How to Get Your Toddler Out the Door Faster

Toddlers aren't on our schedules. Here's how to change that.

You’re running late to work or music class or a playdate. You’re stressing, but your toddler doesn’t seem to have the sense of urgency that you do about arriving at your destination on time. 

Sound familiar? Whether it’s a refusal to wear shoes, a tantrum over zipping up a coat, or the desire to just stop and literally smell the roses, these five strategies can help you and your toddler get out the door faster.

Build Extra Time into Your Routine.

PhotoAlto/Sandro Di Carlo Darsa

It's a simple solution, but if you’re consistently struggling to get your toddler out the door on time, consider waking up a few minutes earlier to give yourself and your pokey toddler a buffer zone. This extra time will mean you’re less stressed about getting out the door, which could result in your toddler being more cooperative. Even if that doesn’t happen, you’ll be able to give your toddler a few more minutes to transition from one activity to the next, and you’ll have the time to let her dawdle. 

Give Your Toddler More Control.

Developmentally, toddlers are becoming more independent, and that means they want more control over the decisions that are being made. If your daily struggles include battling over which pair of shoes to wear or what to eat for breakfast, try allowing your toddler to have more say in the situation.

Instead of choosing an outfit for her, give your toddler two or three clothing options and let her choose. Opening up the entire closet and leaving the choice to a toddler's discretion could cost you more time as she examines every piece of clothing and changes her mind half a dozen times. But giving two or three choices will make your toddler feel control over the situation, which will make getting out the door easier for everyone. 

Pick Your Battles.

We all want to dress our toddlers like they stepped off the Baby Gap website, but sometimes your toddler demands to wear a superhero costume even though Halloween is a distant memory. Depending on the situation, it might be OK to just let them don ridiculous attire instead of spending precious minutes arguing over it. Winter outerwear also seems to be trouble spot for parents of toddlers. If your toddler is refusing to wear gloves or a hat and you can make from the front door to the car without frostbite being an issue, just let him go without. Chances are he'll realize how cold he is, and he'll let you put his gloves on once you are in the car. 

Play a Game.

Getting out the door doesn’t have to be a complicated game, but sometimes just telling a toddler it’s time to "march" or "dance" out the door is enough to get them to stand up and actually move in the right direction. Another option is to make up a silly song about getting dressed for the day, eating breakfast or putting on shoes and socks. You could also focus on an aspect of the task that your child will think is fun -- have them help you name all of the colors in their shirt while you put their pants on. 

Reward Good Behavior.

You don't have to reward a toddler with large items. If you're consistently having a problem getting out the door in the morning, the promise of "treat" or small reward could motivate your toddler to be more agreeable. You can skip the toys and instead, promise that if your toddler can get in the car without a struggle, he can listen to his favorite song or you'll tell him a special story on the drive to daycare. If your toddler is a bit older, you could offer a larger reward -- like a packet of stickers -- for a week's worth of tantrum-free mornings. 

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