Toddler or Tween? Different Ages, Similar Needs


It should be easy to identify a toddler from a tween. One is knee-high, beginning to navigate the world apart from being a baby and is the reason your Apple Watch is beeping with sound decibel warnings. The other is all arms and legs, beginning to navigate the world apart from being a child, and is the reason your Apple Watch is beeping with sound decibel warnings.

Logically, we know toddlers, ages one to three, and tweens, ages 10-12, are breeds all their own. But after walking through both phases with my children, I can honestly say the two groups also seem eerily similar. These sets go through massive changes physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Here are three things your toddler and tween need from you as they traverse two incredibly tricky life stages.

Move It

Toddlers and tweens have a need to move those bodies. There’s a lot going on as both sets are growing and changing. The growth spurts are shocking. It can feel like every morning they wake up a little bigger, a little more filled out.

There’s quite a bit happening in brain development as well. Due to changes in their bodies and brains, they need to release some of the excess energy that accompanies these extreme seasons of growth.

>> RELATED READ :: 20 Outdoor and Indoor Play Date Spots for Toddlers in Fort Worth <<

Be intentional with your toddlers and tweens when it comes to movement. Bikes rides, family walks, and other physical activities can help. Indoor trampoline parks are easy winners for both types of kids. Ninja Kidz Trampoline Park has something for everyone, from basic trampolines to gymnastic tumble mats and dodgeball. When in doubt, wear them out! 

Nighty Night

The rate at which your toddler and tween grows calls for consistent and measurable rest. A nap during the day helps re-set your toddler and avoid overstimulation. Quiet times (sans technology) bring some calm to the hormones flooding a tween’s system. Kids, especially girls, are starting puberty earlier now.

Both toddlers and tweens require a range of nine to 12 hours of sleep a night for growing brains. Those close to a toddler or tween know a good fight could be waiting when it comes to slowing down and calling it a night. BUT a rested 3- or 12-year-old is far more palatable than the alternative! 

The Fits

As I started writing notes on similarities between the toddler and tween phase, I had exactly one line jotted down on the subject. The fits. If you’ve had a toddler — or maybe just looked in one’s general direction — you know. They’ve got some real fight in them.

Toddlers begin transitioning to a life filled with more freedom and exploration. They put distance between their life as a baby and begin to develop independent thinking. Toddlers do not think it’s cute when someone gets in the way of their independent thinking. Hurricanes of emotion are par for the course with toddlers.

Tweens go through a similar experience. This group wants to pull away from childhood and move towards the teen years. Their independence is, obviously, on a bigger scale and the need for free-thinking continues to grow. They have a desire for parents to hand over some control.

As previously stated, tween bodies also welcome hormones into the mix. This all whips up the perfect storm for a tween fit. Prepare yourself. You might feel like you are watching an over-sized toddler when your tween loses control.

>> RELATED READ :: Amazing Activities for Preteens You Need to Know About <<

During fits, the best advice I’ve received is to remember that these episodes are not who your child is. Additionally, remind yourself of all the ways you are doing a good job as their parent. Bringing some facts to a moment filled with massive emotions can help you remain calm and better equipped to ride out the storm with your kid. Grace for everyone! 

Toddlers and tweens bring a wild, yet fun aspect to parenting. It’s possible you could feel like you’re repeating the toddler stage, in some ways, when your child enters the tween phase. Sticking to a routine of movement, consistent rest, and grace could be the difference between surviving and enjoying (most) of your time in these rollercoaster years. 

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Ashley is from Hurst, and though she’s flown the nest a few times now, she always seems to boomerang right back to her hometown. Her latest stint took her family to Chicago for the last four years. While Ashley, her husband of almost 16 years, her son and daughter loved life as honorary Midwesterners, Texas called, and it was time to answer. Though her children are in upper elementary school, Ashley found her groove as a stay-at-home mom and is not eager to give up the title quite yet. You can find her putting in the miles all over town with her “doggy clients” as a Rover walker and caregiver. (Dogs talk back less than children.) Ashley is often the loudest mom at the ball fields but comes in peace with the best snacks. She recharges with a run around Hurst, a ride on that stationary bike everyone’s talking about, or on a patio with a margarita and her very funny husband. Ashley has written for local mom groups, church and is a returning writer for Fort Worth Moms. Her husband hopes she will stick to more pieces on motherhood and less on disappointing stays at grimy hotels.


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