Sleep Well, Take Risks, Squish the Peas

Secrets from the Science of Toddlers for a Happier, More Successful Way of Life


Toddlers hold the secrets to having more fun and living a fulfilling life. These are secrets we once knew and ones that a Harvard-trained physician can help us rediscover.

Terrible twos, temper tantrums, and grocery store meltdowns are usually the first things that come to mind when people think of toddlers. But pediatric emergency medicine physician and researcher Dr. Hasan Merali has long thought toddlers are among the best people in our society and adults could do well to learn from them. These extraordinary youngsters can be impulsive, yes, but with this comes a remarkable ability to take risks and ask questions—two qualities that can help us enjoy life more. Toddlers act kindly toward strangers, are eager to work with others to solve problems, and demonstrate extraordinary dedication and perseverance. These are all traits that many of us aspire to have in order to improve both our personal and professional lives.

To unpack this behavior, Dr. Merali includes many humorous examples from his experience as a pediatrician and father, but the core lessons are drawn from two decades worth of fascinating and surprising studies in child psychology and development. Merali connects these studies to research about adults to create the first book to offer adults important lessons that can be gleaned from toddlers. Toddlers can teach you many things, including how to:

  • Lose weight naturally
  • Sleep better
  • Build stronger friendships
  • Improve teamwork
  • Be more productive
  • Have more fun, and
  • Live a more fulfilling life

Sleep Well, Take Risks, Squish the Peas shows us how toddlers bring out the best in humanity and how we can, too. It’s a whole new way of looking at and learning from toddlers.

About the author(s)

Hasan Merali, MD, MPH is an associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics, Division of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at McMaster’s Children’s Hospital in Hamilton, Ontario. He received his medical degree from Harvard Medical School and Master of Public Health degree from Johns Hopkins University. His research focuses on child injury prevention in low- and middle-income countries. He has published more than twenty-five peer-reviewed journal articles and his writing has been featured in Science, The Boston Globe, NBC, CBC, and Popular Science. Dr. Merali lives in Oakville, Ontario with his wife and their toddler daughter.


“By encouraging readers to be more spontaneous and adventurous, Merali frees them to be better and more authentic human beings…. An interesting and well-reasoned approach to help readers slow down, relearn how to relax, and shed any notions of what it means to be an adult.”

Library Journal

"In this telling (balanced, of course, by the downsides), understanding the toddlerverse is a point of entry into a marvelous stage of children’s lives and a more positive way of being an adult."

—Harvard Magazine, Off the Shelf, March/April 2024

"From the psychology of toddlers comes a surprisingly intuitive blueprint for a better life. This is one of the most original advice books I've read in a long time!”  

—Cal Newport, New York Times bestselling author of Digital Minimalism and Deep Work 

"Sleep Well, Take Risks, Squish the Peas is one of those books that you find yourself thinking about well after you've finished it. It turns out we already know how to live a fulfilling life. We just forgot the lessons. Hasan Merali provides a much needed fresh perspective, showing us with plenty of evidence to back it up, why we need to be a little more like a toddler. A must-read for anyone looking to have a healthier, happier, more productive life." 

—Steve Magness, author of Do Hard Things and coauthor of Peak Performance 

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