirt...."

MomLogic Moms say:
"If you give your child an ultimatum and he or she doesn't listen, you have to follow up with consequences," says Kathi, Mom of two. "Stand by what you say, or your children will be confused--and they won't take you seriously."

Other Moms say:
• Yelling doesn't help.
• Be patient
• Reward them for listening.
• Breathe, count to 10, and relish the fact one day they'll have their own kids terrorizing them. (Payback!)

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