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Your Child's Terrific Twos

by Dawn Marie Barhyte
wrdmastr@warwick.net

The most exciting and challenging characteristics of toddlers are it seems they are changing everyday. Indeed toddlers are experiencing a metamorphose from a totally dependent baby to a can do kid. The period between 15 months to 3 years is marked by a myriad of developmental milestones. The toddler's personality is developing rapidly along with control over their body and speech makes growth rate seem phenomenal. In fact toddlers may be the world's greatest explorers, and their explorations occupy most of their waking hours.

With their increased confidence, coordination and competence exploratory behavior becomes more diverse. In their ceaseless attempts to examine and master their environment toddlers use every one of their five senses. Toddlers will touch, feel, manipulate and taste to explore their environment and undoubtedly will test limits imposed. This playful investigation toward their environment not only expands the child's conception of their world but also gives the early explorer a growing sense of independence. It's important to give lots of praise and opportunities for this seemingly tireless exploration. Their rapidly emerging language clearly demonstrates what it means to be autonomous: "Me do it" shows the drive for independence "Me, Mine" indicates toddlers are beginning to see themselves as individuals with possessions. And of course the infamous "No" is further clue to their push for separateness and independence. As they approach their second year, children will see themselves as more separate from parents and increasingly autonomous. When twos become aware of themselves as individuals they realize they can make choices and have opinions. This blossoming sense of self is coupled with an emerging obstinacy and strong will. Our challenge as parents is to be cognizant of this newfound sense of self is fragile in spite of the vehemence with it's expressed and to shore up our little ones with praise, support and encouragement for the giant steps they have made towards personhood.

Toddlers are furiously becoming mobile, verbal, autonomous, social and thoughtful. It's vital to genuinely appreciate and enjoy toddlers for what they are rather than what they will become. Toddlers zest for life, their tireless curiosity and zeal to discover can make them exhausting, demanding and equally wonderful to behold. Toddlers are on the go most of the time and their constant mobility is a developmental marker. Toddlers learn through their own experiences, trial and error, repetition and imitation. Parents can guide and facilitate this learning by ensuring the environment is safe and supportive.

Because they are trying to figure out how things work they may encounter unsafe situations. Toddlerhood is a unique stage with it's own set of developmental characteristics and needs. If prepared with a genuine understanding of the nature of this age group, the special tasks they face and the powerful feelings that could evolve even first time parents can help ease the transition through this tumultuous developmental stage. When you know what to expect, what toddlers are able to do and what they are ready for and plan appropriate activities that will enhance development thereby minimizing frustration for both child and parent alike. Being misunderstood increases the frustration of being a toddler. Toddlers are delightful for many reasons including their excitement and enthusiasm for anything that captures their fancy, their sheer determination to master and control and their rapidly expanding ability to communicate in words. Clearly the strengths and delights of toddlers outweigh the stress, problems and negatives. Be firm, patient and above all maintain a sense of humor. With the right attitude the "terrible twos" can become terrific twos.

Milestones
Although no two children develop at the same rate, most children should be able to do certain developmental tasks along a timeline. If you have concerns talk to your pediatrician during your next appointment if you note major differences between your children's development and these milestones. Following are some general guidelines for judging if your toddler is growing at a healthy pace.

According to the Nancy Balaban PhD Of The Bank Street School Infant/Toddler Program here are some guidelines of developmental milestones for children ages 15 months to 3 years:

15-24 months
  • Climbs, jumps, runs well
  • Constantly in motion
  • Plays alongside peers
  • Begins fantasy play
  • Short attention span is evident
  • Combines words, uses simple sentences
  • Verbalize wants/needs
  • Use pronouns like I, me, you, mine
  • Names and points to pictures
  • Repeats words others say
  • Obstinate behavior often displayed
  • Understands simple commands
  • Eager to show adults their discoveries
  • Helps dress & undress self
  • Point to at least one named body part
  • Imitates adult actions
  • Idea of self becoming clearer
  • Anxious about separation from primary caregiver
  • Toilet training begun
  • Has difficulty sharing
  • Finds it hard to wait and wants things right now!
  • Able to grip a crayon well enough to make rudimentary vertical, horizontal and circular strokes
  • Able to turn pages of a book

24 months to 36 months

  • Engages in symbolic play
  • Likes motion and things in motion
  • Emerging interest in peers
  • Speech develops rapidly
  • Speaking vocabulary may reach 200 words
  • "Mine" is a favorite word; so is "no"
  • Experiences strong emotions as he moves toward autonomy
  • Experiments with materials and with own abilities
  • Increased control over motoric coordination and toilet functions
  • Able to climb up-downstairs unsupported
  • Builds simple block patterns
  • Often displays ritualistic behavior
  • Starts to show empathy
  • Plays cooperatively sometimes

Developmentally Appropriate Activities that Enhance Learning

  • Read aloud to your toddler daily.
    Choose books with simple story lines, large pictures and sturdy pages. This will expand your toddlers' experiences with the world, language (new words and sentence structure) rhythms of language and increases listening skills. Ask her to identify and name the pictures in the storyline to build vocabulary. It's likely you'll captivate your bundle of energy interest and may even create a lifelong passion for reading, a prerequisite to future academic success
  • Provide safe outlets for physical activity and space exploration.
    These movers & shakers need to strengthen muscles and develop gross motor skills. This movement will inspire competence, a precursor to high self-esteem.
  • Encourage sand, mud, clay, shaving cream and water play. Toddlers enjoy messy play and learn a great deal from mixing, sorting, poring, stirring and shaping. Not only is this sensory exploration fun but also it's also will promote fine motor skills. As they use all of their senses they will make discoveries.
  • Introduce your child to social situations like playgroups and play dates. Although the toddler is egocentric they enjoy belonging to a group and can engage in brief social interactions. Nurturing their first attempts at conversation and interacting will increase verbal and social skills.
  • Support the toddlers' first steps towards fantasy play by offering plenty of materials and opportunities to pretend. Provide dramatic play items such as dress up clothing, hats, dolls, boxes and containers for food, toy telephone, ECT. Often social relationships will emerge and there is tremendous potential to increase language as they experiment with everyday items
  • Facilitate first experiments in creativity by offering plenty of art materials. Although skills are shaky the toddler will delight in leaving a mark on the world. Provide non-toxic, large crayons, markers and paints in a rainbow of colors, assorted sizes of paper magazines and glue sticks for collages. The sense of accomplishment will be immense as they practice skills and discover early concepts such as cause and effect. These rudimentary art experiences boost hand control and eye-hand coordination; all precursors to writing. And keep in mind it's the process not the product that is most rewarding to toddlers. Ascetic appreciation may be ignited this early but it's not the primary motivation.
    Art is natural way to learn so encourage your pint size Picassos.
 

 

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