Teaching Your Toddler to Wait: 3 Tips

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Toddlers are self-centered, loving, opinionated, and silly little beings.  One minute they are laughing and playing.  The next minute they are falling on the floor and kicking, because you helped them put their shirt on (the nerve!).  

As a parent of a strong willed two-year-old, one of my biggest challenges has been teaching him how to wait.

 Let's face it, toddlers aren't the most patient people.  It's hard to be patient with my toddler when I'm trying to make dinner and I constantly hear, “mommy, I want… mommy, I need…”.  It's clear that the word wait just doesn't seem to apply to him.  

On your good days (you know, the days when you have had enough coffee to keep you smiling) here are some tips to use to help teach your child how to wait.  

Image via Flickr/Ian D. Keating

Provide Them the Language – A toddler doesn't have the language to express exactly how they feel, but it's never too early to talk to them about these feelings.   If your child is melting down while waiting to take a turn on the slide at the playground instead of just saying, “You have to wait your turn,”  try saying “I know you're feeling mad because you have to wait.  Waiting is hard!  Your turn is soon.”

Image via Flickr/juhansonin

Be Prepared – One of the best ways to teach your child about waiting is to set them up for success and then praise them.  Keep your diaper bag stocked with simple, yet engaging activities for times when your child has to wait, such as at a restaurant.  Some of my toddler's favorites are dollar bin toys, sticker books, silly putty, and a mini magna doodle.   You can also help your child wait patiently by singing songs or telling stories.  Praise your child when they are doing well waiting, to acknowledge the desired behavior.  

Image via Flickr/storyvillegirl

Give Them a Visual – A toddler won't be able to grasp the concept of a few minutes, but you can show them using a visual timer.  There are several visual timer apps that are child-friendly.  My favorite is Children's Countdown, which uncovers a cute picture while the time ticks down.  A timer gives your child a sense of control, as they know when the timer is up the wait is over. 

Life with a toddler can be challenging at times.  At other times it is amazing.  During the hard times when your little one seems to have no patience for waiting, remember that this soon will pass.

How do you help your child learn how to wait?  

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Teaching Your Toddler to Wait: 3 Tips

Mindi is a working mom with three boys ages 4, 2, and an infant (born June 2013). She spent her first 8 years of her career in Speech-Language Pathology at a Children's Hospital. She currently works with adults and children in home health. The real fun for her happens when she is at home with her boys, chasing them around and pretending to be a super hero. She blogs about life as a working mom at Simply Stavish. Her weekly feature, Words in the Sand, teaches parents how to grow their child's s ... More

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  1. LIZ says:

    im gonna use these tips tnx so much

  2. Theresa says:

    I am having an awful time trying to teach my daughter to wait. Especially when I am trying to take care of her little brother. Sometimes what I do is try to have her help me with certain things, I feel like if she helps than maybe she will soon understand that mommy can only do one thing at a time. Sometimes it works and sometimes it don’t. Since I have had my son it seems like all she wants is mommy and not daddy half of the time.

  3. Summer says:

    I will have to check that app out! 🙂

  4. Naomi says:

    I think its very important to teach your child to wait it gives them an early sense of humility

  5. Debbie says:

    i think “praise” is such a good way to teach anything!!!

  6. Tamar says:

    I always try to pack extra little goodies or tiny toys to keep my toddler busy! They just don’t understand the word wait.


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