Your High-Energy Toddler Explained

Kids have plenty of energy and curiosity. And that can add up to a real challenge.

Living with a Whirlwind

Jack Rosen is just 3 years old and barely 3 feet tall, but he has enough energy to fuel a turbine -- and then some. There's never a dull moment around Jack.

Not long ago, when he was out with his mom, he spotted a fire alarm in a public building, and, before anyone could stop him, he scampered up a landing and set it off. The scene that followed was pretty dramatic.

"I was mortified," says his mother, Robin, of Atlanta. "Trying to keep up with this child is exhausting."

Living with a whirlwind of a toddler can be trying, but it's actually a common challenge: Kids this age have lots of physical energy -- and a great sense of curiosity that drives it. "The world is very stimulating for 2- and 3-year-olds, and they love to explore," says Parents advisor Kyle D. Pruett, MD, clinical professor of child psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine. They're also pretty agile, so they can get where they want to go -- sometimes surprisingly quickly.

It's Fun to Run

The reason toddlers love to race around is simple: It feels good. "As adults, we forget what it's like to acquire a new skill," says Dr. Pruett. "If your world were just starting to open up, would you pass up an opportunity to check it out?" You, however, might not find this stage of childhood quite as enchanting. But toddlers aren't being "bad" or purposely trying to make your life difficult. The 2-year-old who runs off to chase a bird at the park isn't intentionally defying you.

"Toddlers don't have the self-control or the cognitive ability to stop doing things they enjoy," says Susan J. Schwartz, clinical director of the Institute for Learning and Academic Achievement at the New York University Child Study Center. What's more, as they begin to realize that they're unique individuals, they are also testing limits. In trying to figure out how the world works, they question ("I wanna pet the dog across the street. Can I make it over there?"), make predictions ("Yep, probably"), and experiment ("Well, I'll try it and find out").

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