Originally published February 19, 2020.
It’s tough being a toddler. Having your every need met doesn’t allow for much downtime. How can you find space to take care of you? When’s the last time you gave yourself permission to make sure your nails were sharp enough to draw blood? How long has it been since you nourished your body with a non-food item that resulted in a panicked call to Poison Control? As a busy toddler myself, sometimes my self-care gets pushed to the back burner of the play kitchen. Here are a few tips on how the most active toddlers among us can take care of themselves for a change.
1. Maximize the relaxation of your nightly bath with a warm cup of bathwater.
Nothing says nightcap like a few swallows of warm suds. If all cups and cup-like toys have been previously removed from your tub by killjoy caregivers, sucking a soapy washcloth can work in a pinch. If you feel up to it, attempt to wrap your mouth around the entire bath faucet to ingest supplemental minerals. This is called “wellness.”
2. Don’t feel bad about saying no.
It’s one of the first words we learn for a reason. Use it wisely. Become comfortable with saying no by saying it loudly, over and over again to every question anyone asks you, especially “Do you need a nap?” Also: the next time you want to say yes, just say no. Then cry because you meant yes, and that should have been obvious.
3. Read a book.
The same book. Over and over. Cry when it ends and bring it back to your caregiver continually until you see all the light drain from their eyes. Doggies by Sandra Boynton is a perfect choice for this exercise, but any book that requires your caregiver to make an abundance of non-human noises will do.
4. Take a quick, breezy stroll through a crowded public space.
This is best accomplished when your caregiver puts you down, such as when they are helping another child or making a purchase. As soon as your feet hit the ground, head towards any visible doorways or stairs. See how far you can go before your name is called and you’re scooped up in a panic. Make sure you scream and thrash about wildly to fully complete the exercise. It’s exhilarating.
5. Get plenty of sleep.
It might feel decadent to sleep when you could be screaming, but those 10 minutes in the car on the ride home from the grocery store will leave you refreshed for the next 10 hours.
6. Embark on a multi-step skincare journey.
Start with a soothing yogurt cleanser. Follow that with a gentle grape jelly toner. At midday, apply a marinara acid treatment. Target tough areas, like the inside of your elbows, with a Hi-C serum. End your day with a generous dollop of sour cream moisturizer.
7. Enjoy a healthy snack.
Ants on a log is a great option. Flies from the windowsill are another. Indulge in whatever snack you feel nourishes you, just make sure you incorporate protein.
8. Rearrange your space.
Take all the vases and extra sponges out from under the sink and arrange them artfully on the kitchen floor. Apply handfuls of banana onto the rug to add texture. Roll blueberries under the fridge and behind the television. Cleanse the energy of the living room with a toddler-approved smudging — shaking a straw cup of old milk onto all the soft surfaces while humming the Sesame Street theme song.
9. Hug someone you love.
Like the cat. Or the dog. Or your lovey. Or that baby in the mirror. Maybe Mom, if you have no other options. Definitely not Dad. The jury is still out on that guy.
10. Help someone.
Speaking of caregivers, they could always use your assistance. Remove all the canned goods from the bottom shelf of the pantry. Save energy by unplugging every cord you can reach. Remove folded clothes from laundry baskets. Encourage your caregiver’s dexterity by insisting on being held the entire time they prepare dinner. Just be sure you’re providing your services for the right reasons — you may not get the appreciation you deserve. The knowledge that you made a difference in someone’s day by adding another 10 minutes of drudgery can be its own reward.
I hope you’ll put one of these tips into practice soon. Remember, we need to make sure our own sippy cups are full before we can pour the contents into the air vent in the floor. It’s a busy world out there. You deserve some time to yourself, blissfully alone with your older brother’s markers and a blank wall.
Read an interview with Shannin J. Curtin about writing this piece over on our Patreon page.