About your Toddler
Toddlers Exploring the World
Your toddler is probably busy from morning to
night–turning up in places you wouldn’t expect!
He climbs on the kitchen table. How did
he get there? Next he's playing in the toilet.
And then he's off to help you with chores,
and he dumps the trash on the floor.
A toddler's curiosity can be frustrating
Children learn by exploring their environment.
But their exploring should happen in safe places and in
ways that help them learn. As you see your child begin
to discover her world, keep these ideas in mind:
is normal and important for children to do.
Exploring is one of the first steps in learning
about objects and in learning how to solve problems.
Children are fascinated about how things
work, what they look like from the inside, and how they
Skills like pulling up, standing, crawling,
walking, climbing, and running help children explore and
test their environment.
Is Your Child Normal?
When your child is between 1 and 3 years
old, she will probably be interested in everything and
everyone, especially if it's new or different. She will
want to be part of whatever you do. She will try to imitate
you. She will also insist on trying to do many things
Sometimes she will strongly resist your
Here are some common ways that young children
explore their world:
They climb on furniture and crawl into small
They play with water, wherever they find it–in sinks,
toilets, tubs, fish bowls, and puddles.
They open cabinets and drawers, pulling out everything
They get into purses, make-up cases, and other containers.
They scoot away in stores to touch things on the shelves.
They approach dogs, cats, and other children to play.
Exploring Is Good!
Though it can be hard to keep up with an exploring toddler,
exploring is good! It helps children grow in important
First is the growth of intelligence. A toddler's
interest in learning about the world encourages him to
use his senses–tasting, touching, seeing, smelling.
His senses help him understand how things are different
from each other and how they work.
By trying new ways to handle objects and
by asking questions, a toddler begins to learn how to
solve problems. Imagine your toddler exploring with his
"sippy cup" of milk. By banging it on the high
chair tray, he hears what sound the cup makes. By shaking
it, he learns how to tell whether it is empty. And by
turning it upside down, he discovers he can make a mess!
Another result of exploring is social and
emotional growth. When a toddler knows that she can explore
her environment and yet return to a parent when she needs
help, she becomes secure and confident.
Exploring is also vital for physical growth.
Toddlers must move around to learn about their world.
They develop eye-hand coordination. They also develop
coordination in the large muscles used to walk, run, climb,
Helping Your Children Explore Safely
Toddlers try to get into everything.
Parents of toddlers often feel tired, day
and night. Just watching your active little person zoom
around the house can be exhausting!
Keeping a toddler safe requires constant
attention, and sometimes it seems you can't relax for
a minute. It is surprising how many dangerous places and
objects toddlers can discover.
But the extra work it takes to encourage
your child as he explores and learns is worth it. Sometimes
you may want to stop your child's need to explore, but
remember: exploring is necessary for a growing child.
Focus your energy on providing safe places for your child
to learn about his world.
You won't have to go running after your
toddler so often if you get rid of some of the dangers
at home. Your toddler is just too young and too active
to think about safety. She ignores things that are in
the way. Bumps and falls don't stop her. You can never
leave a child of this age unsupervised. However, your
job will be easier if you take the following steps:
Put away anything that your child can easily
damage or that can hurt him.
Use safety gates on stairways and porches.
Block the way to open, unguarded windows. Fasten screens.
Cover electric plugs.
Keep all medicines and poisons (like cleaning products)
in a locked cabinet.
Teach your child how to climb up and go down stairs safely.
Make safe play areas and provide safe toys.
Understand that your words won't always stop your child
from doing something unsafe. When that happens, take firm
action to stop your toddler. Then tell her why you did
Be available to move in instantly when action
is needed (for example, around an unfriendly dog, a speeding
car, or stairs).
Understanding Play and Learning
Your toddler is very active between the ages 1 and 3.
She will be using her new physical and verbal
skills to explore everything around her.
As he grows, your toddler will spend less
time exploring and more time playing. And play is your
child's "work" as he practices and masters new
mental, physical, and social skills.
To help your child with her development,
plan ways to explore new and interesting things at home
and in your neighborhood.
Think about new play ideas involving shapes,
colors, textures, and sizes.
Take trips to new places-stores, parks,
or a zoo. Talk about what you find there.
Let your child wash plastic dishes with
you, or give her toys to play with in the bathtub. (And
be ready to mop up a mess!)
Provide safe places to crawl into, hide
in, climb, and explore. (For example, you could drape
a bed sheet over a table to make a pretend cave.)
Talk about what you see and hear while walking,
riding the bus, or driving in the car.
Let your child help you prepare simple food
to explore all the textures, shapes, flavors, and colors.
(Again, be prepared for a mess.)
Exploring with Questions
The toddler's curiosity knows no limits.
Even if his body is quiet, his eyes and
mind are busy. He is getting better and better at talking
and listening. He is watching other people. He is exploring
by asking questions-about everything he sees. If you are
hearing "Why? Why? Why?" from your child, remember
how young children learn.
Children ask questions in bits and pieces
because they need time to make sense of the answers they
get. They seem to know what they can manage, and they
stop asking when they have had enough. Try to keep a balance,
giving your child enough information but not too much.
Exploring with Books
Books can also be helpful in helping children learn about
their world. Libraries and bookstores have many books
to read with your toddler. Some books allow your child
to do things (like touch a special place on the page).
Others encourage children to explore with the characters.
Both types can be enjoyed by children for a long time.
Here are just a few books you might look for:
Peekaboo Bunny by Alyssa Satin Capucilli
Grover's Book of Cute Things to Touch by
Constance Allen (Western Publishing Company, Inc., 1990).
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