Here are facts that we need to know and be reminded about toddlers:
• No two toddlers are alike. Some grow faster, some talk and walk sooner and some make friends easier than others. These variations in development are called “individual differences.”
• 18-month old toddlers spend a good deal of their time working. To you, it may seem like play but the movements and behaviors of toddlers are all part of their learning process. They work hard to learn! 18-month-olds have so much energy they are sometimes called “runabouts.” Runabouts explore everything around them. They explore corners and stairs and they walk backwards. Some prefer to push things around, than be in them. Runabouts carry objects from one place to another and then back again. By doing this over and over, toddlers learn what a “place” is!
• At 2, toddlers like to run, push, and pull. They are better coordinated than they were a few months ago. Two-year-olds watch what others do and sometimes try to imitate them. They learn what the word “mine” means and demonstrate this by hoarding toys, books, and playthings. Two-year-olds do not know how to share and should not be forced to give up toys. They are learning what it feels like to own something. They get very angry and hurt if that feeling is taken away from them.
• Two-year-olds need order and may demand that things always be done in exactly the same way. This can be very hard for caregivers. Just by being there to care for the toddler, you have changed the daily routine.
• Sometimes people refer to the first part of Toddlerhood as the “terrible twos.” This is misleading. Two-year-olds do not mean to be difficult! It is just that the world is full of alternatives for them (yes/no, come/go, up/down, run/stop, give/take). They like to experiment with all of these choices. When they choose to do the opposite of what you have asked of them, they are learning to be independent.
• Most 3-year-olds are easier to care for than 2-year-olds because they are interested in pleasing their caregivers. They like to listen to adults and use their eyes, ears, and emotions to learn. Three-year-olds can sympathize with your moods, tell the difference between night and day, shares and take turns. They also can ride tricycles, play with other children for short periods of time and help caregivers do things.
• Three-year-olds are active, but now they also enjoy quiet, social play like listening to records and stories.
• Friendships are important to 3-year-olds. Many 3-year-olds use their growing imaginations to create pretend friends. They like to tell stories about these imaginary friends. This is their way of sharing their friends with you.
• The main jobs of 2- and 3-year-olds are strengthening their independence and learning to make choices. You help them do these things just by knowing about and understanding toddler development.
NEXT WEEK: THE IMPORTANCE OF INTERACTING WITH CHILDREN.