What A Baby’s Body Language Actually Means

By molly atherton 4 months ago
Welcome to the fascinating world of tiny gestures and profound expressions - a world where a gurgle speaks volumes, and a yawn tells tales! Have you ever wondered what those adorable, squishy bundles of joy are really saying with their wiggles, giggles, and furrowed brows? Brace yourself for a whimsical journey through the mysterious language of baby body movements, where every coo, every twitch, and every tiny toe wiggle holds a treasure trove of insight into their secret world.

1. Arching their back

Babies might not articulate their needs through words, but they have an intricate non-verbal language that they use to communicate their desires, discomforts, and feelings. One of the intriguing signals they often convey is the arching of their little backs, which can speak volumes about their physical state.
Image source: Reddit
Babies cannot communicate verbally, but they do have body language signs that we can look out for to know what they need/ want. When a baby arches their back it can be a sign of stomach discomfort. It could be that your baby has acid reflux. Babies' stomachs are still developing, and so if they arch their back just take a pause while feeding and rub their back.Original content sourced from Femanin.com

2. Grabbing their ear

Indeed, the sight of a baby incessantly reaching for their ear might seem like an adorable exploration of their ever-fascinating body, but it often holds deeper implications beyond mere curiosity. This gesture can serve as a poignant indicator of various discomforts or emerging milestones in their developmental journey.
Image source: Reddit
You may notice that a baby keeps grabbing their ear. Aside from exploring new parts of their body, it can also be a sign that your baby has a cold or an ear infection which is making it feel irritated or hurt. Ear grabbing is also a really common sign that your baby is teething.

3. Rocking/ head banging

Ah, the gentle sway and rhythmic motion of a baby rocking themselves – a mesmerizing sight that often unfolds as a prelude to bedtime or during moments of weariness. This self-soothing technique unveils a serene dance, orchestrated solely by your little one, as they harness their natural instincts to find solace and tranquility.
Image source: Reddit
A baby may rock themselves for comfort. It is a soothing technique that you will probably notice usually happens before bedtime, or when your baby is tired. Rocking themselves is very common and it is a natural technique your baby will use to soothe themselves.

4. Leg kicking

The delightful sight of a baby’s frequent leg kicking is not just a random burst of energy; it's a vibrant expression of their happiness and a vital part of their developmental journey. This rhythmic flurry of leg movement often signifies an abundance of joy and contentment bubbling within them.
Image source: Reddit
Frequent leg kicking within babies is also extremely common and it can be a good sign - it may mean that your baby is happy! Aside from displaying a good mood,  it is also a natural way of helping muscles in their legs to develop and grow before your baby moves on to crawling or walking.

5. Fist clenching

Ah, the captivating sight of those tiny, curled fingers—baby's fists clenching, a remarkable reflex that traces its roots to the earliest stages of life. This instinctive gesture, often observed in newborns and young infants, is a vestige of a primitive reflex known as the palmar grasp reflex.
Image source: Reddit
Fist clenching within babies is a primitive reflex, it is a habit that is established in the womb and they continue for once they are born for a few months. The reflex will disappear at around the 5-6 month stage. It can signal that a baby is hungry or slightly distressed.

6. Frequent hiccups

Ah, the charming yet seemingly perplexing rhythm of hiccups in a baby - a familiar cadence that often prompts both wonder and slight concern among parents. However, fret not, for these bouts of hiccups in your little one are typically nothing more than a benign and natural occurrence.
Image source: Reddit
If a baby is hiccupping very frequently, it is usually nothing to worry about at all. It's super common and a natural mechanism in our bodies. It will usually happen when your baby has overfed or they have taken milk very quickly. The hiccups should only last around 10 minutes each time.

7. Jerking their arms

Witnessing those sudden jerks or fleeting arm waves in your little one might seem surprising, but fret not – it's all part of their natural repertoire of reflexes, often referred to as a "startle reflex" or more formally known as the Moro reflex.
Image source: Reddit
You may notice that your baby sometimes jerks their arms or waves their arms very suddenly. This again is a natural response called a micro flex. It is a protective instinct and it will usually happen if your baby has been slightly startled perhaps by a noise or a light that has made them jump.

8. Eye rubbing

Ah, the familiar sight of a baby rubbing their eyes – a universal gesture that transcends age and serves as a telltale sign of fatigue, signaling the onset of that cherished moment: nap time. But amidst this innocent act lies a nuanced language of communication.
Image source: Reddit
We can all probably guess what eye rubbing means. Even adults do it too! This is a way to show their tiredness and say 'Okay, it's nap time'. But, if the eye is red in any way it could be a sign of an allergy or infection which is irritating your baby and making them rub it to itch their eye.

9. Quick breathing when they're smiling

Ah, the subtle symphony of a baby's breathing – an unspoken melody that often mirrors the vibrant tapestry of their emotions. Witnessing those rapid breaths when your little one is smiling might seem like a whimsical dance of excitement, a testament to their sheer joy and exuberance.
Image source: Reddit
Quick breathing, when they're smiling, may mean that the baby is super excited and cannot probably control their emotions. If they are not smiling, your baby may have been startled or could be a little bit stressed. If their heartbeat returns to normal very quickly this is usually a very normal thing!

10. Scrunched up knees

As your baby embarks on their exploratory journey with their tiny limbs, you might notice a myriad of adorable movements - from enthusiastic kicks to curious arm waves. Amidst this playful symphony of movements, a consistent habit of scrunching up their knees could reveal a tale of discomfort.
Image source: Reddit
Your baby will be trying out all kinds of things with their legs and arms. But consistently scrunching up their knees may mean that your baby has wind. Too much gas can be very uncomfortable for the baby, or they may be alleviating discomfort from constipation. Cycling your baby's legs and burping them can help!

11. Turning their face away

Ah, the subtle yet powerful gesture of a baby turning their face away - a silent yet profound expression that communicates volumes in the intricate language of their needs and preferences. This turning away, akin to a gentle refusal, often speaks volumes about a baby's current state of mind and comfort.
Image source: Reddit
Your baby turning their face away could be their way of saying no. If it happens while you are feeding then it may just be the case that they are full up and do not want any milk right now. It is also something your baby will do to check their surroundings, or when they have been distracted.

12. Sucking their fingers

Ah, the captivating sight of a baby eagerly sucking on their tiny fingers – a seemingly instinctive action that whispers a tale of needs and comforts in the delicate language of infancy. This endearing gesture, often observed when your little one is sucking on their fingers, holds deeper meanings.
Image source: Reddit
If a baby is sucking their fingers, more often than not it means 'I'm hungry!'. Their fingers replicate the nipple or the milk bottle and so your baby is trying to suck for milk. If your baby is not hungry then they may be using this as a way to soothe themselves, associating feeding time as a time of comfort.

13. Smacking lips

The symphony of a baby smacking their lips together creates a subtle yet distinct signal that communicates their hunger loud and clear in the enchanting language of infancy. These gentle lip smacks often serve as an unmistakable cue, signaling the time for nourishment.
Image source: Reddit
When a baby smacks their lips together it usually means that they are hungry. When a baby is hungry they usually start to form the same motions with their mouths. So when they start to smack their lips, this is when you know that it is time to give your baby some food.

14. Grunting

Ah, the curious symphony of grunts that emanate from your baby's tiny lips—a fascinating blend of experimentation with sounds and a subtle language revealing their discomfort. This intriguing noise often holds more significance than mere exploration, serving as a distinctive signal.
Image source: Reddit
Grunting can be a way for your baby to experiment with sounds. But usually, grunting is a signal to tell us something as it is a noise that usually means they are uncomfortable in some way. It could be when they are constipated, or they are pooping. Cycling their legs to stimulate the intestines and ease the flow can help.

15. Splayed fingers

The language of a baby's body movements is a nuanced one, often revealing a wealth of information about their inner emotions and experiences. When your little one displays splayed or pointed fingers, it could be an intriguing indicator of tension or unease within their tiny form.
Image source: Reddit
When your baby has splayed or pointed fingers it could be that your baby is tense. Often rigid movements are a sign of tension in babies, when they are feeling tense their bodies are also tense. It may be that your baby is in a new environment and they have a lot going on around them.

16. Grabbing and holding onto your finger

The sweet embrace of a baby's tiny fingers wrapping around yours—a heartwarming gesture that speaks volumes about their comfort, contentment, and trust in the person they're holding onto. This endearing act of gripping onto fingers is often a joyful expression.
Image source: Reddit
Babies love to grab fingers and hold on to them tight. Now, this is usually a good sign. It often means that the baby is comfortable with you or the person that they are grabbing the finger of. It can also mean that they are happy and content in their environment at that moment.

17. Staring into the distance

The captivating gaze of a wide-eyed baby staring into the distance often hints at a silent yet powerful message - it's time for some well-deserved rest. This contemplative and distant stare, reminiscent of adult behaviors, is a subtle indication that your little one might be feeling tired.
Image source: Reddit
When your baby starts staring wide-eyed into the distance (much like with many adults) it's a sign that they are tired. When you see this it means that your baby wants some quiet time and it is time to put them down for a nap or sit quietly with them whilst comforting them.

18. Squirming

The subtle language of a baby's squirms speaks volumes about their emotions and needs. When your little one squirms, it's as if they're conveying a silent plea for respite, signaling that they might be feeling overwhelmed or unsettled and in need of a moment to find calmness and ease.
Image source: Reddit
When your baby squirms it can mean that they are overwhelmed or unhappy, They are basically telling you that they need a break. Try taking some time out, sitting quietly with your baby or even putting on some of your baby's favorite relaxing music to make them feel more at ease.

19. Smooth movements

The smooth and fluid movements of your baby's tiny fingers, arms, or legs are a mesmerizing reflection of their inner state of comfort, contentment, and relaxation. These effortless and graceful motions often serve as a gentle yet expressive language, conveying a profound sense of happiness.
Image source: Reddit
Smooth movements (in comparison to rigid movements) whether this is with your baby's fingers or arms/ legs can mean that your baby is happy and relaxed.  They are feeling super comfortable and so their body is also feeling relaxed which is displayed through smooth movements.

20. Flapping arms

The exuberant spectacle of babies flapping their arms like little wings is an enchanting display of their boundless excitement and the joy that bubbles within them. These adorable flapping movements, although seemingly sporadic, serve as an exuberant expression of their uncontainable happiness.
Image source: Reddit
Flapping arms is a very common thing that babies do when they are excited. Babies do not have full control over their limbs yet, and so when they are excited, one way this is expressed is through movement. But this can be fairly sporadic, shown by flapping arms!

21. Stiffened body

The subtle but significant language of a baby's body movements, especially when they tense or stiffen up, speaks volumes about their emotions and their response to their surroundings. These moments of tenseness often signal a baby's discomfort or unease.
Image source: Reddit
When a baby tenses and stiffens up it can be a sign of tension. Often, when this happens it is a sign that your baby is feeling overstimulated. For example, if they are in a new place or with new people you may notice this kind of body language more, and your baby is not relaxed.

22. Reaching out

When a baby extends their tiny hand towards you, it's as if they're opening a door to a world of curiosity and exploration—a beautiful invitation to engage, learn, and share in the wonders of discovery together. This delightful gesture of reaching out is a profound expression of a baby's innate curiosity.
Image source: Reddit
When a baby reaches out to you it can indicate their curiosity. Everything is a new experience for a bay and when they want to engage or explore more, they will reach out to signal that they are ready to play or to learn. This is the chance to stimulate your baby and interact with them or show them something new.

23. Scrunched up face

A baby's facial expressions serve as a captivating canvas that vividly portrays their ever-changing emotions and inner world. When your little one scrunches up their face, it's like a visual storybook unveiling their feelings of frustration or displeasure.
Image source: Reddit
Babies are very expressive when it comes to their faces. Their mood and emotions can often be seen in their face. When they scrunch up their face it is often due to frustration or displeasure at something. They may be attempting to do something without success which can be super frustrating for your baby.

24. Sticking out their tongue

The playful and adorable act of a baby sticking out their tongue is a captivating glimpse into their journey of exploration and development. This delightful gesture isn't just a cute expression; it's a fascinating exploration of their mouth, sensations, and the world of sounds that awaits them.
Image source: Reddit
When a baby sticks out their tongue it usually means that they are experimenting with their mouth. They are navigating their tongue, and new sounds and sensations. It is a way of developing and exploring new movements which in time will lead to your baby making more and more kinds of sounds. It can also be a sign that your baby is hungry!

25. Blowing raspberries

The whimsical and adorable act of blowing raspberries is a delightful milestone in a baby's journey of discovering their burgeoning abilities and exploring the world of sounds. This playful and entertaining gesture isn't just a display of cuteness; it's a significant developmental milestone.
Image source: Reddit
Blowing raspberries is a super cute thing little babies do as they start developing their motor skills. They are experimenting with sounds and discovering that they can make new sounds by attempting different movements with their mouths. It's a good sign of progression from a baby!

26. Wriggling

Wriggling in babies and children often serves as a subtle but clear indicator of their discomfort, impatience, or dissatisfaction with a situation or experience. When they squirm or wriggle, it's as if they're signaling their discomfort or displeasure.
Image source: Reddit
Wriggling with babies and children in general is what happens when they are in discomfort, or feeling impatient because they do not like something. They are reacting to something which they have not liked, and it's a signal that your baby wants to relax!

27. Holing hands together

The endearing sight of a baby clasping their tiny hands together is a charming glimpse into their exploration of the world around them and a heartwarming display of self-soothing behavior. When babies grasp their hands together, it's not merely an adorable exploration of their own limbs...
Image source: Reddit
Babies often grasp their hands together. And aside from being a way to discover their own limbs and work on motor skills, it is also a sign that your baby is soothing themselves and they are holding their own hands as a natural way to comfort themselves.

28. Limpness

When a baby appears more limp or less sturdy than their typical self, it can often indicate a state of extreme tiredness or, in some cases, suggest they might not be feeling well. Babies typically exhibit a certain level of muscle tone and try to hold themselves up.
Image source: Reddit
When your baby feels more limp than their usual sturdy selves it can be because they are over tired. Usually, babies try and hold themselves and their own bodies, so when they do not do this it can mean that they are super tired or may even not be feeling very well!

29. Extending limbs

The delightful spectacle of a baby extending their limbs in quick, sporadic movements is a charming display of their emotions and the exhilarating stages of their physical development. These exuberant limb extensions are not just random movements; they're an exciting expression of their emotions.
Image source: Reddit
When your baby extends their limbs, perhaps quickly or sporadically it can be a sign of excitement. Your baby does not know how to channel emotion and it will be apparent in their body language. It is also a way that your baby is developing muscles and starting new phases of movement.

30. Avoiding eye contact

Eye contact serves as a crucial form of communication and connection, but babies might sometimes avoid eye contact as a subtle way of expressing their feelings of being overwhelmed, overstimulated, or needing a break from additional sensory input.
Image source: Reddit
Your baby may avoid eye contact when they feel like they are overwhelmed and overstimulated. It is a way to avoid further stimulation from people. They may be tired and in need of a break if your baby does this. It can also be a sign that your baby is feeling a little bit shy too!

31. What your toddler is trying to tell you: if they want all their stuffed animals, they're scared

The scene of a toddler surrounding themselves with a menagerie of stuffed animals in their bed is not only adorable but also often serves as a reassuring shield against nighttime fears and uncertainties. This act of amassing their beloved stuffed companions might stem from a need for comfort and security.
image source: reddit.com
We know how confusing it is to see just how many stuffed animals a toddler likes on their bed, to the point there's no space left for them - but if your toddler is dragging the whole zoo to bed with them, it could be because they're scared of something. These familiar objects around them makes them feel more secure about monsters in the closet.

32. What you can do

Creating a safe and comforting sleep environment for toddlers is key, and sometimes, that means allowing them to surround themselves with whatever brings them a sense of security, be it stuffed animals, blankets, or other cherished items.
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It's okay to let your toddler surround themselves with what makes them feel comfortable - you shouldn't try to take all the animals away from them. It also won't work if you open the closet door to show them there isn't a monster (they'll just think you can't see it). Let them sleep with their animals as long as they need.

33. They're anxious if they hide their face in their shirt

That moment when a typically exuberant and energetic child suddenly becomes quiet, reserved, or hides behind their shirt at the arrival of a stranger is a poignant display of social anxiety in children. This response is a way for them to cope with their discomfort or unease in unfamiliar social situations.
image source: reddit.com
We've all seen that moment a normally bouncing-off-the-walls kid goes suddenly quiet and shy and pulls their shirt up over their face because a stranger has come into the house. This is because they're anxious about meeting new people. Even as adults we understand social anxiety - we just can't unfortunately hide our faces in our shirts anymore.

34. What you can do

Parents or caregivers serve as a vital source of comfort and guidance for toddlers, especially in unfamiliar or anxiety-inducing situations. When toddlers feel anxious or unsure about meeting new people, they often seek cues from their trusted adults on how to navigate these situations.
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In new situations that make toddlers feel anxious, they look to the parents they trust for guidance on how to act. So you want to make sure you're being smiling and relaxed with a new person or house guest. Gently make your toddler shake off their shirt from their face and say hello!

35. They want privacy if they hide to poop

When toddlers who are still in diapers begin to exhibit behaviors like hiding or seeking privacy while they poop, it can actually indicate a significant developmental milestone related to their growing awareness of bathroom habits and privacy.
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When your toddler is still wearing a diaper and hasn't moved onto potty training yet, you may have noticed them trying to hide while they take a poop. Maybe they duck down behind the table or chair. This is a good sign because it means they've noticed adults need bathroom privacy for their business, so they're copying that.

36. What you can do

Encouraging a toddler's need for privacy during bathroom activities is an important aspect of their development, fostering healthy attitudes towards personal space and bodily functions. However, redirecting them to the appropriate place, like the bathroom, is essential to establish good bathroom habits.
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You should definitely encourage your toddler's need for privacy - but you need to steer them to the bathroom! It's fine to teach them they should look for privacy to do their business, but you don't want them growing up thinking behind the couch is the spot. So when they need to go, shuffle them to the bathroom and let them have their privacy there until you potty train.

37. They're not feeling themselves if they throw a tantrum

Tantrums are often a challenging aspect of parenting during the toddler years and can be a child's way of communicating powerful emotions or needs when they lack the ability to express them verbally. When toddlers throw a tantrum, it's their way of expressing intense emotions they can't yet fully articulate.
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Tantrums are one thing every parent DOES NOT look forward to in the toddler years, and you might not fully understand why they're acting out. But if they throw a tantrum, they're telling you that they're not feeling themselves. It's a physical reaction to something they're feeling strongly, like 'I'm really bored' or 'you're not giving me attention'.

38. What you can do

You should never try to fight back with a toddler in the middle of a tantrum, and a good first step is validating their feelings (even though it might be annoying to do so if they're misbehaving). It can be as easy as saying 'Okay I understand...'
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... you're bored' or whatever else is going on. But in other situations you might need to wait until they stop instead of engaging. Make sure validate feelings while controlling reactions ("It's okay to feel bored but it's not okay to scream about it").

39. They want it NOW if they tantrum when you're doing something for them

What can be even more annoying in the tantrum department is if your toddler has asked you for something, you're doing it for them, and they tantrum anyway! Babies scream and cry when they're waiting for something...
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And the reason they do this, as annoying as it is, is a matter of survival (they need to be fed or changed). Toddlers just do it for the heck of it. This is just your toddler growing up and learning that feeling we all know: instant gratification.

40. What you can do

Teaching toddlers about patience is an essential part of their emotional development, but it's equally crucial to communicate with them effectively, especially when addressing their requests or needs. When a toddler expresses a desire or a need but it can't be immediately fulfilled, providing them with a clear explanation of the situation is immensely valuable.
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You definitely shouldn't speed up what you're doing, or try to be faster in general to avoid a tantrum from your toddler. The key here is to teach your toddler patience - but they need to understand what you're doing. So if you can't fulfil their request yet, explain what you're doing first, step by step.

41. They get possessive of you with other children

When toddlers see their parents or caregivers interacting with other children, especially if they perceive that interaction as diverting attention away from them, it can trigger feelings of jealousy or a desire for more attention. Their reaction, such as declaring "my mommy/daddy" to other kids, often indicates a plea for attention or reassurance.
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If you're seen interacting with other kids (whether young family members, kids in the park or your friend's kids) your toddler might act out and say things to the other kids, like "my mommy/daddy". This is a sign they want you to give them more attention. This reaction might be worse if you've been working a lot recently or been busy with other things.

42. What you can do

Balancing a toddler's need for attention and reassurance while explaining the importance of social interactions with other children is essential for their understanding and emotional development. Reassuring your toddler of your unwavering love and support is crucial.image source: reddit.comYou need to reassure your toddler that you're there for them, no matter what else is going on. But you also need to help them to understand that you're allowed to speak to other children. You can explain to them that of course they're your number one, but you have to say hello to other children sometimes.

43. They cross their arms because they might be nervous

Body language, even in toddlers, can speak volumes about their emotional state. While folded arms are commonly associated with being grumpy or defensive, especially in adults, in toddlers, this gesture might often signal feelings of nervousness or a need for comfort and security.
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Standing or sitting with arms folded has become a sort of universal grumpy symbol - it's negative body language, and in a toddler, you might think it means they're sulking about something. It could actually mean they're nervous - as we know, we bring our arms around ourselves when we feel we need to protect ourselves.

44. What you can do

The way caregivers respond to a toddler's folded arms, especially in different situations, plays a significant role in supporting the child's emotional well-being and helping them navigate their feelings effectively. When a toddler reacts with folded arms due to encountering something new, like a new toy or a novel situation, allowing them time to acclimate is essential.
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This all depends on the situation that's causing them to fold their arms. If it's something new you've brought home (like a new toy), give them chance to get used to it. If it's a person or social situation, speak positively to them and let them copy your positive body language.

45. If they avoid eye contact, they're embarrassed

Eye contact plays a significant role in communication and emotional expression for both babies and toddlers, but its implications can vary depending on their age and developmental stage. For babies, avoiding eye contact might indicate a need for a break or a moment of respite.
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When babies avoid eye contact with you, it can be because they're overwhelmed with attention and need to tap out. When toddlers avoid eye contact, they're at an age where they've developed self-awareness, so they can now feel shame. If they've done something naughty, they'll likely avoid eye contact.

46. What you can do

Addressing a toddler's misbehavior while guiding them toward a resolution is a constructive way to teach accountability and encourage positive behavior. When communicating with a toddler about their wrongdoing, using a clear and firm tone helps convey that their behavior was not acceptable.
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You need to let them know they've done wrong, but help them know how to fix it. Even if they're not looking at you, make it clear what they did was wrong - "No we don't throw away Mommy's favorite chocolate!" - and then offer a solution for how they can - and should - fix their mistake.

47. Pushing you away could be playful

When toddlers begin to exhibit behaviors such as pushing away or running away during play, it's often a positive indicator of their increasing independence and growing sense of autonomy. As toddlers grow and develop, they start to explore their independence and assert their autonomy.
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It might feel weird to see your doting toddler start to push you away and run away from you as though they're sick of the sight of you, but really it's a good sign they're being playful and realizing their growing independence. Your toddler is telling you that they're growing up and can play without your input.

48. What you can do

Toddlers exploring their independence doesn't signify a lack of affection or attachment to caregivers. It's a natural part of their development as they begin to assert their autonomy and navigate their surroundings. Encouraging independent exploration in a safe environment allows toddlers to learn.image source: reddit.comIt can be difficult to realize this one, but it's nothing personal! The best thing you can do is let your toddler explore on their own - from a watchful distance, and as long as they're not doing anything dangerous, of course - and then they'll come crawling back when they need feeding and they're feeling tired!

49. They're flapping their arms

When toddlers resort to actions like arm flapping or displaying intense physical behaviors during a tantrum, it often indicates they are experiencing distress that surpasses the typical crying or fussing. In such instances, toddlers might exhibit what seems like an intense fight-or-flight response.
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This is literally what every adult wishes they could do in a situation that makes them uncomfortable. This is your toddler freaking out and having their fight or flight kick in - and they honestly believe flapping their arms might fly them out of there! It's an indicator they're in a bit more distress than a normal crying tantrum!

50. What you can do

Children, especially toddlers in distressing situations, are highly attuned to the body language and emotions of their caregivers. During a meltdown or an intense moment of distress, they might not respond to verbal communication as they are overwhelmed by their emotions.
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One key thing to remember is that kids will pick up on your own body language, so you don't want to be moving about flapping while they are too! Have calm and slow body language, and also think actions rather than words - your toddler isn't going to be listening when they're having a melt down, so just hold them and make them feel secure!