Your toddler becomes more interesting as you get a window into her thoughts through her growing vocabulary. The days of pointing and crying are nearing an end as she becomes more fluent in speech.
What Your Toddler is Learning and How You Can Help
Jumping—She is not able yet to jump off the ground with both feet in the air, but she 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.
She is ready for you to help her practice. You can have her jump off a footstool onto pillows. She may need to hold your hand while she practices at first. You can also draw circles with chalk on the ground. Demonstrate how to jump from one to another and help her balance at first.
Better Hand-Eye Coordination—She is able to build block towers better all the time. She 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—She is probably able to kick a ball forward without falling. If not, demonstrate kicking and then roll a ball toward her and ask her to kick it. Even if she touches the ball with her foot, verbally encourage her. Continue to practice kicking a ball. This is so good for coordination, balance, and muscle development.
Running—She is good at running now, but not good at stopping or turning once she 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. She is probably down to one nap in the afternoon of one to two hours. She should be getting 12-13 hours of sleep at night. If she is suddenly having trouble sleeping all night long, try shortening her afternoon nap.
Make sure she is getting enough sleep in 24 hours. Sleep is so important for her growth, mental development, healing when she is sick, emotional stability, and socializing.
It is normal for toddlers to wake in the middle of the night. If you rock her before bed, don’t wait until she is asleep to put her in her bed. And if you have been lying down with her until she falls asleep, it is time for you to leave her before she is totally asleep. Let her finish falling asleep with the room just as it will be when she wakes. This will eliminate the need for you to get up to put her back to sleep when she 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 her 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 her to brush, do not delay any longer. These teeth are important, not only for eating and speech, but as space savers for permanent teeth.
Her vocabulary is much larger than the 20-100 words she uses regularly. It includes all the words she understands but hasn’t yet learned to say. She mimics the tone of speech of the people around her. She should be able to name at least five body parts although she is able to point to many more when you ask her to.
She 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 she can fill in the missing word. In her pretend play you may find her reading a familiar book by labeling what she sees in the pictures. She should know if the book is upside down or not.
If she has a short attention span, don’t rush through a book to finish the story before she loses interest. Take time to let her scan the pages at her pace, point to objects of interest, and enjoy the book. It is far more important that she develops a love for books than that she hears the end of the story.
Cataloging—she is word hungry! She spends a lot of time cataloging the objects, actions, and situations around her. When she doesn’t know a word, she asks, “What’s that?” She is adding verbs as she describes what she or others are doing. She still is confused by spatial words like over, under, in, out, up, and down. She 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 her now, like: day, night, now, first. The passage of time, five minutes or an hour mean nothing, however. She remembers past events and can anticipate future events like: “We are going to the park.” She reminds you of the castle and runs to get ready to go.
Self Talk—increases her language and speech development. She uses several kinds of self talk.
- Self direction– step-by-step directions on how she does something.
- Self control– saying “no-no” or “don’t touch” as she nears a restricted item.
- Thinking out loud to an adult– She cannot just think silently. She is organizing her experiences and appreciates feed-back.
- Dramatic play– acting out her daily events and the actions of those around her.
Issuing Orders—She can communicate with words and gestures and wants to experiment with the effects of her communication on those around her. She wants to see what happens when she yells, “Stop!” or “Help me!” or “Look.”
Instead of getting frustrated and throwing a toy she can now ask for help or attention. These are giant leaps forward in her language development. Now you can add to her vocabulary and socializing by teaching, “Help, please!” You can ask why you should stop or make a guess to help her gain ability to express her will or desires.
Imitations— You can now easily recognize what she is pretending to do. There are several steps to accurate imitation. First, she must be able to observe accurately. Secondly, she must be able to understand what motions she must make to copy the action. Thirdly, she must draw from her learned individual motions the correct ones and string them together.
Simple and Combined Motions—Simple motions are ones she can do automatically without conscious thought. Now she is learning new motion combinations daily. She is consciously and deliberately combining two or more simple movements either together or consecutively to make combined motions. Once she 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 she is learning combined motions all her attention is focused on the task. She will not hear you talking to her and will be frustrated if you interrupt her work with conversation.
When you want to teach her a new skill, you will need to demonstrate the necessary actions and explain in very simple words as you go along. If she doesn’t seem to be able to grasp the concept, she may not be neurologically ready to tackle that task or she may need it broken down into smaller actions she can learn one at a time before combining them.
Your toddler is learning to express love. She will shower you and a few other special people in her life with affection. She will freely hug and kiss and cuddle you. She knows that makes you happy and will try to please you.
Resistance shows itself in her fascination with the word “no.” Why does she say “no”? Because she can. She has discovered she has a will and wants to exercise it. Here are some ways to deal with her resistance:
- Offer only two choices. “Do you want this one or that one?”
- Limit the time allowed for her 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 she sees that whining is effective, the more she 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 herself. Here are some strategies:
- Make sure she understands what whining is. She doesn’t automatically know what you mean when you say, “Stop whining.” You may have to demonstrate with your voice or record her regular voice and her whine to show her the difference.
- Tell her to “use words” not a whiny voice.
- Pay attention to her when she speaks. Get on her eye level and listen to her.
- Immediately acknowledge her request when she asks in a pleasant way. Let her know she was heard.
- If you cannot meet her request, tell her 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 her when she 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 she whines. Smile sweetly when she stops.
- Stay connected. Let her know she can have your attention without whining. Touch her affectionately. Hug and kiss and cuddle her.
- Finally, respond consistently. Giving in even one in 12 times will convince her 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 her limits. Help us as parents to cooperate and support each other for our child’s healthy development. In Jesus” name, Amen