KidKraft Parent Series: Toddler Hacks for First Time Parents

Girl playing with dolls in front of dollhouse

Toddler Tips for First Time Parents

They say it takes a village… and that’s especially when you’re a first-time parent facing the toddler years! And trust us – we’ve been there. Because here at KidKraft, most of us are parents ourselves. Since we know how tough toddler parenting can be, we asked six of our KidKraft parents to share their best toddler tips and what they learned (or are still learning!) through their own kids’ toddler years. Here’s what they had to say:

Tell us a bit about yourself and your family!

GEOFF WALKER: I’m Geoff, KidKraft’s CEO. My wife and I have two kids, a daughter and son who are now into their teenage years.

TAYLOR HERRERO: I'm Taylor! KidKraft’s Director of Digital Marketing. I've worked at KidKraft for almost 4 years. I have one daughter, and we call our little family “The Triangle.” You'll often find us in the backyard, watching movies in a giant fort or having a Friday night dance party in the living room.

NERINGA: Hi! I'm Neringa, Finance Assistant for KidKraft. I joined KidKraft in November of 2021. My partner and I have a 1 year old son, Cyrus, and we call ourselves a "squad."

LEAH HOOKE: Hi! I'm Leah, I work as Dealer Support with KidKraft. I've been with KidKraft for 4 years, almost 5, and work with the best people! I have two little girls who mean the world to me (but also want me to pull my hair out).

KAREN CANE: Hello! I'm Karen, Assistant Brand Manager here at KidKraft. I joined the KidKraft Brand Team in November 2021. My family is a party of five! I have three amazing kiddos that I adore. We love going on walks at the park and are always singing, dancing and playing instruments in our house.

HELEN ADAPPA: I'm Helen Adappa, KidKraft’s Director of Brand Marketing. I have two sassy little ones with my husband.

How old is your little one or little ones?

GEOFF: Hard to believe, but they’re 18 and 16 already.

TAYLOR: Almost 7 now.

NERINGA: 13 months, a freshly baked toddler.

LEAH: They are 6 and 10, both born in November.

KAREN: 6, 4 and 10 months.

HELEN: They're 2 and 5 years old.

What's one thing you learned early on in becoming a parent?

GEOFF: Everyone always told me that patience is the key, and you never know how true that really is until you have kids.

TAYLOR: One of the first things I learned is that there is no "right way." Every kid is different, and you have to go with the flow

NERINGA: That things will rarely go as you plan... and you have to be prepared for change, to reschedule, cancel, and generally go with the flow of your child instead of trying to stick to what you expected.

LEAH: Your life changes like everyone says, but also your version of love changes. It grows every day with your baby into something you've never felt before.

KAREN: It's okay to make a mess! You and your child can always clean it up. It's important for your child's development to feel like they can make a mess, throw out all their building bricks ALL over the floor, etc.

HELEN: Patience. so much patience.

What is one tip you'd give to any new parent?

GEOFF: The days might seem slow, but the years go by fast. Be present and connected and know that it's usually the small moments like simply playing together that they'll remember (and you'll cherish) the most.

TAYLOR: Don't worry about the latest parenting method. Instead, adopt the "whatever works" method. Take cues from your kid, figure out what works for them and your family and don't compare yourself with other parents.

NERINGA: Little kids, little worries. Big kids, big worries... Don't rush anything, stay in the moment, and enjoy this journey. Especially in the 1st year, because time flies by so fast!

LEAH: Soak in those first few weeks and months of parenthood. It seems like long days and nights at first, but that is where your bond grows with your child. Soon, you'll find yourself wishing you were rocking that tiny baby again!

KAREN: When you get frustrated with them or lose your patience, remind yourself that they are learning everything for the first time. If we can't be patient with them, how can we expect them to be patient? (This of course is still something I have to remind myself of daily!)

HELEN: When you're having a bad day (and let's be honest, we all have those days with them), turn it around by playing dress up/ fashion show. Try on all those ridiculously cute outfits that were way too expensive but you or others got for the little one. It just really instantly changes the mood and they're SO CUTE that you can't help but kiss them.

What helps you get through the toddler stage?

GEOFF: Did I mention patience?

TAYLOR: Patience! It's way easier said than done, but try to remember that while something may seem small to us, it's big to them. Take a moment to breathe, get down on their level and hear them out. And know that if you fail (which you will!), you can try again tomorrow.

NERINGA: We could take some tips for this one ourselves! :) Our toddler had his first tantrum the other week. We did not know it was a tantrum, we thought something was wrong with him, like maybe he was in pain… so we took him to the doctor. So my advice is to know that you just have to figure out some things as you go… and then have a laugh!

LEAH: For toddlers that are throwing a fit or upset – get on their level. Sit with them on the floor or kneel down. Look at them at eye-level and listen fully. Let them try to tell you what's wrong and express their emotions in their own way. They learn that their parents will always be there to listen when they have any troubles. This is so important once they get into grade school.

KAREN: Try to focus on the things you LOVE about the toddler stage! The silly things they say, the sweet hugs they give, the way they adore you.

HELEN: Remember that just like the tough parts of the baby stage (sleepless nights, spit up, etc.) passed, the tough parts of the toddler stage (tantrums, potty training, etc.) will pass too! You survived baby stage, and you’ll survive toddler stage too!

What's your kiddos’ favorite playtime activity?

GEOFF: My daughter was super into Barbies, and my son was a huge Lego fan. Both of them enjoyed that creative, make believe play. It's really cool to see some of the toys we make at KidKraft and think about how my kids would have loved them.

TAYLOR: Dolls! Really any type of make believe play, but she gravitates to dolls.

NERINGA: We have a very active boy, he loves passing and kicking balls, dancing together to his favorite baby songs like "Head Shoulders Knees & Toes,” and playing chase.

LEAH: Imaginary play! Anything from playing school to imagining their entire “grown up” life.

KAREN: They love pretending they are in a band, building with building bricks, drawing, and playing with anything that drives or flies.

HELEN: Role playing! They love pretending to cook, sell food, playing firemen/women, restaurant, dinosaurs, pirates, you name it!

What’s your Favorite KidKraft toy, and why is it a perfect fit for your little one?

GEOFF: My favorite KidKraft toy would have to be one of our swing sets. We have a new one that just launched called the Outdoor Odyssey, and it is insanely cool and offers so many ways to play. My teenagers are too old for it now, of course, but they would have loved it back in the day!

TAYLOR: Any of our large, mansion-style dollhouses. We've had a few over the years and are currently loving the Grand Horse Stable Dollhouse. It's perfect because it can be whatever her imagination wants it to be that day – a house, a hotel, a summer camp. And bonus! Our large dollhouses make the perfect wall to build a fort from!

NERINGA: He loves the play kitchens! The many little pans and pots always keep him busy. He watches us cook and do the dishes, and then tries to copy the same things we do in his own play kitchen. Adorable!

LEAH: The Farm to Table Kitchen along with the Let's Pretend Shopkeeper Stand. The Farm to Table Kitchen is the absolute cutest and comes with so many accessories to play with. You can combine it with the Let's Pretend Shopkeeper Stand and act like you have a full-service market that can make some delicious salads and tasty drinks!

KAREN: We just got a KidKraft study desk for our son who is in kindergarten, and he is loving having a child-size table that is only his where he can draw, do homework, and have a space to himself. (Because that's pretty rare when you have two other siblings!) My daughter loves playing with her Disney princess dollhouse, and the baby also loves destroying the furniture in the dollhouse… even though it makes his sister mad!

HELEN: The Farm to Table Kitchen. Super beautiful, really realistic – my kids play with it for hours!

Want more tips for getting through the toddler years? Check out our library of posts on child development to learn what makes your kiddos tick and how you can support them through each stage!