Your toddler becomes more interesting as you get a window into his thoughts through his growing vocabulary. The days of pointing and crying are nearing an end as he becomes more fluent in speech.
What Your Toddler is Learning and How You Can Help
Jumping—He is not able yet to jump off the ground with both feet in the air, but he is beginning to want to jump off low steps to the ground. Right now it is more like throwing one leg off and letting the other follow.
He is ready for you to help him practice. You can have him jump off a footstool onto pillows. He may need to hold your hand while he practices at first. You can also draw circles with chalk on the ground. Demonstrate how to jump from one to another and help him balance at first.
Better Hand-Eye Coordination—He is able to build block towers better all the time. He may enjoy snapping beads together or “sewing” with a shoelace through cardboard pictures.
This is a great time to introduce moldable dough. Here is a recipe for home-made dough:
Combine 2 cups white flour, 1/2 cup salt, 2 cups water, 2 Tablespoons cooking oil, 2 Tablespoons cream of tartar, and a drop of food coloring in a saucepan over medium heat. When the mixture looks smooth, let it cool and give it to your toddler to play with. Store it in an airtight container so it doesn’t dry out.
Kicking a Ball—He is probably able to kick a ball forward without falling. If not, demonstrate kicking and then roll a ball toward him and ask him to kick it. Even if he touches the ball with his foot, verbally encourage him. Continue to practice kicking a ball. This is so good for coordination, balance, and muscle development.
Running—He is good at running now, but not good at stopping or turning once he is in motion. Practice running, stopping, and turning in a park or grassy area.
Sleeping—22 month olds need about 14-15 hours of sleep per day. He is probably down to one nap in the afternoon of one to two hours. He should be getting 12-13 hours of sleep at night. If he is suddenly having trouble sleeping all night long, try shortening his afternoon nap.
Make sure he is getting enough sleep in 24 hours. Sleep is so important for his growth, mental development, healing when he is sick, emotional stability, and socializing.
It is normal for toddlers to wake in the middle of the night. If you rock him before bed, don’t wait until he is asleep to put him in his bed. And if you have been lying down with him until he falls asleep, it is time for you to leave him before he is totally asleep. Let him finish falling asleep with the room just as it will be when he wakes. This will eliminate the need for you to get up to put him back to sleep when he rouses during the night.
Teething—The last molars are appearing. They may cause more pain than other teeth because they are bigger and less sharp. When these are cut, teething is finished until his baby teeth begin to fall out at around six years of age. Don’t worry if these “baby” teeth are not straight. As the jaw grows these first 20 teeth straighten out. If you have not started brushing your child’s teeth and teaching him to brush, do not delay any longer. These teeth are important, not only for eating and speech, but as space savers for permanent teeth.
His vocabulary is much larger than the 20-100 words he uses regularly. It includes all the words he understands but hasn’t yet learned to say. He mimics the tone of speech of the people around him. He should be able to name at least five body parts although he is able to point to many more when you ask him to.
He loves singing nursery rhymes and may even be able to carry the tune.
You can help by reading children’s books with lots of repetitive words or phrases. Stop every so often and see if he can fill in the missing word. In his pretend play you may find him reading a familiar book by labeling what he sees in the pictures. He should know if the book is upside down or not.
If he has a short attention span, don’t rush through a book to finish the story before he loses interest. Take time to let him scan the pages at his pace, point to objects of interest, and enjoy the book. It is far more important that he develops a love for books than that he hears the end of the story.
Cataloging—he is word hungry! He spends a lot of time cataloging the objects, actions, and situations around him. When he doesn’t know a word, he asks, “What’s that?” He is adding verbs as he describes what he or others are doing. He still is confused by spatial words like over, under, in, out, up, and down. He may be able to count to ten by rote memory of the sequence, but there is not yet a one-to-one correspondence between numbers and objects yet.
Time-related words—have more meaning to him now, like: day, night, now, first. The passage of time, five minutes or an hour mean nothing, however. He remembers past events and can anticipate future events like: “We are going to the park.” He reminds you of the toy fire engine and runs to get ready to go.
Self Talk—increases his language and speech development. He uses several kinds of self talk.
- Self direction– step-by-step directions on how he does something.
- Self control– saying “no-no” or “don’t touch” as he nears a restricted item.
- Thinking out loud to an adult– He cannot just think silently. He is organizing his experiences and appreciates feed-back.
- Dramatic play– acting out his daily events and the actions of those around him.
Issuing Orders—He can communicate with words and gestures and wants to experiment with the effects of his communication on those around him. He wants to see what happens when he yells, “Stop!” or “Help me!” or “Look.”
Instead of getting frustrated and throwing a toy he can now ask for help or attention. These are giant leaps forward in his language development. Now you can add to his vocabulary and socializing by teaching, “Help, please!” You can ask why you should stop or make a guess to help him gain ability to express his will or desires.
Imitations— You can now easily recognize what he is pretending to do. There are several steps to accurate imitation. First, he must be able to observe accurately. Secondly, he must be able to understand what motions he must make to copy the action. Thirdly, he must draw from his learned individual motions the correct ones and string them together.
Simple and Combined Motions—Simple motions are ones he can do automatically without conscious thought. Now he is learning new motion combinations daily. He is consciously and deliberately combining two or more simple movements either together or consecutively to make combined motions. Once he has practiced these combinations they will eventually become simple motions no longer requiring concentration to do. Screwing and unscrewing the lid of a jar requires many simple motions combined in the correct sequence. This is why you see your child repeat a motion over and over and over.
When he is learning combined motions all his attention is focused on the task. He will not hear you talking to him and will be frustrated if you interrupt his work with conversation.
When you want to teach him a new skill, you will need to demonstrate the necessary actions and explain in very simple words as you go along. If he doesn’t seem to be able to grasp the concept, he may not be neurologically ready to tackle that task or he may need it broken down into smaller actions he can learn one at a time before combining them.
Your toddler is learning to express love. He will shower you and a few other special people in his life with affection. He will freely hug and kiss and cuddle you. He knows that makes you happy and will try to please you.
Resistance shows itself in his fascination with the word “no.” Why does he say “no”? Because he can. He has discovered he has a will and wants to exercise it. Here are some ways to deal with his resistance:
- Offer only two choices. “Do you want this one or that one?”
- Limit the time allowed for him to make a choice. “You choose or I decide.”
- Offer the appearance of a choice. “You can do it now or in two minutes.” Or, “You can wear it inside out or right side out.” Either way you are content.
- Teach other responses like: “No, thank you.” or “Maybe later.”
- Use substitute words for “no.” Say, “It is dangerous!” or “Freeze.”
- Stand your ground, you also have a will. “This is no time for a choice. This is what you will do.”
Many 22 month olds are learning that loud, cranky, increasingly higher pitched demands get results. The more he sees that whining is effective, the more he will do it. This is the time to deal with whining before it becomes a habit that is very hard to eradicate. Help your child learn more effective ways of expressing himself. Here are some strategies:
- Make sure he understands what whining is. He doesn’t automatically know what you mean when you say, “Stop whining.” You may have to demonstrate with your voice or record his regular voice and his whine to show him the difference.
- Tell him to “use words” not a whiny voice.
- Pay attention to him when he speaks. Get on his eye level and listen to him.
- Immediately acknowledge his request when he asks in a pleasant way. Let him know he was heard.
- If you cannot meet his request, tell him you can do it when you finish. . . Be sure you follow through as soon as possible. Two minutes for a two year old is an eternity. Praise him when he waits quietly.
- Don’t fulfill a whined request. Say, “I cannot understand you when you talk in a whining voice. I can hear you when you talk in your normal voice.
- Try covering your ears and acting like you are in pain when he whines. Smile sweetly when he stops.
- Stay connected. Let him know he can have your attention without whining. Touch him affectionately. Hug and kiss and cuddle him.
- Finally, respond consistently. Giving in even one in 12 times will convince him whining is always worth a try.
What to Expect Next
- Understanding opposites
- Opening doors
- Taking more interest in playing with other children
Heavenly Father, Help me to be consistent in the way I deal with my toddler’s behavior. Help me to have the strength, patience, and wisdom to teach him limits. Help us as parents to cooperate and support each other for our child’s healthy development. In Jesus” name, Amen