I’m a mom who has survived two under two and subsequently had two toddlers at the same time. These are my best tips to help reduce toddler tantrums. Toddlers are wild, sweet, funny, crazy, moody, and irrational. Those are just a few ways I can really describe life with them. You know God made them so incredibly cute for a reason! They can drive you crazy at times. I have put together 15 of my best tips to reduce toddler tantrums in hopes of helping all the parents out there.
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Medical disclaimer: Nothing in this piece should be taken as medical advice. If you have a medical concern please consult your doctor or physician.
1. Make sure your child is hydrated and fed
I cannot stress this enough! Make sure your child is hydrated and fed before embarking anywhere outside the confines of your child proofed home. I know sometimes toddlers are picky and meal times doesn’t always go as planned but you do not want a hangry toddler. Toddlers have such small stomachs and so when they get hungry, they don’t have as much warning as adults. I think this is part of why their emotions can become so extreme.
Keep them fed and always bring a snack with you. I love these no-spill snack containers and so do my kids! They are perfect for chubby little toddler hands.
I also love these sippy cups for on the go. They are so easy to carry with us.
2. Give ample warnings
Give ample warnings? If your scratching your head on this one, let me explain. I’m not talking about disciplinary warnings. What I’m talking about has more to do with transitions. Transitions are hard for toddlers. I’m sure you’ve heard before that children crave routine and consistency. I also believe verbally letting your child know what will happen next, helps a lot in reducing tantrums. In my house it goes something like this:
I give my son about 20 minutes before heading somewhere.
- We are going to the store this morning, OK?
- In ten minutes we are going to the store.
- Let’s put on shoes so we can go to the store.
- We are about to leave finish whatever you’re doing.
And so on and so forth. It may seem overkill but toddlers need a lot of guidance. Also, they need to know what is happening well in advance.
3. Offer a snack or drink when leaving a fun activity to help with the transition
My son always has the BIGGEST tantrum when we leave our local Play Street museum. He doesn’t want to leave all the fun! I give him lots of warnings, but when it’s getting close to time to go he loses it. Luckily, one of the things I love most about our Play Street is that they give the children a snack or juice on the way out. The snack is such a big distraction! It helps so much in getting out the door. The founder of Play Street is a mom of four, so I think she gets the struggle. The snack when leaving really is genius. So if you know it’s going to be a struggle, bring a snack your toddler loves to distract them when leaving.
I love keeping these applesauce pouches in my diaper bag. They ares so easy and no mess.
4. Have realistic expectations
Your child may not be able to do a full grocery shopping trip any more. I find it much easier to order my groceries online and do a curbside pickup or split my weekly shopping into two shorter trips. I can’t expect my children to be confined to an uncomfortable shopping cart for over an hour during this stage. Short shopping trips usually go much better but long ones aren’t for us in this season of life. The kids are also super distracting! I often forget something or forget to use a coupon so I do favor doing curbside grocery pick up or ordering things online.
Another great tip comes from the Irish Twin’s Momma:
During this time, expect that you and your child will occasionally lose patience with each other. Try to stay calm. When your child begins to get worked up, try to redirect his or her attention. If you can’t distract your child, ignore him or her.
If you’re in public, take your child aside without discussion or fuss and wait until he or she has calmed down before continuing with your activity.
I love this tip because we sometimes have unrealistic expectations for both ourselves and our children. As moms, we aren’t perfect and sometimes we are going to lose our temper. And if we aren’t perfect, how can we expect our children to be either? For more tips from the Irish Twin’s Momma, see her full post called, “Terrible Twos with Irish Twin’s” and her post called, “Do you Have a Threeanger?”
5. Dress your child comfortably
I have to admit, my kids are never dressed like Baby Gap models. Maybe it’s because I have two of them and it’s hard enough getting shoes on everyone. If everyone is in clean, weather appropriate, and slightly matching clothes then I’m thrilled. It’s hard enough getting out the door so I’m definitely not going to put my children in something itchy, scratchy, hot, or generally uncomfortable.
6. Learn baby sign language
I think one of the biggest causes for tantrums is that we have no idea what our toddler is saying. Another major cause is hunger or thirst. Oh, and toddlers are notoriously picky about food.
Both my husband and I, knew a little American Sign Language before starting with our children. I have continued to take some adult ASL classes because it is something I’ve always been passionate about.
We used the Signing Time DVDs to learn with our children. I also talk about in my post about six things that surprised me about motherhood is how helpful learning sign language for kids can be.
According to Heathline.com, possible benefits of using sign language for your little ones include:
- an earlier ability to understand spoken words
- earlier use of spoken language skills
- earlier use of sentence structure in spoken language
- decrease in crying and whining in infants
- better bonding between parent and child
- potential IQ increase
I really credit ASL for helping to grow my son’s spoken vocabulary. Once he sees the sign, it helps him remember the spoken word that corresponds with it.
I would definitely recommend learning as many food related signs as possible. Learning the sign for more, up, and all done was also very helpful.
7. Make sure they get good quality time with you
I’m a firm believer that toddlers need tons of quality time with their parents, especially their mom. I know we live in such a busy time and whether you’re a working mom or stay at home mom, there’s always so much stuff to get done! Even just thirty minutes of quality time can help a child connect and bond with you. Children often act out because they don’t get enough attention. Lots of hugs and cuddles can’t hurt anything either.
8. Busy box
If you haven’t yet checked out my post about toddler busy boxes, you should! I love these boxes! I made three different ones and I only allow my son to have them at the doctor’s office or at restaurants. They seem to hold his attention anywhere from twenty to thirty minutes. If we use a busy box and then include the time he spends eating, we can usually make it out of a fast-casual restaurant with no tantrums.
I do recommend that you keep the busy box in your car or put away most of the time to keep it fresh and fun for your toddler. Like I said earlier, I only use it for doctors’ offices or for restaurants.
9. Make sure your child gets plenty of physical activity
Our family lives in Houston, Texas and you better believe it gets hot. It’s usually either very close to 100 degrees or over it most summer days. We love going to the pool as a family or filling up the kiddie pool and water table in the backyard during the hot days.
We are lucky that it never gets super cold and we’re never snowed in. We did live in Canada for a little while because of my husband’s job, but luckily we moved back before winter came. Maybe you northern moms can tell me how you manage! I think I’d get a little stir crazy in the winter months.
I have to admit with two little ones, I don’t always make it outside or to an activity every day but I do try to make sure my children get outdoor time, playground time, indoor playground time, or just run around time most days. It is definitely a priority in our house and I notice a big shift to bad behavior if we don’t get out every day. If kids don’t get their energy out, it can lead to bad behavior.
We love our swings, dome, and water table to get get some wiggles and energy out.
10. Keep a consistent routine
Children crave consistency and routine. Try to keep meal times, snack times, nap times, and bed times around the same time every day. I know it can be hard to squeeze in errands or grocery shopping in a tiny window of time, but it will help reduce toddler tantrums.
11. Remove food dyes from their diet.
Again, like I said above I’m no doctor and if you suspect something is going on please consult your physician. It has been proven that a lot of children have a sensitivity to food dyes. There’s plenty of theories on food dye and children out there. One website I have checked out is the Center for Science in the Public Interest, specifically this article entitled: Parents’ Comments about their Children’s Sensitivity to Food Dyes. It is very eye opening and worth reading, if you suspect your toddler has behavior problems or tantrums after eating foods that contain dye.
12. Ask someone else to help
My son has no problem doing certain tasks if my husband asks. Maybe this is also the reason why my kids are perfect angels for grandma.
There’s just something about the mother/child relationship. Your child probably feels most comfortable with you since you’re their mom. It’s natural but because of that they may act out more around you or without knowing come to you to process their difficult emotions.
I find that if my husband helps my son brush his teeth it goes much better and there is way less drama. Maybe because my husband is working all day and my son doesn’t get as much time with him. The same with my daughter as well. I’m not really sure, but it’s always worth a shot to switch up duties with your spouse.
13. Give two options
I wouldn’t recommend more than two options because it’s hard for them to process more than that. My best examples include:
- Do you want to play nice or go to time out?
- Would you like banana or crackers?
- Do you want to play in your room or downstairs?
- Do you want mommy or daddy to help you brush your teeth?
If my child is being difficult and not choosing, I can usually throw in a, “you decide or I decide,” and they’ll pick one.
Also, making your toddler choose really helps keep up the flow of things and it helps them to feel like they have some say in things.
14. Is your child really misbehaving?
In the moment ask if you are overreacting or expecting too much from your toddler. Some days I’m grumpy, don’t feel good, or haven’t gotten enough sleep. Or maybe my kids are doing something because we haven’t taught them not to yet. They may also not feel good or be grumpy that day as well. I also have to remember they are still so little! Toddler tantrums are a normal part of child development and they’re also just a phase.
Lastly, sometimes tantrums are just unavoidable. Your toddler is learning, growing, and blooming into a person with their own likes, dislikes, thoughts, and feelings. They are taking in so much and learning at such an incredible speed. Their world seems simple but it’s actually quite complex. They have big emotions in such small bodies. Patience is the key to all good parenting.
I hope you enjoyed reading my 15 best tips to reduce toddler tantrums. Do you have a toddler who throws tantrums? What are your best tips to reduce toddler tantrums?
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