Infants & Toddlers/Activities: Caring for Fussy Infants and Toddlers
Minimize the number of persons caring for the baby. If a baby seems fearful of strangers, such as volunteers or new teacher assistants, be sure that you are available to be that baby's special, consistent comforting person.
Be empathic. Fussy babies are often quick to feel stress, intense in their responses, and difficult to soothe. Try to understand and anticipate their feelings, such as when they are about to reach overload and fall into sobbing. And remember, this baby is not out to exasperate you! He is surely expressing neediness, and loud cries and cranky protests may be part of his personality style. If you can feel empathy rather than resentment at his distress, you will find it easier to be comforting and reassuring.
Make changes slowly. As you introduce new situations or positions, watch for warning signs of fatigue or stress. Shy babies often get stressed by changes, so give them plenty of warning and lead time before altering activities. Be sure to explain what is happening, what will be going on, and what you will be doing. Take time to help the baby become familiar with the routines, sights, sounds, and play opportunities in your environment, always remembering that this child has difficulty adapting. Pare down the amount of stimulation to prevent fussy babies from becoming overloaded.
Use soothing tones and calm gestures. Your soothing voice is just what a cautious baby needs to relax. Handle the baby smoothly and gently as you change her position or carry her to a new place. Use a quiet, calm voice as you introduce new foods slowly-one at a time and in very small portions. For young babies who have irritable temperaments, try daily massages with nonallergenic oils. Babies are able to calm down after just 10 minutes of loving strokes.
Be flexible and generous with time. If your fussy toddlers are intent on completing an activity, allow more time for building that block tower or finishing that puzzle. Rather than stopping an activity because it's time for a snack, try putting out treats for a generous period of time.
Provide equipment for high-energy toddlers. Activity level is high for some feisty toddlers. They run and chase about and seem to be on the go all day. Be sure you have rocking horses, space for running, and plenty of tricycles on hand for vigorous play.
Watch for signals of emotional overload. You can help fussy toddlers by tuning in to their body signals. To prevent blowups and tantrums as much as possible, notice when a toddler starts to get stressed or is heading into a difficult social struggle with a peer.
Use distractions. Offer a substitute if the fussy toddler is set on taking a toy away from a peer. Interest her in another activity, such as listening to a story while sitting on your lap if she is disrupting the play of others.
Give toddlers words for emotions. Feisty toddlers need to know they are lovable and can succeed in managing their intense emotions. Give them phrases like "I want a turn" or "I need that block." When you help them use words instead of shoving, grabbing, or screaming, you are giving them tools to encourage more enjoyable and successful social relations. Feisty toddlers can engage in more active, intense play that will attract friends if you guide them in learning empathy and in building their social skills.
Move toddlers with their friends. When irritable toddlers transition to a preschool group, move several buddies at the same time. Fussy toddlers will feel less upset, more secure, and more comfortable with their peers. ECT