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Why’s My Toddler Doing That?!

Understand more about toddler development and get answers to your questions about your growing baby.
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Toddlers can do some pretty perplexing (and gross) things. Worry not: Developmental pediatrician Desmond Kelly, M.D., of the Greenville Hospital System Children's Hospital in South Carolina, explains it all.

Clinging to Blankie

Why they do it: Toddlers may be torn between wanting to be safe with mom and wanting to venture out, which can make them anxious. Holding on to a "lovey"—a blanket, doll, teddy bear, or favorite toy—comforts them and, according to research from the University of Wisconsin, can even help them adapt to new situations, like going to the dentist.About 60 percent of kids have some attachment to a security object.

Best way to handle it: Don’t! The lovey is a good thing; it may even help with learning because it keeps kids relaxed, so they feel freer to explore their world (instead of clinging to your pant leg). By age 5 or 6, kids will transition to greater independence and likely leave Blankie behind.

Running Around Naked

Why they do it: Because it’s fun and it feels like freedom. And for some kids, having to get dressed is a kind of obligation, like eating broccoli.

Best way to handle it: By all means, let your child frolic in his birthday suit in the privacy of your living room. At the neighborhood block party, however, use simple words to explain why it’s not a good idea. You might say: "Some people prefer that everyone wears clothes, so let’s consider their feelings and wear clothes today."The key is not to overreact: You don’t want your child to feel ashamed about nudity. By 3 or 4, once kids become aware of the difference between private and public, they’ll naturally develop more modesty.

Touching Their Privates

Why they do it: At this age, kids are exploring all the nooks and crannies of their bodies. It may feel good to them, and it can be soothing when they’re excited or anxious.

Best way to handle it: Don’t make it into a power struggle; toddlers can often be distracted with a favorite toy or a new activity. If you suspect stress is to blame, consider the trigger and see how you can defuse it.

Picking their Nose

Why they do it: They’re curious or bored, or they may find it soothing. Allergies and indoor heating during winter (i.e., more boogers) can make the problem worse.

Best way to handle it: Address any allergy issues to reduce congestion, and give your child plenty of water to combat the drying effects of indoor heat. For times when your toddler tends to go for the nose, like in the car or while watching TV, give her something to occupy her hands like a squishy ball or finger puppet. If she continues to dig, explain that germs can make her sick, and that most people think nose-picking is rude and you don’t want her to get teased. Also teach her to blow her nose so it’s less of an issue.

Eating Only Specific Foods

Why they do it: Toddlers are asserting their independence, which can include insisting on particular foods.

Best way to handle it: Go with the flow. If your child wants only mac and cheese, serve it up for breakfast, lunch, and dinner—along with nutritious sides that he may or may not eat. (Keep in mind that it can take 10 tries for toddlers to develop a taste for a new food.) Lure your child into trying other offerings by giving him small non-food rewards, like an extra bedtime story. And relax: Kids do eventually get bored with eating the same stuff over and over.

An article from the HUGGIES® Brand

  • Rated 0 out of 5 by 5reviewers.
    Rated 0 out of 5 by Thank you for all this information, a lot of what is written I was really curious about. And a lot does not pertain, but it is good to know, just in case it eventually pertains. January 27, 2014
    Rated 0 out of 5 by MY SON DOES THE MAJORITY OF THE THINGS LISTED...I WAS ALWAYS CURIOUS AS TO WHY IS HE DOING THAT?? THIS ANSWERED A LOT OF MY QUESTIONS. THIS WAS VERY HELPFUL FOR ME :) October 15, 2012
    Rated 0 out of 5 by My 2.5 year old daughter refused to eat carrots or potatoes in any form but I always just put a little on her plate anyway. About a month ago she started eating the cooked carrots and now asks for them. Last night I didn't put any potatoes on her plate and she asked for them and ended up eating a whole portion! Sometimes it just takes time. July 27, 2012
    Rated 0 out of 5 by on the food issue of only eating certain foods. their answer is true unless you have a child with autism. then they can go indefinitely eating the same 5 things June 4, 2012
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