Basics of Toddler Care

Basics of Toddler Care

By Babysits, 8 min read

Want to brush up on the basics of taking care of a toddler? Check out our basics of toddler care here. We'll cover getting dressed, diaper changes, temper tantrums, diet, first aid, and more!

Basics of Toddler Care

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Basics of Toddler Care


Dressing a Toddler

Getting a toddler dressed isn’t always the smoothest event of the day. In fact, it can be quite difficult. Take the case of this mom spending up to 35 minutes negotiating what her 3 year old daughter was going to wear that day (sound familiar to anyone?).

However, this isn’t strange. In the above article from the New York Times, Sally Hunter, PhD explains, “It’s built into toddlers and preschoolers that they can be autonomous.”

Depending on their age, being involved or even picking out their own clothes to wear can be a way for them to practice autonomy. Only, they may not always be making the most rational choices. (No, wearing your underwear on your head is not the most practical outfit).

Luckily, there are plenty of strategies we can take to help kids get dressed, while taking autonomy and learning in the process.

Strategies to help kids get dressed

  1. Give them limited choices - give them autonomy to select out of an assortment of limited, appropriate clothing choices
  2. Select clothes that are easy to get on and off (nonrestrictive). For example, loose or elastic clothing.
  3. Break down getting dressed into easy steps. (Foot through left pant leg, foot through right pant leg, and pull up etc.)

Getting a toddler dressed

Depending on the age of the child, they’ll likely have different competencies when it comes to getting dressed. This is associated with their level of fine motor skills development.

Here’s a helpful guide for common developmental milestones of getting dressed per age:

  • One year olds can usually: Hold their arms out for sleeves and push their arms through and hold their feet up for shoes. Take off socks and shoes.
  • Two year olds can usually: Take off unfastened coats, unlaced shoes, push down pants (with assistance), and find arm holes in t-shirts.
  • Three year olds can usually: Pull down pants (unassisted), put on t-shirts with little help, put on shoes (without lacing them), zip or unzip (not counting initially fastening the zipper together), button large buttons, take off t-shirts with little or no help.

Changing a Toddler’s Diaper

Depending on their age, diapers may be an integral step in toddler dress up (and dress down).

Exactly how putting on and changing diapers will vary slightly depending on the age of the child and type of diaper.

Main steps - how to put on a diaper

  1. Have the toddler lay on a flat, clean surface.
  2. Hold their legs up and slide the diaper underneath them.
  3. Pull the front of the diaper over the stomach and fasten the pins or tabs to the front of the diaper.

For older toddlers who use pull up diapers, these can be treated similar to putting on a pair of pants (finding the leg holes and pulling up).

Main steps for how to changing a diaper

  1. Find a clean flat surface, gather all of your diaper changing supplies in arms reach, and wash your hands.
  2. Unfasten the diaper using the tabs, lift the toddler’s bottom by raising them up gently by their ankles, and remove the dirt diaper from underneath them.
  3. Wipe the baby from front to back and clean the area.
  4. Slide a clean diaper under their bottom and fasten the new diaper.
  5. Throw away the old diaper and sanitize the cleaning surface as well as your and the toddlers hands.

Changing a toddler's diaper


Dealing with Toddler Tantrums

Tantrums are a natural behavioral response for many toddlers. But, what are toddler tantrums and why do they happen?

Put simply, tantrums are an emotional outburst kids use to express themselves. They can be caused by many different factors including fatigue, hunger, feeling ignored, and/or anxiety.

One of the most common foundations for tantrums is frustration or anger. In particular, as toddlers grow older they also want autonomy. Temper tantrums are a common way for toddlers to respond to not being allowed autonomy or not getting what they want.

But how do we deal with toddler tantrums? Here are some helpful tips:

How to avoid toddler tantrums ahead of time

There are several ways to avoid tantrums or reduce the chance of them occurring.

Some tips include:

  • Establish a routine, plan things ahead for time when a child is less likely to be tired, cranky, or hungry.
  • Let the child make some choices. This way they can have some feeling of autonomy.
  • Avoid situations likely to cause tantrums (such as avoiding candy aisles in the grocery store if kids historically have meltdowns when they aren’t allowed to get the candy they want).

But what about when the tantrum is already happening?

Top tips for dealing with tantrums in progress are: 1. Stay calm. 2. Try to distract them. 3. Try to understand the root of the tantrum. If you know they are throwing tantrums because they are hungry or thirsty, it may be relatively easy to solve.

Dealing with toddler tantrums


Activities to do with toddlers

There are plenty of activities you can do with toddlers. Since they’re at an important developmental stage, many activities at this point can easily double as recreational and learning opportunities.

Think of activities such as the following:

  • Simple arts and crafts/coloring
  • Reading to them
  • Playing simple games and make believe
  • Physical activities such as dancing, running, jumping

Activities for toddlers

For some more inspiration, check out our activities and diys.


Feeding a Toddler

It is important to remember that large pieces of any food can be dangerous for children under 4 years old. Because of this, it is important to cut foods (particularly hard foods) into small pieces when feeding a toddler. This helps reduce the risk of choking.

Some examples of food to make sure to cut into smaller pieces are:

  • Apples
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Green beans
  • Hot dogs
  • Grapes or cherry tomatoes (must be cut into quarters)

Toddler Dietary Recommendations

Regarding nutrition, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that toddlers should eat food from all of the basic categories every day:

  • Lean proteins: meat, fish, eggs, poultry, legumes
  • Dairy
  • Grain
  • Fruits and vegetables

These are simply guidelines and may not fit all children. We would always suggest consulting your pediatrician when it comes to specific questions regarding your toddler’s diet.

However, what about when kids are really difficult about what they will and won’t eat? Toddlerhood can also be a common stage for the development of picky eating. Luckily we’ve got you covered!

Here are some tips for dealing with picky eaters!

  • Don’t bribe kids with food.
  • Make meal time, family time.
  • Keep offering new foods (it can take many times tasting before a toddler becomes acclimated to a new food).
  • Don’t force foods, but encourage them. (Include a little bit of a new or disliked food along with other foods that the kid likes.)
  • Use finger foods to make food fun for toddlers.

dealing with picky eaters


Basic Toddler Safety and First Aid

There are many basic toddler health and safety guidelines to take into account, some of which we’ve mentioned above.

Here is a recap of these and some other important toddler safety tips.

  • Watch out for choking hazards - this can be food (be careful with large pieces of food), small items (toys or everyday objects), and more.
  • Avoid sharp objects and toys - make sure to keep them out of reach of toddlers.
  • Be careful with hot beverages or putting objects near the edge of surfaces - toddlers can hurt themselves reaching for and knocking them over.
  • Be aware of allergies/allergens - make sure you know what the toddler is allergic to and read labels to know what products contain.

Toddler safety tips

For more specifics about how to deal with accidents and provide first aid for children, we recommend checking out the Red Cross' resources. You can also take a free online child and baby first aid course via the IFRC (International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies).


Looking to get into toddler care or looking to find childcare for your toddler? Why not sign up on Babysits and get started! Want more useful information about caring for children? Check out our community resources!