Establish predictable and consistent routines for toddlers

Take time to create consistent and predictable routines for toddlers to reduce anxiety induced by object-permanence insecurity.

Simple games like

Simple games like "peek-a-boo" can help kids understand object/person permanence. Photo credit: Hanisch

Consistent and predictable routines and schedules are important to help toddlers feel safe, secure and loved. Babies and young toddlers have a difficult time understanding object permanence. This means that when you are out of sight you are non-existent to them. As a result, they may cry or become agitated because they have no idea that you still exist. You can help them understand object/person permanence by playing simple games with them. Games like “peek-a-boo” are an excellent way to display this concept to babies and young toddlers. This can be really fun and also strengthens the child’s trust and sense of predictability in you.

Toddlers will often fuss and cry when they are separated from their parent. This is a very normal reaction and you can help your toddler with this transition by setting up a very predictable and consistent routine. This is important for separating and reunification. Making certain you explain to your toddler that he/she will be staying and you will be back to pick him/her up. It is very important to explain to a toddler who will be picking him/her up, as well. Although young toddlers don’t have a sense of time it is important to take time and explain when they will be picked up.

As long as this routine is consistent your toddler will have more trust and confidence in what you tell them when you are dropping them off. Always remember to never sneak away from your child. Sneaking away increases your child’s insecurity about when you might sneak away again and they may protest with fear of you disappearing unexpectedly.

Sometimes writing out specific routines, such as, day care drop off and pick up, bedtime, morning etc. will help eliminate confusion and frustration for both child and parent. For helpful handouts, visit The Incredible Years website.

For more articles on child development and parenting, please visit the Michigan State University Extension website.

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