My Toddler Needs: Connection.

Emi Sano
My Toddler Needs:____
6 min readNov 13, 2023


Welcome to the My Toddler Needs series. Within this series I’ll talk about what drives our toddlers’ big feelings and what we can do to help guide them through their big feelings, needs, wants, and emotions.


I’ve come across this a lot when talking with my friends with toddlers. The main question is, “Why are they suddenly so clingy?”

Remember my post on Independence? Studies show that even though toddlers are seeking their independence, they’re also fearing their separation from you. So while they’re actively working on feeding themselves, taking their own shoes off and getting their own snacks, they are realizing their independence creates distance from you.

Enter: clingy-toddler days.

We’re also experiencing moments where my toddler “won’t” or “can’t” do a task that they are physically able to complete. During these moments, he will declare that he “needs a grown up” to do these tasks and he “isn’t a bigger yet”. Which makes me understand that my toddler does realize how much independence he’s been seeking out and trying to take some of that back.

If you’re like me and have a toddler that’s getting way too big and constantly asking to be held, here’s some ways to effectively make sure you and your toddler are staying connected both physically and emotionally.

Photo by Anastasiia Krutota on Unsplash

Allow time for hugs/ physical connection throughout the day.

Most of the time I give my toddler a moment when he asks me for a hug, I drop down to his level, I give him a hug, and I don’t let go until he does. I make sure it’s not during a chaotic time (like cooking). When I do this sometimes we’re in a hug for 30 seconds and sometimes it’s a couple minutes.

Sometimes, during this hug, this is when he starts to tell me what he’s feeling or what he needs from me. I try to acknowledge and validate what he has to tell me and if it’s appropriate, I will fulfill his needs.

Showing positive attention.

The most simplest way of doing this is just getting down at their level. You might do this when they’re doing something like playing with their toys on the floor and you see them doing something that’s very creative/innovative/interesting.

Just getting down at their level giving them a slight rub on their back or just locking eyes and smiling, it creates that connection and sometimes validation that what they are doing is “ok”.

Photo by Jimmy Dean on Unsplash

Family meals

I know sometimes our schedules don’t line up where you can do regular family meals every day. But having a sort of a routine where the family gathers around the table and eat together can help establish that bond your toddler is craving. Talk with each other, include the toddler in your discussion. Ask about their day or your partner’s day and see how your toddler responds to that.

My toddler got used to us asking each other about our days that if we forget he’ll be the first to ask, “Daddy, how was work today?”

Reading Time

Nothing brings you and your toddler closer than reading time. This moment is a great way to have that connection you need and also a good way to include discussions on certain behaviors that need to be worked on by way of the story instead of having a lecture about it.

We buy funny books to read, but I also get the concept books about feelings, school, scary things, etc. We try to do a mix of both each night so that it’s feeling like a lesson night. A great book to read is one that’s funny/silly AND concept-based.

Photo by Picsea on Unsplash

Play together.

For most parents the mere thought of playing with your child one more time can be a bit daunting. But, hear me out. When your child is seeking connection what is the best way to do it? Play.

If you don’t want to be stuck playing the same scenario over and over for an hour, set up a time. Say “It’s parent/child special time to play together. Let’s set the timer.” Set time for however long you can tolerate play. And remember, it’s “parent/child special time” so put away any distractions, turn on the do not disturb, and devote that 20 minutes of time to connect with your toddler.

Let them tell you how to play, what to say, etc. This is their time to connect with you. Give them your full attention. Also, don’t be surprised, but this is probably a great way to find out what is going on in their minds.

“I won’t be gone for long.”

We’ve said this to our toddler a million times when we have to step away do something. But what I’ve noticed that is I’ve never given my toddler a concrete time to look forward to.

Even though he doesn’t understand the concept of 12 o’clock, if I tell him that I will see him at 12 o’clock he hangs on to that.

I’ve been trying to reword my phrasing when I leave him with my husband to run an errand or if I have to step away in the house to grab something. I try to make sure I give him a concrete “time” that I’ll be gone for.

Try practicing this when you’re just in your home, stepping away to use the bathroom or to run upstairs for something. “I’m going upstairs to grab your socks, I’ll be down in two minutes.”

Another good time indicator is “nap time” or “bedtime”. I’ll be back before “nap time” can help them understand that:

  1. You’ll be home to help them go to sleep.
  2. You gave them a concrete time to look forward to.
  3. You won’t be gone for long.

Separation anxiety is a hard phase to get through. Remember to check in with your toddler, and feel out their emotions regarding you leaving. Reinforce the idea that you’ll always come back.

Photo by Jelleke Vanooteghem on Unsplash

Remember your toddler still needs you despite their constant pushback and saying, “I can do it!”. Growing up and becoming independent is scary. The realization that they don’t need you anymore can be almost like an existential crisis.

The “Who am I?” question comes up regularly in our lives and I feel like the first time we’ve asked ourselves that isn’t when we’re going through teenage years — it’s when we’re toddlers.

So the takeaway from all of this is… allow time for connection. You might not see it now, but looking back you’ll realize that you needed that connection, too.




Emi Sano
My Toddler Needs:____

Emi Sano is a self-published author of “Voices: a short story collection” and YA novella “We Don’t Talk About That.” She freelances as a writer/blogger.