Why Does My Toddler Follow Me? 10 Steps To Be Free Again

Author Image By Paula McLaren - Norland Nurse NNEB RSH •  Updated: 04/26/23 •  Behavior / Anxiety

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?

NOTE: 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. Your toddler feels safe when they are with you when facing 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 a clingy toddler 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.

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10 Ways To Help Your Toddler Learn To 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 home and away.

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

Why does my toddler follow me everywhere - 10 Ways To Help Your Toddler Stop Following You Everywhere

1. Always Be A Safe Secure 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 a warm embrace, and suggest going with them to try out the new activity.

2. Stay Calm And Confident

If your toddler is struggling to adjust to going to nursery for the first time (which is a very natural reaction), 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.

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 in being alone 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. So make sure you spend lots of time doing close bonding activities with your toddler so they feel they’re getting enough of your attention.

In their eyes, if you are always too busy or distracted, they will feel insecure. So when you are focused on spending quality 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 Melissa and Doug is perfect for the clingy toddler phase…

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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Because by offering an engaging independent play activity away, but still relatively close to you (for example… at the other end of the kitchen), 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, you deciding to go back to work etc. As 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

Clingy behavior doesn’t always mean your toddler has to have physical contact with you… So 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

This colorful, kid-sized set looks just like the real thing and includes a wooden pretend play broom, mop, duster, brush, and organizing stand. Perfect for coping you and joining in with household chores, this sturdy set will withstand even the most enthusiastic cleaners!

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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 very strong attachments to their favourite stuffed animal 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

Super soft, very cuddly and the perfect companion to young children, the GUND Teddy Bears never fail to be toy box favourites for years to come!

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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.

Looking to get your little one to sleep quickly and effortlessly? Check out my Bedtime and Nap Cheat Sheet and master the art of making daytime naps and bedtimes as seamless as possible.

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Author Image Bio
Paula McLaren is the founder of Teething to Tantrums and a highly qualified childcare expert with over 40 years of experience as a Norland Nanny. She holds a BA (Hons) in Early Years Development & Learning (0-6 Years) and the prestigious Norland Diploma. Paula has worked as a night nanny, run a successful daycare center in London, and helped raise countless children using her tried and tested developmental and guidance methods.