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The Rules Toddlers Live By

Updated on January 8, 2018
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Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, an industrial engineer, a mother of two, and a published sci-fi and horror author.


Toddlers are beginning to recognize patterns in the world, both in the material world and in the behavior of others around them. They attempt to figure out the rules of life by imitating others or simply acting as they wish until someone corrects them. What are the rules toddlers live by?

Toddlers readily engage in basic pretend play, but haven't learned a number of social rules.
Toddlers readily engage in basic pretend play, but haven't learned a number of social rules. | Source

What rules do toddlers live by?

  • It doesn’t matter how much I like dinner, I still have to see what happens when I throw it from my high chair
  • If it fits in my mouth, it should be taste tested.
  • Putting something in a container is fun. Whether it is the shape sorter, the trash can, or the recycling bin doesn’t matter.
  • I want what I’m eating. I want what you’re eating. I also want to nibble on your new sweater.
  • I like what I’m drinking, but I want what you’re drinking, too.
  • The neighbors’ dog is more interesting than the neighbor’s baby.
  • I will fit where you don’t think I can go.
  • I am the car key gnome that hides your car keys in the morning. But only after taste testing them first.
  • If you bring two spare changes of clothes for me, I will need three.
  • My shoes exist to be removed.
  • Same for socks.
  • Any old woman is a grandma. All grandpas are subject to stranger anxiety.
  • A conversation can consist of an hour of raspberries.
  • Uh-oh applies whether I dropped it intentionally or not.
  • If I see it, I must climb it.
  • If I can't climb it but want to, I will cry or yell until someone helps me.

  • If I can’t get down, you must rescue me.
  • I have every right to complain of boredom after I’ve thrown all my toys out of the play yard.
  • I don’t know that if it happens once, it won’t happen again. That’s why I’ll do the same thing 10 times.
  • Mommy shrieking when I bite her is a funny sound.
  • Gaps in the fence are custom made get-aways. If I don’t fit trying to get through, you’ll hear me screaming as I demand that you let me out.
  • Doors are meant to be opened. What’s on the other side doesn’t matter.
  • I will make the biggest mess when you are doing the laundry. Ditto if I just had a bath.
  • Twigs, leaves, and dead bugs are all natural sources of fiber.
  • The Terrible Twos can start at 12 months.
  • People are more interesting than toys. People close to my size are infinitely more interesting than boring adults. People interacting with me are best.
  • Whatever has attracted the most attention will get mine, too, if only for a minute.
  • If I cannot figure something out, I will try to bring it to you. Secondarily, I'll take you to it.
  • Young children have an invisible comfort zone. They don't want to be farther than that from the caregiver. For some children, it is three feet. For other children, it is thirty feet. For a few children, they will do what they want to do as long as they think they can see you.


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