What to Do with a Clingy Toddler: Tips and Strategies for Parents

Having a clingy toddler can be a challenging experience for any parent. It’s not uncommon for toddlers to go through phases of clinginess, but it can be difficult to know how to handle it. Clinginess can manifest in different ways, such as crying when you leave the room, refusing to be comforted by anyone else, or insisting on being carried all the time.

It’s important to understand that clinginess is a normal part of a toddler’s development. Toddlers are still learning how to navigate the world around them, and they rely on their parents for comfort and security. However, if your toddler’s clinginess is causing stress or interfering with daily activities, there are steps you can take to help them become more independent. From building their confidence to setting boundaries, there are various strategies that can make a positive difference.

Understanding Clinginess

Clinginess is a common behavior in toddlers and young children. It is a normal developmental phase that many children go through at different times and to varying degrees. Understanding why your toddler is clingy can help you respond to their needs appropriately.

Anxiety and Separation Anxiety

Clinginess can be a sign of anxiety or separation anxiety in toddlers. Separation anxiety is a normal developmental stage that occurs in children between the ages of 6 months and 3 years. During this stage, toddlers may feel anxious when separated from their primary caregivers, such as parents or grandparents. This can result in clingy behavior, such as crying, clinging, or refusing to be put down.

Emotions and Distress

Clinginess can also be a sign that your toddler is experiencing strong emotions or distress. Toddlers may cling to their parents or caregivers when they are feeling scared, overwhelmed, or unsure of their surroundings. They may also cling when they are feeling tired, hungry, or unwell.


If you are concerned about your toddler’s clinginess, it is important to talk to your pediatrician. They can help you determine if there is an underlying medical or developmental issue that needs to be addressed. They can also provide guidance on how to respond to your toddler’s clingy behavior in a way that is appropriate for their age and stage of development.

In summary, clinginess is a normal developmental phase in toddlers and young children. It can be a sign of anxiety, separation anxiety, strong emotions, or distress. If you are concerned about your toddler’s clingy behavior, talk to your pediatrician for guidance and support.

Common Triggers of Clinginess

Clinginess in toddlers is a common behavior that can be triggered by various reasons. Understanding these triggers can help parents address their child’s clinginess and provide the necessary support to help them overcome it. Here are some of the most common triggers of clinginess in toddlers:

New Sibling

The arrival of a new sibling can be exciting for parents, but it can also be overwhelming for the older child. The toddler may feel jealous, left out, or neglected, causing them to become clingy. To address this, parents can involve their toddler in caring for the new baby, giving them special attention, and setting aside one-on-one time with them.


Moving to a new home or city can be stressful for everyone, including toddlers. They may feel anxious and uncertain about their new surroundings, causing them to become clingy. To help them adjust, parents can involve their child in the moving process, such as packing their toys, and make their new home feel familiar by decorating their room with their favorite things.


Divorce can be a traumatic experience for children, and it can cause them to become clingy. They may feel insecure and unsure about the future, causing them to seek comfort and reassurance from their parents. To help them cope, parents can provide a stable and predictable routine, offer emotional support, and seek professional help if necessary.


Illness can cause toddlers to become clingy as they seek comfort and reassurance from their parents. They may also be feeling unwell, causing them to want to be close to their caregivers. Parents can provide comfort and care, offer fluids and medication if necessary, and seek medical attention if the illness persists.


Teething can be a painful and uncomfortable experience for toddlers, causing them to become clingy. They may want to be held and comforted, making it difficult for parents to get things done. To help them cope, parents can offer teething toys, provide cold foods, and offer gentle massages to alleviate the pain.

Understanding the triggers of clinginess in toddlers can help parents address their child’s needs and provide the necessary support to help them overcome it. By providing a stable and supportive environment, parents can help their child feel secure and confident in exploring the world around them.

Dealing with Clinginess

Dealing with a clingy toddler can be challenging, but it is a normal part of child development. Here are some strategies to help you manage your toddler’s clinginess and encourage independence.

Building Independence

Encouraging independence is essential for your toddler’s growth and development. Start by giving your toddler age-appropriate tasks to complete on their own, such as picking up toys or setting the table. Celebrate their achievements, and give them positive feedback to build their confidence. Gradually increase the level of difficulty as they become more confident in their abilities.

Establishing Routine

Establishing a routine can help your toddler feel more secure and less anxious. Create a predictable schedule for meals, nap times, and playtime. Stick to the routine as much as possible, but be flexible when necessary. This will help your toddler feel more in control and less reliant on you.

Managing Attention

Clinginess can be a sign that your toddler needs more attention. Set aside regular time each day to spend with your toddler, such as reading a book or playing a game. Avoid multitasking during this time, and give your toddler your full attention. This will help your toddler feel valued and secure.

Providing Reassurance

When your toddler is feeling clingy, it is essential to provide reassurance. Let them know that you are there for them and that they are loved. Give them hugs and cuddles, and encourage them to express their feelings. This will help your toddler feel more secure and less anxious.

Remember, dealing with a clingy toddler takes time and patience. By building independence, establishing routine, managing attention, and providing reassurance, you can help your toddler feel more secure and confident.

Practical Strategies for Everyday Situations

As a parent, dealing with a clingy toddler can be challenging, especially when you have to run errands or attend social events. However, there are practical strategies that can help you manage your child’s clinginess in everyday situations.

At the Park

Going to the park is a great way to give your child some exercise and fresh air. However, it can also be a challenging situation for a clingy toddler. Here are some practical strategies that can help:

  • Encourage your child to play with other kids by introducing them to each other.
  • Bring along some toys or games that your child enjoys playing with to keep them occupied.
  • Set up a designated meeting spot where you can go back to if your child gets lost or overwhelmed.
  • Give your child some freedom to explore and play on their own, but keep a watchful eye on them at all times.

At Daycare

If your child attends daycare, dealing with clinginess can be a daily struggle. Here are some practical strategies that can help:

  • Establish a consistent drop-off routine that includes a goodbye ritual, such as a special hug or kiss.
  • Provide your child with a comfort item, such as a favorite toy or blanket, to help them feel secure.
  • Communicate with the daycare staff about your child’s clinginess and work together to find solutions.
  • Be patient and understanding with your child’s emotions, and reassure them that you will always come back.

At the Grocery Store

Going to the grocery store with a clingy toddler can be a stressful experience. Here are some practical strategies that can help:

  • Bring along some snacks or small toys to keep your child occupied.
  • Involve your child in the shopping process by letting them help you pick out items.
  • Use a shopping cart or stroller to contain your child and keep them safe.
  • Plan your shopping trip around your child’s nap time or when they are well-rested and fed.

During Play Dates

Play dates are a great way for your child to socialize and develop their social skills. However, dealing with clinginess during play dates can be challenging. Here are some practical strategies that can help:

  • Talk to your child beforehand about what to expect and how to behave during the play date.
  • Encourage your child to share and take turns with their playmates.
  • Provide your child with some one-on-one time with you before and after the play date to help them feel secure.
  • Stay nearby and observe your child’s interactions, but don’t intervene unless necessary.

By implementing these practical strategies, you can help your clingy toddler feel more secure and confident in everyday situations. Remember to be patient, understanding, and consistent in your approach.

When to Seek Professional Help

If your child’s clinginess is causing significant distress for both you and your child, it may be time to seek professional help. Here are some signs that it may be time to consult with a pediatrician or mental health professional:

  • Your child’s clinginess is interfering with their ability to participate in age-appropriate activities or social interactions.
  • Your child’s clinginess is causing significant distress for you or other caregivers.
  • Your child’s clinginess is accompanied by other concerning behaviors, such as aggression, anxiety, or depression.
  • Your child’s clinginess persists beyond the typical age range for clinginess, which is usually between 6 months and 3 years.

If you are concerned about your child’s clinginess, it is always a good idea to start by talking to your pediatrician. They can help rule out any underlying medical conditions that may be contributing to your child’s behavior, and can also refer you to a mental health professional if necessary.

In addition to seeking professional help, it is also important to ask for help from family and friends. Caring for a clingy toddler can be exhausting, and it is important to take breaks and prioritize self-care. Consider enlisting the help of a trusted caregiver, such as a family member or babysitter, to give you a break and allow you to recharge.

Remember, seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. With the right support, you and your child can overcome clinginess and develop a healthy, secure attachment.

Self-Care for Parents

Taking care of a clingy toddler can be exhausting and overwhelming for parents. It is essential to prioritize self-care to prevent burnout and maintain a healthy balance. Here are some tips to help parents take care of themselves:

Me Time

It is crucial to take some time for yourself to recharge your batteries. Schedule some me-time every day, even if it is just for a few minutes. Use this time to do something you enjoy, such as reading a book, taking a bath, or going for a walk. This will help you relax and feel refreshed, allowing you to be more patient and present with your child.

Deep Breaths

When you feel overwhelmed or stressed, take a few deep breaths. This can help you calm down and refocus your energy. You can also try some relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation to help you manage stress and anxiety.


Dealing with a clingy toddler can be frustrating, but it is essential to remain patient. Remember that your child is going through a phase, and this behavior is normal. Try to stay calm and respond with kindness and understanding.

Mommy/Daddy Time

It is also important to spend some quality time with your partner. Plan a date night or a weekend getaway to reconnect and strengthen your relationship. This will help you feel supported and connected, making it easier to manage the challenges of parenting.

In conclusion, taking care of yourself is just as important as taking care of your child. Prioritizing self-care can help you manage stress, maintain a healthy balance, and be a better parent. Remember to schedule some me-time, take deep breaths, practice patience, and spend quality time with your partner.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I help my toddler become more independent?

Encouraging independence in toddlers is crucial for their development. You can start by giving them small tasks to do on their own, such as picking out their clothes or helping with simple chores. Praise them for their efforts and allow them to make choices when appropriate. Gradually increase their responsibilities as they become more comfortable with independence.

What are some fun activities to do with my clingy toddler?

Engaging in fun activities with your toddler can help them feel secure and confident. Some ideas include playing with sensory toys, reading books together, doing simple crafts, and singing songs. Outdoor activities such as going to the park or taking a nature walk can also be great options.

How can I encourage my toddler to play alone?

Start by setting up a designated play area for your toddler with age-appropriate toys. Encourage them to play independently by providing them with simple instructions and modeling how to play with the toys. Gradually increase the amount of time they spend playing alone, and praise them for their efforts.

What are some strategies for dealing with separation anxiety?

Separation anxiety is a common issue among toddlers. To help ease their anxiety, establish a consistent routine and say goodbye in a positive and reassuring manner. Provide them with comfort items such as a favorite toy or blanket. Stay calm and patient, and avoid sneaking out without saying goodbye.

What are some ways to establish a routine for my clingy toddler?

A consistent routine can help your toddler feel more secure and less clingy. Start by establishing regular meal and nap times, and incorporate playtime and other activities into the schedule. Stick to the routine as much as possible, and provide your toddler with plenty of positive reinforcement.

How can I communicate with my toddler about their clinginess in a positive way?

It’s important to communicate with your toddler in a positive and supportive manner. Acknowledge their feelings and let them know that it’s okay to feel clingy sometimes. Encourage them to express their emotions and offer reassurance that you will always be there for them. Avoid criticizing or belittling their feelings, and provide plenty of love and support.

About the author
Daisy is a writer, mom, and expert on all things toddler-related. As a parent of three young children, she's experienced the highs and lows of parenthood firsthand, and she's passionate about sharing her insights with others. Through her website, The Toddler Life, Daisy offers practical advice and tips on everything from potty training to picky eaters. She's not afraid to get real about the challenges of parenting, and her honest and relatable writing style has earned her a loyal following of readers.