As your child transitions from a baby to a toddler, the number one characteristic you’ll notice is their growing need for autonomy… Independence and self-determination comes through loud and clear: “I do it!” or “MINE!” Asserting herself and expressing himself verbally is completely normal for children this age and something parents need to encourage.
The more you can support their desire to make decisions and to figure things out the better! In fact, studies indicate this strategy of supporting toddlers’ autonomy helps their brains develop. That’s not to say there’s never any frustration on your part or your child’s—it’s just, as the adult, you need to dig deep to maintain a calm and compassionate demeanor even in the face of a full meltdown.
PLAY is a fantastic medium for toddlers to exert their budding independence! Open-ended play with open-ended toys lets the kids be in charge.
- They decide what to do
- They decide when to do it
- They decide how to do it
This type of play is very empowering!
Not only are they in the driver’s seat in terms of how the play progresses, but open-ended play also draws on their imagination and prods their curiosity, providing a creative outlet and developing their problem-solving skills.
Toddlers engage in onlooker and parallel play rather than cooperative play, BUT even though a group of toddlers don’t have the skills for complex, group play yet they’re still making strides in language development and with their social skills while playing in the same vicinity with each other.
Toddlers might have little bodies, but they engage in BIG BODY play!
They love to run full speed—the hug around your legs may have been preceded by a crash into your legs. They might even run into others! It’s all part of how they’ll figure out moderation, adaptation, and compromise that’ll be included in social groups or situations.
All young children use their senses to learn about their world and Mother Nature offers up limitless learning opportunities. Toddlers are still working on mastering control over their bodies. So give them lots of opportunities to practice! Being outdoors especially is a great way for toddlers to work on moving their bodies AND learn more about the natural world!
The following activity is ideal for your toddler!
Painting with WATER:
Fill the paint tray and bucket with water. Let your child use the rollers and/or brushes to ‘paint’ the sidewalk, your house’s siding or garage door, any fences or decks…even large, landscaping rocks. They’ll be developing their Physical Domain’s gross motor skills plus eye-hand coordination as they use broad, sweeping brush strokes or roll the paint roller from a low spot to high. Including small brushes develops fine motor muscles.
After they’ve ‘painted’ they may even be able to observe evaporation in action. Pose questions!
WHY do you think it’s gone?
WHERE did it go?
WILL evaporation still happen with clouds in the sky?
Asking questions, setting up experiments to test hypotheses will help develop your child’s abilities in their Cognitive Domain. Additionally, when you engage your toddler in problem-solving activities by encouraging them to think of options and decide what to do next or what constructive action to take, it tells them you value their input and it reinforces their budding self-esteem and self-confidence in their Emotional Domain.
Compare the experience by ‘painting’ indoors on some cardboard.
If you have more than one toddler playing at the same time, you can be sure skills in their Social Domain are being honed as they need to work together-engaging in conversation, cooperation and collaboration…sharing tools, teaming up to to keep the play done…or get the job done!
Yours in Play!
Regarding the word “NO”: I strongly advise parents to refrain from using “No” to only those circumstances where it’s a matter of safety. Recently, in a doctor’s office, I heard (delivered in a very harsh tone) “No! Put those down!” followed by Mom’s demand “Come here!”
All the child had done was pick up some magazines on a table.
To me, Mom’s response was over the line and unreasonable.
•Maybe her child just wanted Mom to look through the magazines with her; or
•Maybe she wanted to stack up them up.
No one else was attempting to read any of the magazines, so why make such an issue?
Mom could have noted: “You’re holding a lot of magazines!” OR if she was so concerned about the magazines being disturbed, it would have been more productive if she’d suggested:
“Let’s straighten out the magazines on the table so that it looks nicer.”
Yes, Mom could’ve been stressed about something and, if that was the case, I’m sorry for judging her, but the look in her child’s eyes broke my heart. Mom put her child into the stroller. This approached worked for her now, but it doesn’t teach the child anything worthwhile and won’t lead to building a healthy relationship between them. Toddlers sometimes get a bad rap for being bossy or sassy….I wonder—where do they learn it in the first place??