From birth to about 1 year of age, your child seems to be changing every minute -- not to mention growing out of those cute little outfits Aunt Mabel made, almost before they are washed for the second time. Although physical growth may slow during the toddler years, social and emotional growth causes tremendous change. From complete helplessness to feeding, dressing, toilet training and vocabulary development, your toddler is getting ready to take on the world. However, toddlers need support and nurturing or their development can be hindered.
One of the first developmental tasks for a child is to form an attachment to parents or caregivers. As soon as your toddler feels safe, she will usually begin to develop initiative with both you and her peers. Expect to hear “no” and “mine” quite frequently as she begins to establish her personal boundaries. You can stifle initiative, however, if you restrict her too much or criticize her efforts. Too many rules are confusing to that small mind and constant criticism may cause her to feel guilty.
Toddlers are -- to put it mildly -- busy and active. On the go from morning to night, with an afternoon nap to recharge, they investigate their environment and try to manipulate it to see what happens. While you might take a dim view of those crayon scrawls on the wall, your toddler sees it as evidence of artistic expression. Punishing your child for these normal behaviors can lead to a child who is fearful and unwilling to take risks. It’s better to put the crayons out of reach when not in use and to supervise artistic endeavors than to use time outs or spankings to keep your walls clean.
Toddlers are beginning to develop motor control, first in major tasks such as walking, and then in more precise work such as drawing or beginning to write. Toys that are too big for them to grasp make it more difficult to gain motor skills, while constantly keeping them confined in a playpen or stroller will hinder the development of large muscles. They need room to run, pull toys behind them and kick a ball. It may slow you down to take a walk with your 3 year old, but she needs the exercise to increase her muscle strength and coordination.
The toddler years are time of learning about shapes, colors, textures, sounds and temperature. All of a toddler’s senses should be engaged on a regular basis. Your child’s room may look cluttered to you, but your child needs the fuzzy orange monkey and the duck that quacks when it’s pulled on a string. Children raised in sterile environments such as orphanages, without caregiver interaction, toys or stimulation, were found to have smaller brains than toddlers who were raised in stimulating, nurturing environments, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
You may get very tired of “Good Night Moon,” but your toddler is learning language skills from the repetition of sounds. As she grows older, she will begin to associate the sound with a group of letters. From the time babies begin to babble, they need to hear countless repetitions of words and sounds to develop the brain circuitry that builds their ability to talk. Children who miss out on baby talk and normal toddler-caregiver conversations are likely to have permanently delayed language skills, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.