Inside: Want to know how to have a more independent, polite, and responsible toddler? Here’s the scoop on the top healthy habits for toddlers that will help you get there, plus a cheat sheet that you can download!
One day I while I was dropping my daughter off at daycare, as we were walking to her classroom she was giving her usual “hello”s and waving to everyone she passed. A fellow mom told me “she is just so polite, she always says hello when I see her and will blow me a kiss… she seems so mature for her age!”
My daughter is probably one of the friendliest little 18-month-olds that I know (not to brag). Don’t get me wrong, she certainly still throws tantrums and is strong-willed and defiant at times. But for the most part, she is pretty polite! She likes to say hello, bye-bye, wave, give hugs. She also will help me hold the door open for you, put her own jacket away in her cubby, and say thank you for helping her open the child gate.
However, don’t think that we made it to this point on pure luck! No, we have worked with our daughter since before she even started talking or walking, to teach her healthy habits that encourage and reinforce polite and positive behaviors. Teaching your toddler to be a courteous and respectful child takes lots of time and repetition, but I’m here to tell you that it’s possible!
I’ve put together a list of the most important healthy habits for toddlers that you can start working on today! I’ve even broken down each good habit into simple actions that you can take to help build towards success with your toddler!
Take a read below, and be sure to check out my Healthy Toddler Habits Cheat Sheet! Print it out and put it on your fridge for a daily reminder of these awesome healthy habits for your toddler!
Building good habits for your toddler
1. Practice Good Hygiene
This is probably an obvious positive habit to be teaching your child. Though, while it may seem obvious, you may not realize that there are certain actions and tasks that you can be doing with your toddler to reinforce what it means to have good hygiene. As adults, we easily go about our day practicing everyday routines without even thinking about what we’re doing. Our toddlers, on the other hand, are just learning their routines, and it’s our job as parents to ensure that we reinforce in our children the same daily hygiene habits that we practice ourselves.
- Brush Teeth Daily ( x 2)! Build it into your routine so you don’t forget. – We have a certain routine we practice each morning. Wake up, change her diaper, have our morning snack (she eats breakfast at school), get dressed, brush teeth, and go! By building this simple task into a set routine, like their bedtime routine, you’ll ensure that you never forget to practice brushing twice a day!
- Teaching your child to help clean their body during bath time. Take advantage of bath time as another great opportunity to teach your child to take responsibility for their hygiene. Ask them to help wash their own body, or even wash their toys! This helps to teach them the meaning of bath time and the importance of getting clean.
2. Take Responsibility for Personal Items
Being responsible for your own things is a huge task. Especially for toddlers. This is something that can take a long time to teach. As an adult, when life is feeling overwhelming or we think we have too much on our shoulders, we find ourselves saying “I wish I could be a kid again and be free of responsibility!” But, while the responsibilities are different, and maybe hold a bit more weight when you’re an adult, all children do have some level of responsibility! It’s great to teach your children from a young age to be accountable and responsible for their belongings. We want to reinforce these healthy habits for our toddlers so that as they get bigger, our children have the building blocks to grow and continue those healthy habits into adulthood.
- Put away shoes. Whenever we come inside the house, we take our shoes off. Instead of just putting them away for my toddler, I help her take them off and then ask her to carry them and come with me to put them away. Sometimes she’ll even go do it on her own!
- Hang up your jacket. This is the same idea as putting away shoes. If we are wearing jackets, we make sure to always hang them up where they belong, rather than just tossing them wherever!
- Toss dirty clothes in the hamper. My toddler is obsessed with making sure dirty clothes get put in the hamper! (Maybe she’s the odd one out?!) Anytime she is changing clothes, we encourage her to gather up her dirty clothes and go put them in her hamper. She likes to do the same for us when my husband or I change clothes!
- Help put away clean clothes. While she isn’t the best folder, my toddler does like to help put clean clothes away in her drawers. Not only does this teach her another healthy habit, but it teaches her where everything goes, so if I tell her to go grab a shirt or pair of pants, she knows where to look. Yay for independent toddlers!
3. Enjoy physical activity
Teaching our children to get outdoors and be active is so important for their physical and mental health. So it’s no surprise that encouraging our kids to enjoy physical activity is on our list of healthy habits for toddlers! For the most part, toddlers are go-go-go, constantly, though it can be easy to slip into a more sedentary lifestyle especially if you get into the habit of letting your kids sit in front of a screen. (It happens to all of us, but it’s important to recognize when it’s become too much and time to make a change!)
- Limit screen-time to a set schedule. We try to stick to set times when we let our toddler watch a movie or show. On the weekdays, this is usually in the morning for about 20 mins before going to school, and in the evening for about 30 mins after dinner. On the weekends our schedule is a bit more relaxed, but we try to limit her total screen time to a couple of hours at most.
- Take a daily walk. Try to get outside at least once a day, weather permitting, even if it’s just for a walk around your neighborhood! The fresh air and sunshine will do wonders for your toddler’s mood!
- Enjoy outdoor activities and playtime on the weekends. Taking a daily walk is a fantastic habit to get into, but we like to try to extend our outdoor time on the weekends by taking part in a fun activity or heading to a local playground. Playing outdoors and making physical activity fun for your toddler will teach them to enjoy being active as they eventually grow into young adults!
4. Take Care of Your Toys
So many of these good habits that we are teaching our toddlers play a part in helping them to reach a certain level of independence. This independence is not only important for ensuring your kids become responsible and confident adults, but it also helps mom out! By teaching your child habits that help them do things on their own, they’re no longer relying on you for every… single… thing! Teaching my toddler to take care of her own toys has been such a simple and effective good habit to teach that has done wonders for making her less reliant on me for items that she can easily be responsible for.
- Clean up after each mess. As well as before transitioning to meal or nap time. Not only does this help keep your organized house from getting out of control, but it teaches your child that they are responsible for undoing the mess that they made! Now, you shouldn’t expect your toddler to clean up all on their own, so you’ll probably end up doing a good chunk of the work. But the important thing here is that you ensure they are helping, and not just watching you! Even if they only put away two of the twenty toys they got out, you’re helping to reinforce important healthy habits for your toddler!
- Put toys where they can find them again. Have your toddler return the toys to a toy box or bin that is easily accessible to them. By getting them in the good habit of actually putting their toys away themselves, they will quickly learn exactly where to find them the next time they want to play. By making sure that they are in an easily and safely accessible spot for them, you are helping them build that independence, as they can now get to their toys (and return them) without your help!
5. Be willing to help others
Teaching your child to offer their help to others in need is probably one of the most important healthy habits for toddlers on this list. It can be as simple as helping to hold a door for a stranger or helping their school friends put away the toys when playtime is over. Begin this good habit with such simple tasks at a young age and you’ll see your toddler grow into a caring and compassionate big kid who will lend a hand to those in need.
- Ask for help from your toddler. Asking your toddler to help you with simple things such as putting away groceries or putting laundry in the dryer, will help to teach them to identify when they can help others. Praise them for helping to reinforce the positivity that comes from offering help.
- Encourage your toddler to ask you for help when they need it. Rather than just jumping in to help whenever I see my toddler struggling with anything, I always make a point to ask if she needs help. She will usually then repeat “help,” and I’ll assist her. Practicing this often teaches her that it’s okay to ask for help, and she learns to recognize when help is needed.
6. Practice daily cleanliness
In our household, we try to prevent common colds and illnesses as much as possible, as do most families with little ones. With a toddler, this can be a hard task. They pick up germs everywhere. As a working mom with a toddler in daycare, this is a nearly impossible task. But, we still think it’s incredibly important to try, and practicing daily cleanliness is one of the many important healthy habits for your toddler. It reinforces good hygiene, and gives you the opportunity to teach them where we can pick up germs, and how to keep them at bay!
- Wash hands before and after every meal. Teach your toddler that before and after every meal, hands need to be washed! This is especially important for toddlers, as many of them still use their hands for a variety of finger foods.
- Take off your shoes when you get home. As soon as we get in the house, we immediately take our shoes off. It’s not so much because we don’t allow shoes on in the house, but more so as a way to limit germs. Our toddler spends a lot of time playing with toys and rolling around on the floor. No need to track unwanted germs throughout the home.
- Clean up after every meal. When we finish with a meal at the table, we always include our toddler in the cleanup. Not only does she help wipe off her face and hands, but we ask her to help wash the table and put dishes in the sink. It all comes back to teaching her to be responsible for her own things – including dishes that she dirtied!
- Throw things away in the trash. Teach your toddler where your trash can is located, and what exactly goes in there. Get them in the bait of throwing their own trash away, or at least having you help them do it!
7. Develop a love for reading
We all know that instilling in our children a love for reading from a young age will help tremendously in setting them up for success once they head to school. The good thing is that this healthy habit is such an easy one to work on!
- Read every day. Yep, it’s as simple as that! We read each night to our daughter, before bedtime. This is when it fits best in our schedule, but adjust based on what works best for you! As long as you get in one book a day, you are on track for developing a strong love for reading!
8. Enjoy healthy and wholesome eating
I know you’re thinking, “yeah, yeah, veggies are important, but toddlers are picky,” and I totally get it! My toddler changes her mind each day about what she likes, so I know it can be frustrating at times to try and get them to like their broccoli, or anything healthy! While working on building up to the enjoyment of healthy and wholesome eating (you’ll get there!), focus on encouragement and reinforcement through your own actions, rather than counting every bite they take!
- Encourage trying new foods, even if they don’t like them or eat them all. Sometimes it takes offering the broccoli 5, 6, or 10 times before they’ll take a bite! Just keep offering, and eventually, they’ll try it. They may not like it, but one day… they might!
- Stay hydrated. Keeping up your water intake is an important part of staying healthy! Teach your toddler to ask for water instead of sugary juices (we just don’t keep juice in the house!). Get them their own water bottle that you can keep filled at all times!
- Make eating colorful. Toddlers love color, and identifying colors! Keep their plates full of different colored foods to keep them interested. Having spaghetti for the main course? Pair it with some peas and corn to give them some contrast!
- Enjoy family dinners together as a bonding time. Make dinner time an enjoyable experience for your child. Toddlers love to copy their parents. So make sure you are all eating together at the same time. You never know, it might encourage your child to eat that green vegetable if they see you enjoying it!
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