Inside: It’s no fun living in a toddler’s bad day. Check out these 10+ tips for helping toddlers navigate their feelings.
Grumpy tots are no fun. Let’s turn around a toddler’s bad days!
I walked into my 2 year old’s room with a chipper good morning greeting, opened the curtains, and said “WOW! What a beautiful day it is today!”
His response was a screamed “I don’t LIKE beautiful days”.
Heaven help me.
It’s going to be one of those days.
You know, the kind of toddler days that you dread. Nothing is good enough, except contradicting and arguing. Disobeying gets taken to a varsity level and whining goes from zero to Caillou in seconds.
Breakfast isn’t what he wanted. Even though it’s exactly what he wanted.
His toys are boring and there’s nothing to do.
Everything I do is wrong and around every corner is a “difference of opinion” between the two of us. We’ve hit a wall and can’t go any further with the day.
As much as I’d like to just curl up in bed and pretend the morning never happened, that’s not going to work with a toddler – a grumpy toddler – tow.
When days begin this bad, I like to start over.
Reset the day.
Think “blowing on a Nintendo cartridge” and getting things back to normal.
If my toddler starts the day in a mood, I pull out all the stops to try and get things back on track.
Here’s my simple trick for fixing a toddler’s bad day:
That’s right. An easy toddler activity can often make all the difference.
Activities act as that reset button. They have a recharging or calming / slightly magical effect on kids that can often give them the happy shift they need.
A little bit of a win on toddler’s bad day.
Seriously, try an activity the next time your toddler is having a hard time.
There’s a connection element to activities.
There’s a personal element to activities.
There’s an element to activities that just says to the child, “I see you. I see that things are rough today.”
I know it might sound too good to be true or a little odd (“seriously lady, my kid is having a bad day and you want me to be the camp director for that?”).
That’s not what I’m saying.
When a child has a rough day…. When they’re having a hard time…. Throw them a life raft. Toss them some rope. Help them climb back up.
These aren’t fancy activities. These aren’t involved set-ups. These are quick ways to give your toddler something to focus on other than the toast they no longer want (and to slow things down a bit while they process all those tough emotions).
Emotions are hard for littles. Our job as parents is to help be the anchor during rough seas.
Activities are my anchor.
10+ easy activities to fix a toddler’s bad day
Do a Popsicle Bath
Nothing – and I mean NOTHING – fixes a bad day faster than a Popsicle bath. I draw my toddler a morning bath with extra bubbles. Some might say a truly ridiculous amount of bubbles. I give him a giant Popsicle and let the calming soak wash over him.
I cannot tell you how many times a Popsicle bath has saved my life. And saved a toddler’s bad day.
Everything else on this list is in random order. But not the Popsicle bath. This is number 1 for a reason.
All other bath time activities
Baths are technically fully body sensory bins. Think about it. It’s a giant sensory bin.
On a toddler’s bad day, a bath can do wonders for their senses and help them make a shift. Don’t wait until these evening for a bath on a bad day – morning baths are giant watery reset buttons.
Here are my favorite baths to help lighten the mood:
Go on a “Fancy” Walk
Getting outside with your toddler can immediately help their emotions.
I love taking walks to get that energy flowing but on days when my toddler is having a rough time getting interested (because of their bad mood), I bust out my “fancy” walks:
- Treasure Walks
- Listening Walks
Treasure Walk: If things are really bad inside the house, take them outside. Go on a walk, but make it a walk with purpose. Take a bag with you and let your toddler fill it full of fun finds. We call these Treasure Walks and they are so special. Taking a few minutes to be together in nature helps things to reset.
When we get home, we dump out our treasures, relive the memory of the walk and bask in the happiness of a saved day.
We go on Listening Walks all the time – it’s a great chance to really listen to the world, have peace within you, and take in nature. Life for toddlers can move pretty fast. Listening Walks help slow things down.
Read Every Book
When things aren’t going well, we take a time-in.
A time-in for extra hugs, extra snuggles, and extra books. I grab the whole book bin and we sit together looking at all the books. Not one book. Not two books. Sometimes it’s 10, maybe 15 books. Extra mom time. Individualized attention. Total concentration sans my iPhone (just being honest here).
By the time the book bin is empty, I can already see his attitude shifting.
Build a Simple Rice Bin
Creating a calming sensory bin is another great option for grumpy toddlers.
My personal favorite is a rice bin. I can make a rice bin faster than my toddler can hit the floor in a tantrum.
Take a big tub, add a bag of rice and a few measuring cups and voila! Something about pouring and scooping the rice is so calming. It’s an instant reset (and it gives them something to play independently for a while).
RELATED: Need more information about sensory bins and how to keep them tidy? I get it. Learn more about sensory bins here.
Bake Something Tasty
Baking is another great way to turn around a toddler’s bad day.
Our go-to baked good is homemade brownies. We work together to make something delicious and once they are out the oven, brownies can cure whatever ails you. Our fail safe brownie recipe is an oldie but a goodie and I can make it faster than a box mix so I always have these ingredients on hand.
Decorate a box
Simple? Yes. Effective? 100%.
We know toddlers love boxes so lets give the people what they want (and the people want boxes!!).
Grab a good box from your garage and set up a decorating area. Let your toddler go to town. Art is so good for helping kids with their emotions – and box art is an easy way for toddlers to make art independently.
RELATED: We make “Extreme Boxes” and I save them for month. You should totally try this.
Make a calm down bottle
These calm down bottles – also called sensory bottles – do wonders for a toddler’s bad day. They are so fascinating to watch that you can feel your whole body relax as you begin to play with one.
And, surprisingly (!), they are easy to make. Some soap, some glitter, and some glue and you are on your way to an amazing calm down bottle. This recipe from Rhythms of Play is my personal favorite and it’s awesome (it’s also Frozen themed!).
Grumpy days are rough for everyone and having a few tricks in your parenting tool box can make all the difference in fixing your toddler’s bad day.
Help your toddler. Throw them a lifeline. Give them tools to help manage their big emotions, regulate their feelings, and come out feeling so much better about their day.
Activities might just be the answer you’ve been looking for.