How to Strengthen Bonds Between Mothers and Toddlers

The transition from infant to toddler is difficult for both mothers and children. From your perspective, your cooing, cuddly baby has suddenly become a wild child whose favorite word is "no," and from your toddler's perspective, his mother is arbitrarily refusing to let him play with wonderful toys like kitchen utensils, jewelry and the dog's tail. Building a strong connection with your toddler through daily, attentive play is critical to getting you through this harrying time with your relationship intact 2.

Hug and kiss your toddler regularly 2. Physical connection helps to strengthen feelings of attachment.

Focus your attention on your toddler when you spend time together 2. Purposefully and consciously let go of your worries about finances or your plans for that big project at work and be mentally present, devoting all your attention to playing with him, telling him stories or listening to what he says. You can't maintain this level of mindfulness all the time, but doing it once a day when you're actively playing with your toddler will make a difference 2.

Spend 10 or 15 minutes with your toddler every day, a practice psychologist Laura Markham calls "special time." Block out all other distractions; turn off the television, the computer and your cell phone and have your partner watch any other kids 2. Let your child choose any activity he wants to do or any game he wants to play, within reason, and play with him for the full 10 or 15 minutes. Set a timer if necessary to make sure you don't end the time early.

Read to your toddler every day 2. Let him choose the book, and ask him to sit in your lap -- but don't push it if he'd rather sit beside you. Talk to him about what happens in the book and ask him open-ended questions, like "What do you think will happen next?" If your spirited toddler would rather move around or color while you read to him, let him do so.

Play interactive games with your toddler. Have a game of hide-and-seek, sing and dance together, make funny faces at each other or encourage your child to imitate your actions. Your toddler wants you to play with him, but he also wants to take action in the game himself.

Say hello and goodbye every time you're separated from your toddler 2. Even little separations like leaving the room to make dinner or take a shower can feel interminable to a very young child. Kiss him, tell him where you're going and remind him that you'll leave the door ajar if he needs you, then give him another hug and kiss to let him know when you're done and ready to play.