We've all been there. You're at the playground with friends and it's time to leave. And, sure enough, your toddler has an epic meltdown. How can this be avoided??? Today the topic of Babywise Friendly Blog Network Pinterest Day is transitions and I'm talking about ways to help your toddler transition to avoid those dreaded meltdowns! Toddlers feel emotions in a BIG WAY and communicate those emotions through tantrums, sobfests or just straight meltdowns. Transitions are SO important at this crucial age. Communicating with them, letting them know what's coming next, and preparing them when it's time to switch gears all help them to juggle these tender emotions and avoid meltdowns.
1. Meet Their Needs: It may seem obvious but making sure your toddler is full and well rested are both important elements to avoid meltdowns. All the transitioning prep in the WORLD won't help your toddler avoid a tantrum if they aren't previously set up for success. As a parent it's easier to see that a baby is overtired or hungry than it is a toddler. Often we become more slack on the toddler schedule because they are at such a fun age to go and do and experience the world. But without their set routine in place you can't fully ENJOY the experiences with them because those meltdowns will occur and they will occur often.
2. Prepare in Advance: When you pull up to the playground, let your toddler know your expectations. "We'll be at the playground for a little while and we will have fun but if you choose to pitch a fit we will leave." Lay the groundwork to let them know if THEY choose to misbehave then the fun will end. Letting them know the plans in advance also helps prepare them to transition from sitting in the car to playing and having fun but while knowing it's for a limited time and with expectations attached. I also don't recommend preparing too far in advance. Toddlers have short attention spans and it's best to communicate with them right when the event is about to happen rather than before you leave the house or that morning when they wake up etc.
3. Begin The Transition Early: You know you have to leave the playground in 5 minutes. Toddlers don't understand time. I've heard SO many moms say "ok son, 5 more minutes." That child has no clue how long 5 minutes is. And when that 5 minutes is up they surely won't be ready to leave. Instead it's better to put it in more concrete terms that the child DOES understand. Instead of a time frame let them know "Ok honey, we are leaving in a few minutes so we have time for 3 more slides." Make sure you require a YES MA'AM response. Not only does this let you know they heard you but that they understood. And as they go down the slide? Remind them "that's one...you have two more." Then "that's two...this is the LAST TIME."
4. Praise Praise Praise: When they come down that slide for the last time? Tell them to come to you and that's it's time to go and PRAISE LIKE CRAZY! They obeyed, they did awesome and they need to be cheered on for it. Having that happy attitude when it's time to leave something fun is contagious. They will feel happy because you are happy and they will be less likely to have a breakdown.
5. Say Bye Bye: My favorite tool for transitioning is saying goodbye. When I put my daughter down for nap she has NO issues putting down whatever toy she's holding. She puts it down and says "Bye bye toy!" She thinks it's hilarious to tell everything in her room "bye bye" and it makes it so easy to transition from play time to nap time. Same goes for leaving the playground. Say "Bye bye slide! See you later!" Telling something (or someone) goodbye helps the toddler to realize they are leaving but also reminds them that they can see it again (or visit again) in the future. It's a clear transition term. We're done with this and moving on to something else.
These tips work in ANY and EVERY situation. I used the playground as an example because that's SUCH a common place for toddlers to have breakdowns. But, as I mentioned, it works great at home when it's time for bed. Or time for bath. Or time to get in the car. Or really anything! Make sure those needs are met in advance, prepare for what's coming, begin in advance of the change, praise like crazy, and say "bye bye" to give a clear marker of the transition occurring. Bam! Happy, meltdown free toddler!
Be sure to visit all of the Babywise Friendly Bloggers today on this topic! And if you're not already following me on Pinterest you can do so here (tons of resources on parenting, party planning and more!) and also the Babywise Friendly Bloggers have our own Pinterest page here!