The Toddler Syndrome

a special feature*

Now that your grandkids are enrolled or starting in pre-school activities and classes, the whole dynamic of the day and mindset are surely going to change as well.  Transitioning and growing is the healthy nature of every single child as he or she flourishes.  Helping and understanding the kids in different stages of growth as a grandparent is equally as important, because for the most part, it’s been a lot of years between parenting and now grandparenting!

While I work with children day in and day out, I get to see a side of them full of adventure, imagination and a willingness to jump into action at any time. When kids are just toddlers, controlling the sequence and timing of activities is equally as important as choosing the right activity that is age appropriate.

Making the decision to take a toddler into a store to do some serious shopping may not be ideal with a little one who hasn’t had a nap or some down time. Equally as important for grandparents or parents alike is to realize that when the kids are picked up from their little program or preschool activity, it’s best not to schedule a barrage of errands and activities. These kids are truly tired, and scheduling every moment isn’t productive at all!

Here are some tips to be mindful of:

  • Toddlers are beginning to experiment with their sense of themselves as powerful people in the world, so they can also be defiant.
  • Toddlers are determined, so they can also be obstinate.
  • Toddlers are exuberant, so they can also be impulsive about doing dangerous things.
  • Toddlers are excited about exploring, so they can also get into lots of trouble faster than you can answer the doorbell.
  • Toddlers don’t have an off switch. When they get tired, they get more and more wound up, until they crash.


My Most Successful Tip: Giving choices may be the single most useful tool grandparents and parents have for managing life with young children. It really is almost a magic wand, at least until children are about five.

Why does this little trick work so effectively? Because it’s a win-win solution. You’re offering only choices that are okay with you, so you’re happy; and the child gets to pick one, so they are happy.  This way, you sidestep the power struggle, because you aren’t making them do something; rather they are choosing. The child is in charge, within your parameters. No one likes to be forced to do something. So how do you use this magic wand? Give limited choices; make them as palatable as possible to the child, and eliminate any options that are unacceptable to you.

Every day at school, bright eyed toddlers are coming into our classroom full of energy and enthusiasm. By mid-afternoon, they are weary, tired, often hungry (they don’t even like to participate in the event of eating with the class anymore)

Here are a couple of tips I use to keep them engaged in mellow activities that won’t stir up meltdowns:

  1. Storytime under a tree – Children love to be outdoors, so in a late afternoon invite your toddler to pick out whichever stories he/she wants from your personal library (or public!) and have story time under a cool shaded tree. The kids love being visually stimulated with nature and their surroundings, yet focused on one-on-one story time.
  2. Snack time cooking class – an afternoon snack is a necessity (not only for toddlers but everyone, right!?) Let your little ones help you whip up the snack that they want, within reason.
  3. Draw or paint a picture of their day – I like to let my students independently color or paint at the end of the day. It’s a great way for them to relax their bodies, but still be self-expressive. Ask them to draw a picture of what they did at school, or what they want to eat for dinner. Giving them direction is a must.



*The Toddler Syndrome is an exclusive feature for by Sarina Peddy, Pre-School Teacher and GPL Executive Assistant.