The time between 24 and 36 months is often known as the “terrible twos”. This is a perfectly natural part of growing up and when your child is showing increased independence. Your toddler’s emotions are shown easily, including feelings of frustration. H/she wants to do things when h/she wants to. Be patient and sensitive in your response. Do not battle. Your toddler at this age is an active explorer who constantly is asking “what?” and “why?” questions and uses what h/she already knows to solve problems. You will see them staring for long periods at an object – trying to discover how it works and what it can do. Better hand-eye co-ordination allows objects to be investigated more fully. Blossoming language skills are obvious. Their talk makes sense to them but they will need some help in structuring what they say. This is a time when they are very good company. Very sociable, constantly talking, with a sense of humour and understanding a lot of what you are saying.
Your toddler 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 child 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 child’s development.
Tip 1. Build up vocabulary
By age two, toddlers have on average about 200-250 words and this is added too quickly throughout the year. Understanding of words is superior to speaking but pronunciation is improving all the time. Your toddler will understand instructions in simple sentences like, “Come on Mark, let’s go off to the park” and has some understanding of time, “Shall we go after you have had your snack?” Give time and opportunity to let your toddler practise language and keep communicating with each other. Teach your child nursery rhymes and simple songs.
Tip 2. Increase your conversations
Your toddler seems to chat all the time. This is great. H/she finds the world fascinating and expects you to do so too. Not only does this increase vocabulary, but you are shaping understanding of the social conventions of conversation. Taking turns, using expressions and gestures to communicate, maintaining eye-contact.
Tip 3. Limit TV times
Television has beneficial effects for children, especially in helping with language, but it does need to be regarded in moderation. Less than one hour a day is not going to be harmful but remember there are much better ways of developing language. Talking with your toddler is far better! Avoid merely switching the TV on while you get on with domestic jobs. Share TV time together. Talk about what is happening together.
Tip 4. Manage fluctuating emotions
Your toddler is trying to work out who h/she is and show you that h/she is quite independent now. Emotions are on a roller coaster: up and down, down and up. A temper tantrum is easier than finding the words. Help your child through this time. It is only a passing phase as by about mid year, these tantrums are less frequent. This is a time when your child’s unique personality is forming. It takes time and you are an important role model for your child to copy.
Tip 5. Manage the situation when temper flies
There will be many times when the child’s temper does come out. It is intense and loud and distressing. What you need to do is to remain calm. Avoid losing control yourself. Show self-control as your child will learn from you. After the outbreak and you are calm reassure the child as this provides safety and reassurance. You may want to find out why it started. Was it hunger, tiredness, frustration at not being able to do something? These are all lessons so you can help pre-empt a similar situation happening for the same reason in the future.
Tip 6. Encourage sharing with other children
Toddlers do find other children of a similar age fascinating, They want to be with them and to look at what they are doing. They may occasionally join in with play, but most children will not be ready to play together for some time. They play alongside each other. Occasional displays of aggression towards another child are normal, particularly when it comes to sharing a favourite toy. Be consistent in how you manage this. Avoid losing your temper. Explain what has happened and why the behaviour was wrong. Praise any positive behaviours and make it clear why it should not happen again. Such times offer powerful learning opportunities.
Tip 7. Support his/her self management skills
Your toddler has now much improved hand-eye co-ordination. Use these developing skills to support dressing and undressing. By the end of the year, many children can manage most items of clothing with a little time. Be patient and allow them the time they need. Buy clothes without difficult fastenings. Shoe-laces are also difficult. The majority of children can toilet themselves but may still need some help with wiping and hand washing.
Tip 8. Help with thinking and reasoning
After about 2 ½ years, your toddler’s memory and concentration takes huge steps forward. The flitting from one toy to another is disappearing and time spent exploring a toy or puzzle extends rapidly. By age 3, your toddler can probably name colours, can recognise letters, count aloud and group objects together. Logic is increasing. Explain why things happen as they do. State the reasons behind.
Tip 9. Understand that a child at play is a child learning
Play time is a wonderful time for your toddler to learn. Imagination is fostered through pretend play, exploring the properties of objects help build learning capacity, physical skills are improved through running and climbing. Language for thinking is improved. Play is a powerful way for young children to learn. Do not interrupt and try to direct. Just watch, join in if invited to. Puzzles, picture lottos, jigsaws, dressing up clothes are all proven in stimulating a child’s learning.
Tip 10. Balance free play with routine
Children at play become engrossed. The make-believe world is theirs to create for themselves. More time is spent playing alone but this will soon involve play with friends. Combine free time with structured times. Keep the routines of the day going: regular meal times, bath time, sharing books time and bed time. Your child will enjoy routines like setting the table with you, tidying up after playing with toys. This helps to build up a sense of pride and ownership and can also help with mathematical ordering skills and language development. Make it into a game every once in a while. Set a challenge. Say, “I bet you can tidy away all your toys into the box by the time I count to 10. Can you?”
Being with others