toddler always wants held

Help! My Toddler Wants to Be Carried All the Time

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What to Do With a Toddler Who Wants to Be Held All the Time

“Mama, carry me!” is a request I’ve been hearing all too often lately. I’m a mama who loves to cuddle her babies. Hold them, hug them, and, yes, carry them. But when your 30-pound toddler is in the midst of a “carry me” phase that is preventing you from so much as walking across your living room unaccompanied, it gets old fast.

So, there are a couple of things to talk about. What’s going on here? Why does your toddler, who is usually fighting for their independence, suddenly insist on being nowhere but your arms? The second thing is what can you do about it? Check out these tips for what to do when your toddler wants to be carried all the time.

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What’s Going On When Your Toddler Wants to Be Carried All Day?

Maybe you have a toddler that has been determinedly glued to your side since birth. But maybe your toddler’s clinginess is new. The solution to your situation depends on if this is a new behavior or something ongoing.

What if this is New for your Toddler to Be Clingy?

If you more often find yourself chasing your toddler than longing to put them down and the demands to be carried and held are new, do some thinking about what could be making your toddler anxious or stressed.

Are they getting sick? Or just getting over something? Have they started a new daycare? Been moved to a toddler bed? Or started potty training?

A clingy toddler is often stressed or anxious. And nothing is more comforting than being held by the person they consider their anchor in an unsafe world. YOU.

And if you’ve recently given birth to your toddler’s sibling, forget about it! You’re in for a clingy few weeks (or months!) no matter what you do. (But there are still a few ideas for you at the end of this post!)

If your toddler’s demands to be carried are new and related to stress or life changes, there is a case to be made for indulging them. Offer comfort, carry them around, give them all the snuggles they need until they relax and return to their formerly independence seeking selves.

Having said that, sometimes you simply can’t carry your toddler around all day. If you have a new baby to carry or a sore back or for whatever reason can’t indulge your little one’s needs, check out tips #3 & #4 at the bottom of this post.

Related Post: What to Do When You Hate Playing with Your Kids

What if My Toddler Has Always Been Clingy?

If you’re 2 or 3 years in with a child who always wants to be carried, well the good news is that you probably have biceps of steel. But it may be more challenging to transition your toddler to greater independence.

But it can be done.

What to Do When Your Toddler Always Wants to Be Carried

1. Be Reassuring to Your Toddler When they Want to Be Held All the Time

Whether your child’s clinginess is new and most likely temporary or a long-term concern, a great first step is to reassure your child and create a sense of security.

Create a predictable routine for your toddler. Create a visual schedule your toddler can reference when they need reassurance. Tell them about any changes in routine ahead of time and reassure them you will be there for any changes.

Kids love routines and knowing what to expect. Emphasize that you are there for them whether or not they are actually in your arms.

Be responsive to your toddler’s feelings. Never shame them for clingy behavior. There are feelings and needs behind every behavior. Ignoring or shaming will have the opposite effect of what you want. Making your toddler feel more insecure.

2. Build Independence in a Clingy Toddler

Praise your child when they do something independently. And give them chances to succeed. Have your child help you with household tasks where you can heap on the praise for their growing independence.

Help your child master new skills like getting dressed, putting on their shoes, potty training, etc. Mastering new skills builds confidence. And praise is motivating. Much more motivating than shame ever will be. Let your child know how proud you are of what they accomplish. And be specific.

I try to always praise my daughter when she walks places with me and doesn’t ask to be carried. Praise the behavior you want to see more of.

3. Distract & Entertain Your Toddler When You Can’t Hold Them

Building independence and being reassuring are all well and good for the long-term, but sometimes you need some short-term solutions to get you through the days, hours, and minutes with a toddler demanding to be held.

If carrying your toddler isn’t an option or even when you just need a break, make a game out of walking.

Challenge your toddler to a race. Or tell them you’re both dinosaurs and need to stomp, stomp, stomp down the sidewalk together, or wherever you need to do to get them to walk. Tell them to run and you’ll time them. Or whatever you can come up with to make walking on their own more fun.

Another tactic is to create a diversion. Point out a caterpillar or a cool bug on the sidewalk outside. Or point out things they might like as you walk. In the house, offer an activity they enjoy but can’t do if they’re being held. 

If they want to be held when you’re busy, enlist their help in what you’re doing. Tell them you can’t hold them right now but could they help you cook dinner? Or fold clothes? Give them a task or a job.

Most toddlers naturally want to be helpful and do things their favorite adults do. You can use this. Try to involve them in an activity or project where they can have fun without being packed around on your hip.

4. Create an Environment for Closeness with Your Toddler Without Carrying Them

One of my toddler’s favorite times to demand to be picked up is when I’m cooking dinner. It’s the end of the day for all of us and everyone is tired and fed up. So I sometimes have to get creative.

I like to try to find ways to do what I need to do but keep my toddler close. If you have a learning tower, you can enlist your toddler’s help in cooking (or whatever else you’re working on). Otherwise, see if you can set them up on a stool or chair.

If you’re folding clothes or trying to get some work done on the computer, try to set up an area near you where they can play or help with and imitate what you’re doing.

You can talk to your toddler about it. “I know you want mommy to hold you, but I’m cooking dinner right now. You can sit right next to me and draw pictures instead.” Or play with your dolls on the floor. Or help mommy fold. Whatever activity keeps them close without being carried. This is not the time to get them to play in their room. 

If they protest, offer repeated reassurance that you’re still there if they need you. You’re right there, whether or not they are being held.

5. Carry Them When Your Toddler Wants to Be Held, Sometimes.

Sometimes you’ll just have to carry them. And the truth is holding a toddler is one of the greatest joys of parenting one. They’re sweet and little and loving. And they need you so much. It’s nice to be the world to someone. Especially, someone, you love so much.

I know, I know. And this isn’t one of those “cherish every moment” posts because sometimes those moments are freaking hard.

But your toddler needs you. And the need to be held and carried is extremely normal for a toddler. When it’s safe and reasonable, indulging them can be a good choice.

Having said that. When and if you carry them, set reasonable limits. Sit down if you need too. Even if they protest (why do they always want you to stand and hold them?!?!?). Make sure you’re lifting in a way that protects your back. Sometimes I set my daughter’s butt on the counter and let her lean against me to give my arms a rest.

The days are long but the years are short. Like every phase, good or bad. This one will end. Hang in there, mamas! Even if you’re hanging in there with a toddler on your hip.

Have you had a toddler who always demanded to be carried? What worked to get you both through it? Share your tips in the comments!

Check Out These Other Posts You May Like:

What to Do When You Hate Playing with Your Kids

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What to Do When Your Clingy Toddler Wants Held All Day

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9 thoughts on “Help! My Toddler Wants to Be Carried All the Time”

  1. I love all of these suggestions, especially the one about pretending you are both dinosaurs 🥰
    However, I am mama to 3 sons; 20 yrs. 18 yrs, and 18 months. Yes, my 18 month old is a bit clingy, but my 20 yr. old just enlisted in the Marine Corp. My 18 is almost finished with Fire Academy and plans to join his brother as a U.S. Marine. My point is never say never, and enjoy holding them while you still can…and I promise you that once they hit puberty, especially the boys, they no longer want you to hold them 🙂 So mama, if your back can hold the, and your schedule can accommodate them, then endulge them, because I PROMISE this too shall pass and you too shall miss it! ♥️

  2. My almost 3 year old is 40lbs and has always had a need to be carried. My pelvis has been out since giving birth and I have had chronic pelic/ back pain since he was 1. The clingyness and constant need to touch me is wearing thin. I’m still waiting for the independent stage!

    1. I relate so well to where you’re coming from. This is still a struggle for me. When a toddler who always wants to be carried turns into a preschooler who always wants to be carried it’s rough! I’m still working with my kiddo on building independence. And saving snuggles for when I’m sitting down. Being close without necessarily holding them. But it’s been a long phase (if that’s what it is). I hope the independent stage is just around the corner for you! And take care of yourself!

  3. I honestly am glad you wrote this because my daughter just started getting wayyyyy too clingy and I definitely don’t have the strength or the time to hold her all the time. I am definitely going to try your tips out and I think I understand a more why she is behaving this way. Thank you!

  4. wow, great article! My daughter is almost 17 months and she has been clingy since around 8 months old. I haven’t been able to put her in church nursery, much less walk across the room without her panicking! I stay at home with her all day and try to balance independent play time with “mommy time”, but there’s only so much my emotions can take when she screams from her playpen to be with me. I always joke that she will be very good a cooking and chores someday, because she “helps” me with all of these activities. She hands me clean dishes from the dishwasher, picks all the socks out of the laundry pile, and sits in her high chair to watch me cook dinner. I love her to pieces, but her clingy behaviour can get exhausting! It’s reassuring to hear I’m not the only one struggling!

    1. Hey Kate! It’s definitely not just you! It’s a lovely part of motherhood to be needed. But sometimes it’s so overwhelming! Especially during the baby and toddler years. I love how your daughter “helps” you around the house. What a great way to use her need to be with you to teach skills and helpfulness! I may have to borrow that idea!

  5. A toddler who always wants to be carried may have Sensory Processing Disorder and really need the touch and pressure input. There are many strategies and products that help help such as weighted blankets/vests, squeezes, etc to give kids the deep pressure they are sensory seeking. Your approaches are patient and loving, and I agree but would suggest this also be considered for kids who are ‘always clingy’.

  6. I really needed to read this. My second baby is almost 2 and still always wants to be carried. I know I need to do something about it, but I’ve been too tired to figure out what, haha. Thanks for sharing!

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