Having your baby boy reach the toddler stage tends to be a life-changing event. Especially when you have not one but two miniature tornadoes running around, seeking to wreak havoc at every opportunity. Looking back, we marvel how easy it was when our daughter (now 3) was a toddler. We were thrilled when she learned to walk; it made taking care of her easier. She could do things for herself and rarely got into trouble.
With the boys it’s been a whole other story. They get into everything. Here are 10 rules we’ve come to appreciate in raising toddler boys.
1. You cannot babyproof enough
My recent article on babyproofing for toddlers was inspired by this rule. Any drawer, cabinet door, trash can, or toilet that they can get into, they will. Some of this stuff you can use legitimate babyproofing equipment for — cabinet locks, gates, drawer latches, toilet locks — while other times we have to get creative, even if it means using rubber bands.
2. No toy is as interesting as your stuff
I’m not sure why this is, but many times boys ignore an overflowing box of toys in the corner of the room and go after your things instead. It might be your mug of coffee in the morning. Or your pen. Or your laptop. Once or twice I’ve gotten to work and found blocks in my laptop bag. Anything in the house is fair game, and if it holds your interest, they notice and go after it.
3. They will climb
The latest trend for our toddlers is climbing on things. It started with the stairs, which were the training ground for this new skill. We encouraged it because, hey, at some point kids need to go upstairs on their own. They mastered stairs but then kept on going. They climbed on their toys, on couches, on chairs. The problem with climbing is that it’s a chain reaction: climbing one thing (dining room chair) often gives access to climb another thing (dining room table) and suddenly they’re 5 feet off the ground.
Now I understand those stories you hear about a toddler getting on top of the refrigerator. For us, the dining room table is a favorite target. Especially when the plates haven’t been cleared after a messy dinner.
4. They will outsmart you
One thing that constantly amazes me as a parent is just how smart kids are. They learn and remember things. They problem-solve. And it’s all cute and adorable until they start using that against you. For example, we tried to prevent them from climbing the dining room table by staying vigilant about pushing in the chairs. So they set their clever minds to figure out how to move chairs just enough to climb up them.
There’s no such thing as too much babyproofing for multiples.
When boys manage to get something from a drawer or countertop that they’re not supposed to have, you take it away, right? At some point they realize that step one is getting a hold of something. Step two is slipping away to a quiet corner where you don’t see them. Thus as parents of boy toddlers we’ve developed a sort of sixth sense: if we can’t see or hear the boys and they’re being suspiciously quiet, it’s like, “Uh oh. Where is he?”
5. Prepare for messes unlike any you’ve seen
Our daughter, bless her heart, was a dainty and polite eater of finger foods when we got her started on them. Sometimes food would fall on the floor; that’s just part of the game. In contrast, the boys seem to enjoy throwing food more than eating it. Even their favorite food will get tossed for occasional amusement. The problem comes when you think they’re eating the food, and so you give them more. You look away, look back, and the food is gone. So you give them more. Meanwhile, a veritable buffet of finger-foods ends up on the floor.
Boy toddlers take mess-making to an art form. They get into cereal boxes. They spill drinks. They tear up napkins or paper towels into tiny, tiny pieces and scatter them like confetti. Brace yourself, and invest in a good carpet sweeper.
6. There will be blood
If you’re a squeamish person and a parent, the toddler years will be rough for you. Because little ones who are just learning to walk, climb, and crawl are both clumsy and ignorant of their own mortality. Our boys get injured at a surprising frequency, and most of the time it’s in our very-well-babyproofed home. The oldest boy took us to the emergency room a few months ago (just after he’d learned to walk) by falling and hitting his head on the corner of a wall. Hazards like that are tough to spot in advance.
We’ve assembled a good first aid kit and keep it in easy reach. I can’t remember how many times I’ve had that out in the past year. Far more than I thought. You know it’s bad when you’re running out of certain sizes of band-aids.
7. Sharing is a problem
Toddlers develop a sense of possession about their toys, and sharing (for our kids at least) becomes a problem. For some reason, in a room littered with dozens [hundreds] of toys, there’s one that all the kids want at the same time. More often than not, it’s the Vtech Alphabet Train which is a house favorite (that’s why I wrote a whole article on it). The train is long enough for two to play at once, but not for two to ride at once. That’s the problem.
There’s inevitably a dispute that ends with at leaset one kid crying. When the boys are involved, it often becomes a shoving match or an all-out brawl. It must be something about the Y chromosome.
The best solution we’ve found when the kids are fighting over something is to offer one of them another toy. Not just any toy will do; usually we have to dig into the toy box or go to another room to find something intriguing enough to have them forget the disputed toy. Of course, this backfires when both toddlers want the new thing and start fighting over that instead.
Some of our toys, like the blocks for toddlers, are multi-player and they seem to be shared the best.
8. Two things are unlimited: energy and curiosity
Toddlers wear you out. They seem to have an endless source of energy for running, jumping, climbing, and throwing. When the weather is nice, we let them play outside as much as possible to burn off some of this energy. When it’s not, we try to find push and ride-on toys to give them a bit of exercise. When the energy runs out, though, you’d better have a warm cup of milk and nap lined up quick. Otherwise you’ll probably have a meltdown in store.
Curiosity is another thing that toddlers seem to have without limit. Our older boy is obsessed with my coffee cup. I’m not sure why; I let him look in it, touch the outside, and try to move it away so he can’t dip in a finger or dump in a fistful of cereal. No matter how many mornings we have together, he’s got to see my coffee cup. The great thing about this innate curiosity is that it’s easier to keep them entertained, by letting them play in a room or with a toy they haven’t seen in a while. Every five minutes of peace and quiet is a win, in my book.
The things that toddler boys say, the things they do, are constantly cracking us up. They’re at the age where they recognize attention and crave it. They make little faces. They can be tickled and try to tickle you back. They offer high fives and shy grins at strangers. Even when they’ve gotten into a purse or drawer or cupboard for the zillionth time and made a mess, we’ve learned to try and laugh at ourselves a little bit.
Wherever you go, your toddler is going to make an impression (hopefully with charm, but possibly with a screaming meltdown). Most of the time, we think our little boys spread a bit of joy. And that’s a good thing.
10. These times are priceless
Hard as it is to raise a toddler boy (let alone two of them), these are going to be memorable times. So many firsts happen in the toddler years — the first steps, the first words and countless others — and they pass like a blur. Take photos. Write things down. Treasure these moments, because before you know it, your little man will be going off to school, then college, then starting a family of his own. Seriously. They grow up that fast.