Parenting in Focus: What your toddler wants
As your child grows, set boundaries, look for opportunities, and try to figure out what your child needs at every stage of their development. It is not always easy to say what you can do to help your child the most, especially during the first few years of life.
If your child is only 1 or 2 years old, this is the time to start looking for ways to help them make their own decisions. Whenever you can, ask her what her choice is. Would she like a cup of water in a red cup or a blue one? Encourage them to make choices. Often times she will say that she doesn’t care, but it’s worth even giving her the opportunity to choose.
At this early stage in her development, she needs plenty of opportunities to use large muscles in her arms and legs. Play ball with her. Run through the yard with her. She may not run very much in her first year, but she needs to build these muscles so they can help her as she develops the ability to run.
Don’t forget to encourage them to use small muscles to move small objects like toys and books. Give her blocks to play with and learn to stack. While you want to have lots of small items to play with, don’t make them so small that she puts them in her mouth.
When she plays with blocks, she learns more. She will learn that she can stack them pretty high, but then they’ll likely fall over. She gets to know the consequences of her actions.
Give her the opportunity to practice her language skills. Talk to her about the things around her. When you go out into the garden with her, point out some of the specifics of your garden. Show her the tree that is really growing this year. Let them play with the leaves and touch the branches. Listen to what she is saying while you are talking to each other. Encourage her to tell Daddy what she did today.
Offer her activities that encourage her to touch, taste, hear, smell, and see new things. When you cook, let them taste some of what you are making. When you play music, encourage them to listen and maybe join in. Be sure to encourage them to talk. She needs every opportunity to develop this ability.
Be sure to introduce her to books and other printed matter. Let her be the one trying to turn the pages in the book you read together. Let them choose the next book to read. After reading a book together several times, see if she “reads the book to Grandma”. From a young age she will be able to talk about the pictures in the book and remember some parts of the story.
Introduce her to letters and numbers. Tell her what they are and what they represent. So make sure she recognizes the number 2 when it is two. Let them learn the first letter of their name as well. Make a big deal when you come across this particular letter.
All of these are opportunities for a very young child. This is what your very young child needs. Remember, you are their first teacher. Her classes start in her earliest years and last a very long time.
Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher Program and former executive director of the Parenting Matters Foundation, which publishes newsletters for parents, carers, and grandparents. For more information, email email@example.com or call 360-681-2250.