Maslow’s hierarchy of needs pyramid for toddlers is one of the cornerstones of childhood development. It is a great tool for parents of toddlers to help manage big emotions.

 

Known as a humanistic psychologist, Maslow created this pyramid to help explain human needs at different levels. This tool is known as Maslows Hierarchy of Needs. It is used around the world and can even be used in your own home as a tool to help you fill your child’s needs.  

 

As a mom, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs pyramid is something that I used for all four of my young children- especially in the chaotic times of toddlerhood. When a tantrum strikes, starting from the lower level of the pyramid to assess their needs will help you figure out the root of any problem. 

 

Ready to learn how you can apply Maslow’s famous pyramid to your own family? Keep reading to learn more…

 

 

Theory of Human Motivation 

 

Theory of motivation, also known as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, is a tool that can help explain a lot of the cause behind human behavior. This motivational theory breaks down the levels of Maslow’s pyramid.

 

This theory addresses the variety of needs that all human beings require in order to feel their best. Essentially, a human’s needs begin at the bottom of the pyramid and work their way up. 

 

You can only achieve one level once the one below it is complete. Once our basic needs are met, then we can begin working on other areas such as self-esteem or self-actualization. 

 

For caregivers of preschoolers, that means looking at your child’s needs in a specific order in order to ensure that they are fulfilled. As tantrums begin to happen more and more in two and three year olds, having this pyramid of needs can help you solve problems fast. 

 

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is one that every parent and caregiver should utilize for their young children’s emotional management. 

 

Next time your little one starts breaking down in aisle ten of the grocery store, start with the bottom of the pyramid and work up to help you uncover the root of the problem. 

 

 

 

What are Basic Needs in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs?

 

Basic needs are the foundation of this pyramid and are at the very core of our motivation. Without these basic needs fulfilled, then working on higher levels of Maslow’s pyramid cannot be achieved. 

 

The basic needs consist of the first two levels of the pyramid: physiological needs and safety needs.

 

When it comes to child development, there are different ways that a child can express the physical needs of the first level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

 

Basic Physiological Needs Explained

  • Food
  • Water
  • Warmth 
  • Rest

 

In the hierarchy of needs, if these areas are not covered, then finding the motivation for your little one to do more probably won’t happen. This is why these needs are the bottom layer of the pyramid. 

 

What this means is that these levels need to be checked when something seems off before anything else. If your preschooler is acting out, ask yourself:

 

1) Are they hungry?

2) How did they sleep last night?

3) Did something happen at school where they don’t feel safe?

4) Do they need a sip of water?

5) Could they possibly need medical care?

6) Would you consider their space a clean environment?

 

With toddlers, this is the first time in their lives that they are beginning to experience those big emotional needs. With that, it can be easy for parents to forget how those feelings can be fixed with something simple like a cheese stick or some independent play. 

 

Oftentimes, filling a fundamental need can stop a tantrum in its tracks. If not, then moving up to the next level of needs on the pyramid can help you solve any problems. 

 

 

Safety Needs/ Security Needs Explained

 

After basic needs, the next level of the pyramid is safety needs. Like adults, children need to feel secure in their environment. Since toddlers lack the communication skills to do this, oftentimes it can go unnoticed. Primary caregivers should know to look out for such needs and how to provide resources for them.

 

Some examples of this level are:

  • Security of the body and health (are they sick and unable to explain it?)
  • Financial security (do they have the right toys to do the activity that they want to do?)
  • Job security (is their position in the family being threatened by a new baby?)
  • Security of resources (is there someone removing toys from a game that they need?)
  • Safe in the home (could there be someone or something causing harm in the home>)

 

In this level with preschooler, asking questions like

  • Do my children’s roles feel threatened by one of their family members? 
  • Is a game at outdoor recess too exciting for them and brings them anxiety?
  • Do they know where their next meal is coming from?
  • Can they sleep soundly at night without being disturbed/threatened for their physical safety?

 

Looking at these needs can help you discover a lack of safety in certain situations. Identifying these can help guide you to providing resources, which can modify children’s attitudes immensely. 

 

Psychological Needs

 

After basic needs, the next section on the pyramid is a person’s physiological needs, which covers the next two levels. Those levels are Belongingness and love needs as well as esteem needs. 

 

Once you have solidified that your children’s basic needs are being met, it’s time to examine these levels to help them feel fulfilled. 

 

Belongingness and Love Needs

 

In order to be fulfilled in the belongingness and love needs level, your child must feel secure in their intimate relationships. In preschoolers, this can look like a parent, sibling, or other close family member such as a grandparent. 

 

If your child is acting out, it could be because they don’t feel secure in a relationship. This can happen for all sorts of reasons like: 

  • Feeling guilty of pulling a siblings hair this morning
  • Needing a hug after a disagreement
  • A phone call with grandma
  • Playdate with a peer (this will also fill social needs)

 

To help fill this level of needs, it can be as simple as spending 20 minutes with your toddler playing with their toys, going on a walk, or chatting at the grocery store. 

 

Esteem Needs

 

One of the most important needs for toddlers is the esteem needs level on the needs pyramid. Essentially, this level is met when your preschooler feels prestige and feeling of accomplishment. 

 

Some ways to help a preschooler achieve this level are: 

 

  • Verbal Praise “Oh wow Timmy, that picture you drew for Grandma looks amazing! I love the colors you chose!”
  • Physical Gifts “You earned this toy for how hard you worked cleaning your bedroom!”
  • Awards “Let’s decorate a crown for you to wear to celebrate you learning your letters”

 

These four levels of needs are important to look over during your toddlers meltdowns. Implementing this way of looking at your children’s tantrums will help solve the root of the problem. 

 

Deficiency Needs in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

 

The 4 levels listed above are all classified as deficiency needs in Maslow’s pyramid. What this means is that if these are not met, then they are lacking something that can be fixed. 

 

With your 4 year old, this can be as simple as a kiss on a fallen knee from mom or a quick facetime with Grandpa to show them their new race car toy.   

 

The last stage- the goal that everyone wants to reach- is known as growth needs or self actualization needs. 

 

 

Self-Actualization Needs

 

Fulfilling the need of self-actualization is the ultimate goal when raising a child. 

 

Once the rest of the levels have been achieved, reaching the highest level to become the best version of yourself is the goal. 

 

For adults, reaching the level of self-actualization looks like creating one’s full potential in their job as well as their home life. Having peak experiences like earning a promotion or paying off your mortgage. 

 

For preschoolers, reaching self-actualization looks more like that joy of achieving the impossible. Perhaps a month ago stacking those blocks wasn’t possible, but now they have more concentration and are able to make a tower as tall as them. 

 

According to Maslow’s theory, that level of joy can only be accomplished when the rest of the hierarchical levels are achieved. 

 

Criticisms of Maslow

 

When looking at a theory that can be applied to your child, it is vital that some time is kept for you to look at any criticisms that the theory may have. 

 

For Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, one of the biggest criticisms is how he used an unscientific approach to gather his information. 

This theory also fails to recognize how human behavior isn’t universal. There are millions of factors that can play into a person’s behavior and this theory minimizes human needs significantly. 

 

Another critique of maslow’s theory is the lack of variety in culture differences. Something as simple as looking at how children play in different cultures can help you see that their needs may be different (source).

 

Religious groups have largely criticized the theory of motivation as it ends with a need being filled by personal growth, as opposed to a higher power to fulfill those higher needs.  

 

Carl Rogers vs. Maslow

 

One common comparison to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory is one created by Carl Rogers Both Maslow and Rogers focused on the study of the growth potential for healthy individuals and primarily agreed on the needs listed above. 

 

Rogers looks farther into how one’s environment affects their needs (source). Maslow’s theory claims that self-actualization is only possible towards the end. Rogers, on the other hand, says that those actions of empathy, sincerity and acceptance of others actually helps the rest of the needs happen. 

 

Overall, both theorists were essential in discovering free will and the motivation behind healthy people (source).

 

In Conclusion to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

 

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs pyramid is an excellent tool and has set the foundation for decades of research in childhood development. 

 

Starting from the lowest level and working upwards, this theory can lay the groundwork for helping fulfill your child’s needs and stop whining and tantrums in their tracks. Understanding those basic needs is an ideal starting point to help preschoolers gain control and calm down. 

 

Seasoned parents will tell you to keep snacks on hand and to plan around naptime to prevent upset children, and this theory can explain to you exactly why. 

 

Keep this pyramid in mind for keeping your children’s needs met and have a happier time doing so. 

Other Articles you Might Enjoy that can help with Toddler Behavior: 

Easy Toy Rotation

A guide to Independent Play

 

 

 

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