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If you’ve ever been on a toddler playdate, gone to a parent-and-me or parents group class, or even just visited a playground, you’ve noticed that toddler temperaments can vary… a lot!

And, of course, that’s normal. No two toddlers are alike. However, there are three main temperament buckets that all toddlers fall into. And knowing which one best fits your little one will help you better predict whether your child will greet certain situations with gusto or caution… and it’ll help you better navigate parenting, too.

What is Temperament?

Your toddler’s temperament is their style of interacting with the world: their own personal pacing, their attitude, flexibility and general mood.

Is your kiddo on the cautious side or brave little bug? Stubborn or easy going? Mild mannered or super passionate?

If your child’s demeanour feels familiar, that’s because temperament often runs in the family. But nature isn’t always predictable and, who knows, a pair of quiet-loving librarians can very easily spawn the next heavy metal rocker.

Toddler Temperament #1: Easy Toddler Temperament

Easy going kiddos generally wake up cheerful and ready for a new day. These tots are definitely active, but not wild. They tolerate changes well, and thoroughly enjoy meeting new people, and diving into new situations. Their eating and sleeping patterns are blissfully predictable.

Children with this type of temperament are resilient, meaning they’re excellent at bouncing back from setbacks and disappointments… and trying again!

Toddler Temperament #2: Slow-to-Warm Up Toddler Temperament

If your tot’s generally happy, but cautious, easily frustrated, and slow to warm to new people and experiences, they’ve got a slow-to-warm-up temperament. These kiddos love quiet play and tend to be very observant. They’re early talkers, late walkers, and they lean toward the sensitive, bristling when their milk is too cold or their jumper is too scratchy. T

hese sensitive souls often start the “terrible twos” between 15 and 18 months, but if you treat your tot with patience and respect, they’ll finish the toddler years happy and confident.

Respect includes not calling your tot shy. Instead, use words like “careful” or “they look before they leap”.

Toddler Temperament #3: Spirited Toddler Temperament

Strong-willed, spirited tykes are kind of like “roller-coaster kids,” with lots of high highs and low lows. (Expect unpredictable eating and sleeping patterns.)

These tots are brimming with “more”: They’re more active, more impatient, more impulsive, more defiant, more rigid, more intense, and more sensitive than most. Because of this, when the sparks of daily stress mix with their explosive personalities… there could be a big ol KABOOM!

The good news? These fidgety, distracted kiddos are bursting with grit and usually grow into happy, enthusiastic kids – if they get lots of outside play, consistent (but flexible) limits, and a steady stream of patience and love.

If you’re not quite certain which temperament best describes your child, here’s a quick test to find out:

Go to an uncrowded shopping centre and briefly let your tot’s hand go, pretending to turn your back for two seconds. All the while, keep watch out of the corner of your eye.

If your toddler simply stands there, they likely have an Easy disposition. If they tug at your coat and cry, that’s a big Slow-to-Warm-Up clue. Finally, if your kiddo makes a run for it without so much as a head-turn, you’ve got a Spirited bub on your hands!

No matter what your child’s temperament, once you have a better sense of what makes your little one tick, and what may be hindering good behaviour, you can better address the day-to-day challenges of toddlerdom.


  • Dr. Harvey Karp

    Dr. Harvey Karp is a world-renowned paediatrician and child development expert. His celebrated Happiest Baby / Happiest Toddler books and videos have guided millions of parents and are translated into 30 languages. He is also the creator of the SNOO Smart Sleeper, a new class of responsive infant bed that adds 1 - 2 hours to a baby’s sleep and reduces the risk of infant sleep death by preventing dangerous rolling. SNOO has won 27 international honours, including the National Sleep Foundation Innovation of the Year and is in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institution as an iconic example of 21st Century form and function.