• Meghan Douglass

5 Activities To Help Survive a Grumpy Toddler

Updated: Mar 29

Most parents of a toddler will tell you they are not always the sweet little angel they like to pretend to be. Maybe some are, I don't know, I only have my own experience to base this on, but there are times my 16 month old son is a demon in sheep clothing. He is the cutest thing on the planet, I swear I'm not biased, but somehow, behind that angelic smile, is a monster waiting to escape when you least expect it.

If his tantrums now are anything to go by, I am not looking forward to the terrible twos. I am hoping by then I have worked out great ways to manage and prevent them, fingers crossed. In the mean time here is a bit of what I have learnt so far and what has helped me to understand and manage when it feels like a chaotic tornado is whirling it's way through my house.

His tantrums happen for a number of reasons and I'm getting better at predicting them now which helps with dodging flying objects he's thrown and somehow aimed them directly at my head.

Reasons for tantrums:

  • Boredom: This is one that can be the easiest to redirect and channel into something else. When tiny hands are idle and they have nothing to stimulate them visually, their brains snap and when a toddlers brain snaps, the only way they have to express their frustration is by throwing a tantrum. They haven't yet developed the language skills to explain what is wrong or what they need in words.

  • Overtired: The closer you are to naps and bedtime, the worse this one will be and it is not always the easiest one to manage. My son is not a great napper or sleeper, some days are better than others, but I know if it's been a rough nights sleep then I will have a rough day with him as well.

  • Frustration: This can be caused by any number of things, seeing something they want to play with but aren't allowed to, or not being able to make something do what they want it to do. My son gets particularly frustrated when he can see how something works but can't quite make it do it himself, like a block he can't quite angle right to get it into a hole. This is common with toys that are slightly developmentally advanced for them if they are physically unable to do a task they have seen done.

All these things don't just lead to tantrums but can also result in an all around grumpy toddler who can be very difficult to manage. They can scream, throw things and lash out physically at mum or dad too. None of these are fun or easy to deal with and while a lot of these behaviours can be managed and moderated over time with different techniques, this does take time (it is absolutely worth the effort to find these and do them though, but in the moment sometimes you need a quick solution to help maintain sanity). When you're at your breaking point and they are at their breaking point, it's handy to have a few ideas up your sleeve to help survive.

It's all well and good to know why something is happening but how can you try to manage your own stress levels when your toddler is testing your last nerve? I've come up with a few techniques which have worked for us and helped save not only my own sanity, but also my little mans. It's not easy being a tiny human who wants to do everything the big humans are doing.

5 activities for surviving a grumpy toddler

  1. Go for a walk. Not only does this one help distract a grumpy toddler, but it is also great for parents too. Fresh air and exercise is great for helping clear the brain and shake off some of the cobwebs. It's a great time too for helping develop different language skills because there is an ever changing world going past as you walk along, which is different to the world inside your home.

  2. Crank the music. My son loves music, ever since he was a baby he's been grooving away to what ever tunes we pump out the speaker. He loves to dance and move around but he also loves to be held while he dances too. Music can be super uplifting for your tiny human but also for you as well. It cuts through the constant silence and helps drown out some of the noise going on in your brain which makes it easier to enjoy a moment with your little one. So not only does it help distract him but it also helps distract me too.

  3. Go visit Grandma or a friend. This one may not always be practical, it depends on other peoples availability, but there may be days where you can use this and find it really beneficial. I find the change in scenery can make all the difference to my little man and it's also a great mood lifter for me too. He loves having the stimulation of someone who isn't Mummy around, I'm pretty sure he gets sick of me, and there are different things to play with and look at too. Having interaction with people other than Mummy and Daddy is really useful for getting them used to other people early on.

  4. Play in the backyard and let them get as grubby as they want. I know that for some mothers this can be easier said than done. I know there are times where the thought of cleaning up a child who hates being cleaned fills me with a sense of dread, but if you can build up the courage to plow on and get them out in the fresh air, you won't regret it. Letting kids play with grass and dirt can be great for their sensory development and letting them run around more freely will hopefully get them tired enough to actually sleep (you can dream at least).

  5. The art of distraction and redirection. If none of these others are viable options for you in the moment I have found sometimes all I need to do with my grumpy, moody toddler is to distract him. This can involve something as simple as moving to a different room with different toys or books to play with. I like to do this with my sons bedroom. If he is getting a bit too much to handle in the rest of the house, we go to his bedroom and he goes and pulls out books from his shelf and looks through them. It can be enough to just distract him from what ever was causing the tantrum to begin with, which is sometimes all you really need.

Hopefully you can use one of these tips to gain a small amount of sanity in a day that might feel a little too much. A grumpy toddler is one of the hardest challenges I have faced in my adult life (at least it feels like it is in the moment). They are wilful and headstrong and are so much louder than you would like. Anything that can help make things easier and distract them from their own frustration is worth a shot at the very least.

Good luck in your quest for a modicum of calm, I hope you enjoyed this post. Please share it with anyone you know who might find it useful and don't forget to subscribe.

Toddler with hands on ears

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