Development FAQ: 24+ months – Learning

How can I make my 25-month-old hurry up?

How can I get my 25-month-old to hurry up? She often refuses to hear me when I tell her that her meal will be ready in five minutes, and then she takes ages to finish whatever she’s doing, so the meal is cold. It’s the same with bath time and going out to the supermarket – she will always dawdle, insisting that her bag must be with her or her doll put down a certain way. Is she doing this to deliberately annoy me, or is it just a stage she is passing through?

Toddlers live in the here and now. They have no concept of time, so a five-minute warning across a room barely registers with them. They can find it hard to make the transition between being engrossed in play and getting up to the table for a meal. They need to finish, or at least put on hold, the game they are playing and that will take time.

Try to give a few warnings of what is going to happen next and gradually the concept of “five minutes” will sink in. The first warning of a meal could be, ” It’s almost time to stop for lunch”, followed by another in a few minutes, such as, ” In five minutes your pasta will be ready”. Use a kitchen timer and make sure that some action towards being ready for lunch has started. Using a timer is normally successful, and a game can be made of beating the timer if toys need to be tidied away. The final warning could be, “It’s time to wash your hands now”. As with most things where toddlers are concerned, if you always follow the same routine, they will become used to it and accept it.

Use a similar method for dealing with other parts of your toddler’s day when you know she is engrossed in playing and you need her to stop and get ready for the next activity. Sometimes you will have to actively help her ease from one activity to another. For example, join in tidying the toys or help her to find her bag before you go shopping.

Patience is the best method, but toddlers can be very slow and this is frustrating when you do have a time limit. If you have given her fair warnings and she is making no attempt to get ready, calmly but firmly tell her that the time has come for her to stop playing and do what she has been asked to do. You may have to physically remove her, but she will begin to learn that she must listen and act when asked reasonably.