Toddlerhood: a time of change and challenge

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
Ian Munro offers some advice on how you and your child can cope with toddlerhood.

Ian Munro
Ian Munro
You certainly know when a baby becomes a toddler. It’s a time of significant change for them and a lot of challenge for child and parent. It’s probably as dramatic as adolescence, but more manageable.

Toddlerhood tends to start once a baby has the ability to get around and explore their surroundings and lasts for more or less a couple of years. It’s an exciting period with lots of milestones.

Youngsters are beginning to understand that they’re separate from their parents; a "me" and "you" realisation. With that comes the need to assert themselves which, in turn, encourages language skills.

Brain development is dramatic and a toddler’s list of things to get done includes:

• learning to get around and then to go further and do more - running, jumping, skipping, climbing, catching and throwing.

• getting control of bodily functions - putting the food and drink in and controlling its exit.

• mastering language - talking, identifying and reading first words.

• becoming comfortable with independency - accepting babysitters and being left with others.

• learning to interact with other youngsters - playing together, sharing and taking turns.

• helping Mum and Dad with tasks and getting satisfaction from being a "big person".

They also have to learn to cope with the frustration of not being allowed/able to do what they want - those tantrums. They still have little logic and little self-control. "No" becomes a much-used word.

It’s hard for them to process disappointment, to accept a substitute for something and to understand how long a timeframe is. A kitchen timer can help them cope for the 10 minutes we said we needed to finish something.

To get the best possible outcomes from a toddler, it’s important to:

• recognise their challenges and the frustrations.

• recognise that it will often be two steps forward and one step back.

• provide lots of different opportunities and experiences - lots of being read to, conversation and music and many and varied physical activities.

• provide quiet times and to recognise when enough is enough for an activity or for the day before that moment arrives - their brains need to pause and consolidate.

• provide comforting times - we’re still our child’s best friend and playmate.

• keep the environment safe as they explore but not to remove all challenges and make it too cushioned.

• grow decision-making skills - an apple or a banana?

Then repeat for adolescence.


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