Plan to Distract
To many parents' surprise, toys alone often don't do the trick at changing time. You have to help your child keep his hands and his mind busy. If he's holding a book, ask him to point to the green objects in the pictures, for example. Give your child a family photo and ask him to name the familiar faces.
Choose small objects your child can easily grasp. Use soft toys and board books with rounded corners, so if he drops them on himself, he won't get hurt. Or, hang a mobile, poster, chimes, or mirror around the changing area. Reserve the toys for changing time so your child doesn't lose interest and looks forward to playing with them.
Toys didn't captivate two-year-old Grace Miller of Ann Arbor, Michigan, who started protesting diaper changes soon after her first birthday. Her mother, Lisa, found an educational solution. "I go through a series of questions, 'Where's Gracie's eye? Where's Gracie's nose? Where's Mommy's nose?'" says Lisa. "She becomes so engrossed in naming and pointing to body parts that she quickly forgets I'm changing her diaper." Your best bet with this game is to stick with body parts above the diaper area.
Music also can calm squirmy toddlers. Old standards, like the Alphabet Song, engage children because they provide opportunity for interaction. But you may have to change your tune to find effective music. Two-year-old Cal Robertshaw, of Fanwood, New Jersey, loves animals. When Cal wriggles at changing time, his father, Chris, belts out songs that mention animals, from Old McDonald to old folk-rock songs. "The songs entertain him enough to let me get the job done," says Robertshaw.
If you're good at improvising, tell stories about family members, friends, or pets. Ask your child to pick a person, then set the scene in fun, familiar situations—the beach, park, or zoo. Spin tales that allow your child to add words or sound effects; the more he's involved in the story, the more distracted he'll be from the diaper change. For a smooth shift, start the story, song, or game before you lay your child down. "He will be so engaged that he won't notice—or, at least, won't care—that he's going to be stuck on his back for a few minutes," says Claire Lerner, child development specialist with Zero to Three in Washington, DC.