From 12-24 months your toddler’s sense of who they are is developing quickly. This can, however, bring with it displays of frustration, wanting to be more independent, and aware of themselves as different to other toddlers. Physically much more confident moving around, you can see how much his or her walking has improved. H/she can stack a pile of 4-6 blocks on top of each other and use a spoon in feeding. Your baby is making huge strides in learning. Notice how well h/she can concentrate now and how h/she draws on what h/e she already knows to solve problems. Your toddler is now putting two words together, like “me juice” and communicates all the time with you. By the end of the year most toddlers will have around 200 words in their vocabulary. Your baby continues to achieve important milestones during this year but it is important to remember that all children do so at their own pace. The milestones below will give you an idea of what progress you can expect but please do not worry if your baby takes a little longer or indeed achieves some of these earlier than indicated. As a parent you have a very important part to play in supporting this development within a loving and caring relationship. The ideas below will help you to support your baby’s development.
Tip 1. Read to your toddler every day
Treat this as a special time between you and your toddler. Make sure you are both comfortable. Choose a quiet time and a quiet place. Talk about the book, don’t just read it. You can name the pictures in the books and get your child to point to them. Ask your toddler to name the pictures. This may not happen yet but it will very soon and that will be amazing. Have your favourite book but introduce others too. Try books with pictures only and those with a few words on each page.
Tip 2. Make bath times fun!
This should be a fun time and one you both look forward to. It is also good to have this at a regular time each day to get your toddler used to routines. Bath time, then story time, then bed time. Have toys to play with. Use this as a time to use rhythms in your language – the noise the duck makes, the sound of the boat on the water. Your toddler will soon try to repeat these sounds too.
Tip 3. Support a growing sense of independence
You will notice this from about 15 months onwards. It is perfectly natural that what your toddler wants to do may not be what you have in mind. There will be times when your toddler co-operates and times when not. Do not battle. Instead, let her/him choose what socks to wear while you decide on the important issues and those relating to safety. From about 18 months you can offer a choice more directly, “Do you want to wear the red or the blue cardigan today?”
Tip 4. Help your child with turn-taking
Encourage play with other children. Taking turns and sharing does not happen naturally as your child at this age is naturally egocentric so you must help your child to learn these skills. Be patient. Model this behaviour – it can take a very long time!
Tip 5. Encourage your toddler’s caring side
This is an ideal time to help your child understand about caring for another. Pets such as cats and dogs are ideal for this. Show your toddler how to be gentle towards the animal and why being responsible towards another living being is good.
Tip 6. Develop their manipulative skills
After 12 months, your toddler loves to pick up objects and toys and does so with some proficiency. A better grip allows fitting objects together, banging together, releasing them and building with them. Plastic beakers, wooden blocks, beads to thread, jigsaws and shape-sorters are ideal to develop control of fingers and hands.
Tip 7. Help with large muscle groups
Encourage your toddler to be as active as possible. H/she is already keen to walk around and to climb. When ready to run around, let them enjoy this new skill at the park and in other open air spaces. Play games with copying actions, e.g. Stand on one leg, jump up in the air but don’t expect your toddler to be as good as you are just yet.
Tip 8. Let the artist emerge!
Provide some large paper and stubby crayons, finger paints or felt tips. At this age your toddler will enjoy making marks and scribbling. The marks are important and have meaning so reward with lots of praise. If you have an easel, use this too.
Tip 9. Tap into their need to explore
Children are natural investigators. Commercial toys are good, but not essential. Many domestic items are very good playthings. Cardboard boxes offer many possibilities. You might put together a ‘treasure basket’ with keys, shiny objects, pegs, wool, lids and other safe and interesting items. At other times just have the boxes and let your toddler’s imagination soar.
Tip 10. Extend their spoken language
Speak to your toddler as much as possible. Use words that h/she can copy. Use clear simple phrases. H/she will reply and here you can extend what is said. For example, “me dog” can be extended by you to, “Yes, this is Kim our dog. Kim is a nice big dog isn’t she?” When out walking point things out to your toddler for example other people, a cat, the colour of the cars, the leaves on the trees. Between 15-18 months a toddler adds a few new words to their vocabulary every day.
Being with others