Teach Toddlers and Children to Play Gently

With help from parents, small children can learn not to roughhouse

Two boys fighting over toys.
Two boys fighting over toys. KidStock/Getty Images

Toddlers and small children have earned a reputation for being rambunctious, but parents can teach kids to stop roughhousing and play more gently. In particular, parents expecting another baby or those concerned about their child playing too roughly with playmates or the family pet will want to invest in practices to promote gentle touch in children. After all, toddlers don't necessarily know how to behave properly around newborns, puppies or even peers.

Adults, however, can demonstrate calm and gentle behavior. Here's how.

Role Play Gentle Touch for Children

If you're expecting a new baby, have your child practice how to be gentle using a doll or favorite stuffed animal. Be sure to explain why a youngster needs to be gentle, and why an infant's back and neck needs to be supported. Kids are curious and will react better if they understand that an infant is not capable of holding her head up.

Gentleness Includes Tone of Voice and Movement

Too many toddlers learn gentle touch but startle their newborn siblings or pets by making frenzied movements or using shrill voices. Teach toddlers to exhibit calmness and gentleness through slow, controlled motions, soft voices and gentle touch. Demonstrate how toddlers should touch babies (include when and where as well) and how baby animals should be petted. Teach them to approach playmates in the same manner.

Parents should teach small children that neither their peers nor older children or adults enjoy being poked, prodded, yelled at or kicked, even during playtime.

Parents Should Be Positive Role Models

Kids learn best by example. As a result, adults should use calm and gentle tones and actions if they want their children to do the same.

If parents behave in a gentle manner, toddlers will understand how it feels to be yelled at versus how it feels to be spoken to gently. If parents constantly yell or make a frenzy, toddlers won't learn to behave otherwise.

Praise Children Generously for Behaving Gently

While parents should lavish praise on children for behaving gently, they should avoid the temptation to criticize youngsters for behaving rambunctiously. Don't tell a toddler that he's doing it wrong; instead, offer better ways to practice holding a doll or stroking a puppy's fur. Don't overly place pressure on a youngster about behaving gently. Give children lessons about gentleness gradually over a length of time.

Parents can reinforce gentle behavior in children by photographing the little one with his new puppy or newborn sibling. When the child learns how to be gentle with small pets and babies, show the picture off to teachers, family and friends to instill pride in the toddler.

Wrapping Up

Gentleness is a learned behavior. With proper parenting guidance, kids will master the calmness needed to be a doting sibling or pet owner.

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