You are your child’s first and most important teacher. What you are teaching him now lays the foundation for his future learning. Your example, as well as the words you use, instill in him a love for learning and a zest for life. Keep up the good work you are doing with him.
What Your Toddler is Learning And How You Can Help
Skills he is learning or perfecting include bending over from the waist to pick things up off the floor, instead of squatting, jumping with both feet off the floor, and standing on tip toes.
He is beginning to be able to throw overhand, although he will seldom hit the target.
Throwing a Ball—Hand-eye coordination, balance and agility all improve with ball practice. Practice playing with a ball. Start with rolling, then bouncing, then throwing underhand, and finally throwing overhand. Use soft spongy balls or beanbags. He may really enjoy an indoor bowling set now.
Dressing—He has been able to undress himself and help to put on some clothes. Besides the physical skills, he is learning to be independent and self-sufficient as he learns to dress himself.
Choose clothes for him that are loose fitting, elastic waists, and with Velcro closers to ease learning to dress himself. Whatever he can do for himself, let him do it—even if it takes him longer and he sometimes does it wrong.
The best way to teach him a complicated new skill like putting on his socks, is action by action. There are 5 parts to putting on socks: Getting the sock ready to put on, starting it over the toes, stretching it along the foot, getting it over the heel, and finally pulling it up. Teach him the steps in reverse. You do everything up to pulling it up his leg. When he can do that well, help him learn to get it over his heel and up his leg. Then start it over his toes and let him finish the job. Be sure to praise him for any progress he makes in learning this and other new skills.
Fine-motor skills— He can now complete a 3-6 piece jigsaw puzzle. He can draw vertical and horizontal lines and is beginning to be able to draw a circle. He can build a block tower of six or more blocks and string large wooden beads on a cord.
He is making three-word sentences now. He is fascinated by opposites like: big, little or short, tall. He should be able to follow a two-part request, like “Pick up the book and put it on the shelf.”
He is expanding his concept of ownership. “Mine” may be one of his favorite words. He will probably still be avoiding using the pronoun I and use me or his name in its place. He may be able to answer the question, “What is your name?”
When he is talking to himself you will hear different patterns now. He may begin with rhyming sounds, then switch to same first sounds, later he may be substituting words in a sentence like, “Play cars,” “Play ball,” “Play blocks,” “Play cat.”
Pushing him to correct mispronounced words can make him self-conscious and less willing to try new words. Instead of repeating the word over and over and trying to get him to say it correctly, try playing games with the word. Try using the word to make silly rhymes or use it in a familiar song. Let him join in the fun of saying the word, instead of struggling with the work of saying it correctly.
He is eager to learn new words. He has two reasons for raising his tone at the end of a word. First, he may be asking you to verify that it is the correct word. His second reason is that he wants a little more information about it. Use the word in a sentence, say its opposite, or add descriptive words around it. Don’t flood him with information, just a few more words will satisfy him for now.
If you have not yet chosen the words you want him to use for his toilet needs, do it now. Talk matter of factly using the words you’ve decided on whenever he needs a diaper change or when he sees his potty chair, etc.
The awareness that he belongs and that he really matters are vitally important to his developing self-confidence. Knowing he is part of a group, has friends, and a family that love him help him have a solid platform for interacting with his world. You can help him to know he is important as you teach him the importance of everyone doing their part. His chores at this point may be putting his blocks in a bin or carrying a small bundle for you. Being able to do things for himself, like feeding himself and putting on his clothes assure him he is important too. Taking time to train him, giving him limits, and goals all help him feel important.
His memory has improved greatly. Now he can remember, even hours later, where a favorite toy was put. He associates things in the real world with pictures he has seen in a book. He enjoys pretend play like eating a pretend fruit and telling you it tasted yummy.
T.V. programs, even those made for children, cannot help your child develop intellectually nearly as much as having parents who talk and listen to them. Verbal exchange is the foundation for intellectual development.
The brain controls individual muscle movements, coordination of the signals to the muscles so they act together to do complex motions, and sequential thought. These centers of activity are very closely related in the brain. What that means to you as a parent is that as you help your child learn new and more complex muscular activity, you are stimulating the part of his brain that is necessary for sequential thought. In order to learn well in school, children must learn sequences.
Thanks to Growing Child * for some games that will help your child with coordination.
- Place three objects into your toddler’s cradled arms, like a small ball, a block, and a shoe. Then name an object and ask him to give it to you without dropping the other two. If he is successful, let him load you up and choose an object for you to give him.
- Cut some footprints out of paper. Place them on the floor and carefully put your feet on each paper footprint. Your toddler will want to try to follow you. Move the footprints around into more and more complex patterns.
- Have your spouse roll a ball across the floor in front of you while you hold a cardboard box upside down. As the ball approaches, drop the box so as to trap the ball inside. This game will take your toddler a long time to be able to do. Learning to release the box in anticipation of the ball’s arrival takes advanced planning.
- Do different things with balls in each hand. Try patting one and rolling the other around at the same time. When he is able to do this, show him how to roll two golf balls toward each other so they collide.
- Set two boxes on the floor and try to fill them with small objects. They must pick up an object with each hand and drop them simultaneously into the two boxes.
- Try picking up an object between his two flat palms without closing his fingers around it. Then try with one hand and one foot together.
* Growing Child, Dunn & Hargitt, Inc., 1980
How much food is enough?
The average serving for a two-year old is 1/4 the size of an adult serving. This is a very small amount! His total calorie intake for the day should equal about 40 calories for every inch of height. If the average two year old is 34 inches (86 cm), his calorie intake should be 1,360. Toddlers often eat almost nothing one day and a huge amount another. Consider his food intake by the week rather than by the day.
Who controls his eating?
You want to teach your child to know when he is hungry and when he has eaten enough. If you control when and how much, you are setting him up for eating problems later in life. Children are amazingly good at self-regulation, if allowed to choose for themselves.
It is your child’s decision whether to eat or not. It is your responsibility to provide healthy, tasty food in a form he can eat. Always make one option something you know he likes. The less comment about food and the way it is eaten the better.
Some simple rules that make mealtime more enjoyable for everyone:
- Food is eaten in a chair at the table. (Children may be served at a different time than adults or even at a child-sized table.)
- One meal is served. At least one choice should be something your toddler likes to eat. Don’t get in the habit of cooking one meal for your toddler and another meal for you.
- No throwing food or screaming at the table. One warning may be given and then he is taken out of his seat and put on the floor.
- Desserts are not a reward for eating healthy food. They may or may not be served, but don’t make them a reward.
- Clear the table of food after the meal.
- Only nutritious snacks are served and they are served at the table, especially when he has not been eating well. (These count toward the total calorie/nutrition intake for the day.)
Taming the Terrible Twos
Your toddler is discovering he is a separate person from you. He is practicing his assertiveness skills while his impulse controls are not yet developed. He may be defiant with you because he trusts you. Does this sound confusing? It is, for both you and him.
After this period, there will be a break for a number of years and then this process will be completed in adolescence. Setting good foundations now will make that final transition easier. At this stage, he needs to know that there are limitations that will be enforced. Inside those limitations there is great freedom to enjoy life. This is a major life lesson he is beginning to learn now.
Pick your battles. Win the battles you pick and let him have his way with the less important choices. He must know when you say there is no choice, you mean it.
Here are some things he doesn’t understand:
- He doesn’t understand time, so “later” is meaningless to him. He lives in the here and now.
- He doesn’t understand reasons for rules. When it is something he must do, don’t allow a choice or discussion.
- He doesn’t understand long explanations.
- He doesn’t understand the consequences of what he does.
Here are some things he does understand:
- He understands reasonable boundaries. He needs to know he doesn’t always get his way.
- He understands specific, doable, clear instructions.
- He understands you mean what you say when you follow through immediately.
- He understands you better when you get on eye level with him and look in his eyes.
- He understands better when he has visual and physical cues about what he is to do.
- He understands it is time to change activities better if he has some warning it is coming.
You lead by example. Keeping your own temper under control and finding the funny side of things will help your toddler learn to do the same.
What to Expect Next
- Arranging things by category
- Aware of gender differences
- Jumps with both fee off the ground
Heavenly Father, let me see the joys of this age and not just the challenges! Show me how to guide his budding independence. In Jesus’ name, Amen