Why Does My Toddler Follow Me Everywhere? Here’s Why!

By Paula McLaren •  Updated: 07/18/22 •  8 min read  •  Toddler » Toddler Parenting Advice

Ever thought to yourself… “Why does my toddler follow me everywhere?! I can’t get anything done!” whilst hiding in the bathroom for a quick 5-minute break?

Well, let’s break down exactly why your toddler follows you and give you an action plan to help your toddler be more independent and give you a bit more breathing room.

Why Does My Toddler Follow Me Everywhere?

And yes… as annoying as it can be… try to look at it from their perspective…

The world is a big scary place and you are their protector.

They feel safe with you when faced with a new situation.

Why would they want to leave that safe space?

Why Has My Child Suddenly Become Clingy?

Over the years, I have been asked by many families “why is my x-year-old suddenly clingy?”

And sometimes separation anxiety or your toddler being clingy can come out of nowhere.

It can happen at any age, but for whatever reason, it quite often occurs around the 2-year mark!

And it is usually triggered by something very specific in your little one’s life.

  1. Their day is off. Firstly consider how their day has been going… Is their schedule off? Are they overtired or hungry? In all these instances your toddler may suddenly decide that life is too much and they just want you to fix it. This is normally short-term anxiety that will pass once you have been fed or had a nap.
  2. They don’t have a consistent daily routine. Having a regular routine is essential to make your toddler feel safe and secure especially when it comes to mealtimes, naps and most importantly bedtimes.
  3. They are feeling unwell. Another reason that a normally relaxed toddler may suddenly become clingy, could be a sign that they are not feeling well and have turned to you for comfort even though they can not vocalise what it is they need. Check their temperature and keep an eye on developing symptoms. Again, this will be a short-term clinginess that should pass as soon as they are feeling better.
  4. They are facing a new situation. Some children do not do well when placed in a new situation and need some time to adjust. So if your toddler is suddenly clingy, it may be due to your child being presented with a new person or activity. Take your time and do not leave your child until they have got used to the new situation.

10 Ways To Help Your Toddler Stop Following You Everywhere!

Whatever the cause, there are things you can do to stop your toddler from following you everywhere and help them be more independent both at the home and away.

If your toddler is constantly following you everywhere then try implementing the following:

10 Ways To Help Your Toddler Stop Following You Everywhere

1. Always Be A Safe Base For Your Little One

Toddlers may feel overwhelmed in a new situation with people they don’t know and they may be reluctant to leave your side.

Allow them time to assess the situation and establish what is going on. If they don’t wish to go off on their own, offer to go with them to try something out.

2. Stay Calm And Confident

If your toddler is struggling to adjust to going to nursery for the first time, make time to stay with them for a while until they are used to the new environment.

If they start to cry about you leaving, you need to remain calm and reassuring.

They will sense if you are distressed too and this will make them feel even more scared about you leaving. 

Whatever you do, do NOT say “stop following me!”. That will only upset them further and cause them to follow you more.

TOP TIP: Always remember that your toddler will look to you for reassurance!

3. Never Sneak Away

Now, this may sound counterintuitive… Especially if your toddler is happily playing and you don’t want to alert them to the fact that you are leaving them… 

But, their confidence will come from their trust in you being there! 

Therefore, you should always state your intention to leave and that you promise to return in a certain amount of time.

Keeping that promise is what will make them less clingy in time. 

4. Offer Lots Of Love And Affection

Toddlers are very affectionate and they love to be in close contact with you.

Make sure you spend lots of time doing close bonding activities with your toddler so that they feel that they are getting enough of your attention.

If in their eyes you are always too busy or distracted, they will feel insecure. So when you are focused on spending time with them, be truly focused. 

5. Encourage Independent Play And Offer Verbal Support

Another way to stop your toddler from following you everywhere is to set them up with an activity in a safe play space where you can leave them to enjoy and explore independently. 

I personally prefer building blocks for this type of play as they are simple, engaging and easy for your little one to play with and this set from trusted Melissa and Doug is perfect for toddlers who may be a little clingy…

The wooden blocks are a perfect way to move on from the larger basic building blocks of babyhood and provide the ideal opportunity for your toddler to be independently creative in a familiar setting.

My All-Time Favourite Building Block Set
Melissa & Doug Wooden 100 Pcs Building Blocks Set

No nursery is complete without wooden blocks. They provide hours of fun and education through play from honing fine motor skills, improving problem-solving, developing creativity and teaching colours and shapes. My favourite is this colourful set from Melissa and Doug.

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TOP TIP: When fully hooked on an activity, most toddlers will play for a significant amount of time by themselves.

6. Understand Why Your Little One May Be Following You Everywhere

There are many circumstances in life when your toddler may feel the need to be with you more than others.

Consider what is going on in their lives such as moving house, the arrival of a new sibling, starting nursery school or parents separating.

All of these situations can trigger your toddler to want to be with you constantly to make them feel safe.

To learn more about how to prepare and help your toddler with the arrival of a new sibling, check out this video! ->

7. Get Your Toddler To Work Alongside You

Instead of trying to separate your toddler from you and what you are doing, get them to work alongside you! 

If you have to work on your computer, set them up nearby with paper and crayons and ask them to draw you a picture.

Stop and pay attention when they want to show you what they have done then set them another task.

If you are doing chores around the house get them a miniature cleaning set and have them help. This is teaching them all sorts of developmental skills and at the same time, you will feel less frustrated if you are getting things done.

Melissa & Doug Let's Play House Dust! Sweep! Mop! 6 Piece Pretend Play Set
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8. Have A Safe And Regular Routine 

Toddlers love predictability and routine, it is what makes them feel safe.

Knowing what to expect at each stage of the day may help your toddler be less clingy and having an established and regular bedtime routine will help with separation anxiety when it is time for them to sleep.

9. Give Them A Favourite Toy To Focus On 

You could also help them focus on a favourite toy to keep them company and make them feel safe when you are not around. This works especially well at bedtime.

Some children love their teething toys, whilst others will have favourite toys because they smell of you.

Whatever the toy is, it is as important to them as your phone and keys are to you, so treat it as such and make sure you can always get it when your toddler needs it!

GUND or Jelly Cat plush soft toys are always a firm favourite!

GUND "Toothpick" Soft Plush Teddy Bear
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10. Encourage Your Toddler To Trust Others 

You will need to enlist the help of close relatives and your partner for this one.

Firstly, encourage your toddler to let other family members play and hold your little one while you are present. 

Take things slowly but always remember to show your child that you trust this person. You can do an activity together and as your toddler becomes more comfortable, you can start to take a back seat and watch.

So, whatever the reason for your toddlers’ clinginess, take heart from the fact that there is always something you can do about it. 

TOP TIP: Always remember that it is normal for your toddler to want to spend almost all of their time with you and that their independence has to be learnt and nurtured.

Need More Parenting Help?

Paula McLaren

Paul Mclaren - Norland Nurse NNEB RSH is the founder of Teething to Tantrums and has been in the child care industry as a Norland Nanny since 1982. Since then, her mission has been to help parents become the best they can possibly be. And each year, she continues to help more families understand their child's development, the trials and joys of parenting and of course, how to care for their little ones.

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