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From one mama of a high-energy toddler to another: I’m exhausted too

What we can’t see in this moment is that this too shall pass.

From one mama of a high-energy toddler to another: I’m exhausted too

One moment she was a baby. The next, she got up and she ran. You followed.


She gave up her nap long before you’d have thought possible and instead, up and down the stairs she climbed, a game that never got dull. You followed.

If you turned your back for 20 seconds you found her half way up a tree. You followed.

While the other children slid down the slide, she climbed up it because it was more fun. You followed.

She chased the birds in the park, whooping with joy. You followed.

Up and down the supermarket aisles she ran. You followed. At the public pool—before the sunscreen was rubbed in or the water wings on, she ran. You followed. Up the downward-travelling escalator she ran. You followed.

When you were exhausted, you followed. When your throat was raw from shouting, “Be careful!” you followed. When hugely pregnant with her baby brother, you followed. When her terrifying antics had your heart in your throat from morning until night, you followed.

Because where else would you have been?

This is the life of a parent of a high energy toddler. The days are lived at a higher volume and faster speed than you ever imagined. Sometimes they seem endless.

When the evenings finally come, you spend them crashed in a haze of exhaustion, never quite able to catch up on the energy you need to make it through another day, another week of your toddler’s insatiable appetite for exploration and discovery.

In a perfect world we’d be able to constantly indulge their little minds and bodies with stimulation and messy play delight. In the real world, we need to get things done in our day—and try to keep them safe at the same time. This is the ultimate rabbit in a hat trick that parents of toddlers must pull off every hour of every day.

I’m now parenting my second high-energy toddler and I’d forgotten how exhausting it is. Almost daily I lose my cool and wonder how I’m going to keep up. I shake my head at her fearlessness and my heart skips a beat several times a day.

But I’ve also learned some helpful tricks along the way that help me cope with her exuberance.

Preparation is key

The best way to ensure things go smoothly with your high-energy toddler is to be as prepared as possible, and give yourself plenty of time. There is no surer way for the wheels to come off for us than when we’re in a hurry.

Pack snacks ahead of time, apply sunscreen before you leave the house. Set yourself up for success so you can stay as calm as possible, and you’ll find you have much more energy to devote to your toddler and his need for speed.

Let them run

They need to spend some of their energy before they can be expected to sit still in an adult environment. Start your day with a trip to the park or soft play or just a walk down your street looking for stones. Your toddler will be much easier to contain later on.

Set limits to keep them safe

This sounds awful, but my oldest daughter had a terrible habit of running away any time we were in a public space, which I found utterly terrifying. So before she could understand the dangers around her, I solved the problem by letting her choose an adorable puppy-shaped backpack with a leash attached.

If we were walking I always had her fill it with a couple of her favorite toy cars and wear it. She grew out of this phase quickly when she could better understand my explanations for why it was a dangerous thing to do, but the backpack leash was a solution that worked for us until she did.

Unplug from technology

We’re so distracted by technology—especially those of us who work from home and do childcare at the same time. But I realized that when I unplugged from technology and engaged in a completely undistracted way with my toddler, we were both happier. Our toddlers thrive on having our undivided attention and feeling they’re the most important thing in our world, so let’s resolve to put down our phones and play.

Explain along the way

Toddlers understand more than we give them credit for, so it really helps to get down to their level and explain what’s about to happen before it does. High-energy toddlers don’t want to get into the stroller and go somewhere that isn’t fun for them, but I found that if I explained everything we were about to do before we did it—going into details like, “We’re going to put our coats on and then you’re going to put your yellow boots on and we’re going to lock the front door behind us…”it was much easier to get them on board.

Give them a role

Toddlers love to have a job. So even if they’re little, give them a responsibility while you’re out and about. In the supermarket, ask them to name the items and put them into the cart for you. Let them weigh the veggies, even if you don’t need to. Constantly ask them questions (“Do you think we should get this cereal or that cereal this week?”). Involve them.

Know that these are the days you’ll look back on and miss

What you can’t see in this moment is that this too shall pass. The days may be long but the years are agonizingly short. The moment you blink and your toddler becomes a preschooler with an aversion to dirt you’ll realize how much you miss those chubby little legs running as fast as they can through a muddy puddle.

Enjoy this season. Look at the world through their eyes. Laugh. Because mamas, these are the days.

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The baby gear heavy hitters that should be top of your list

Calling all mamas-to-be! It's a fundamental truth of (impending) motherhood that your prepping-for-baby To Do list can feel a mile long, but really the best way to feel organized is to sort out the most important item at the top of your list: your registry. Sure the items you choose to include will end up running the gamut from nice-to-haves to absolutely essential game-changers, but mamas in the know quickly learn one thing: Not all baby gear is created equal.

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Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

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Earth Mama: Effective, natural herbal care for mamas and babies

Founded and grown in her own garage in 2002, Earth Mama started as an operation of one, creating salves, tinctures, teas and soaps with homegrown herbs. With a deep desire to bring the healing powers of nature that have been relied on for thousands of years to as many mamas as possible, Melinda Olson's formulas quickly grew into Earth Mama Organics. Since then, the brand has remained committed to manufacturing clean, safe and effective herbal solutions for the entire journey of motherhood, including pregnancy, breastfeeding and baby care, and even the loss of a baby.

Bravado Designs: Soothing sounds for a good night's sleep

With 28 years of serving pregnant and postpartum mamas under their belt, Bravado Designs is a true authority on the needs of changing bodies. It's true that we have them to thank for rescuing us from the uncomfortable and frumpy designs our own moms had to live with. Launched in Canada by two young mamas, they designed the first prototypes with extra leopard print fabric certain that a better bra was possible. Throughout the years they've maintained their commitment to ethical manufacturing while creating long-lasting products that truly work.

The Sill: Instagram-ready potted plants

We've long admired this female-founded brand and the brilliant mind behind it, Eliza Blank. (She even joined Motherly co-founder Liz Tenety on and episode of The Motherly Podcast!) The mission behind the business was simple: To make the process of bringing plants into your home as easy as possible, and as wonderful as the plant themselves. With their in-house, exclusively designed minimalist planters, the end result makes plant parenthood just a few clicks away.

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Just about all of us had set assumptions about raising kids before we became parents ourselves.

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