From around the age of two, your tot is in his exploration phase
Your toddler is growing rapidly and you’re in awe of his constant push for independence, but you’re also unsure of when to take a step back and when to jump in. Johannesburg-based clinical psychologist Dr Ian Opperman recommends allowing your child to explore his environment within limits and under supervision.
From around the age of two, your tot is in his exploration phase and is aware that he is separate from you. Dr Opperman explains that attachment is the first phase of healthy development and has been linked to a child’s success in future relationships, and “the second phase that needs to be mastered is exploration. Your toddler has to learn to safely move away from the parental figure to explore and make meaning of his world,” he says.
Gross motor skills
- Walk unaided
- Run fast without bumping into things
- Jump on both feet
- Use a pushbike with confidence
- Catch balls and other objects with both hands against the body
- Kick a ball
Fine motor skills
- Feed himself
- Dress himself
- Brush his own teeth
- Hold a crayon/pen
- Build a puzzle
- Scribble to develop creativity
- Pour contents into a container
Social and emotional development
Your little one is also able to play alongside others, but not with them. He’s likely to have trouble sharing as he hasn’t yet grasped the concept. He may also grow impatient if he struggles with a task like building a puzzle, because he still has to learn to regulate his emotions.
Dr Opperman suggests building problem-solving skills by letting your toddler make his own decisions, encouraging him to keep trying and never giving up.
Encourage your tot to talk. Even though he doesn’t have the ability to fully express himself, he is able to use basic words.
In her book Ultimate Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting Guide, pregnancy and baby care expert, Sister Lilian says there is a spurt in language development around this time, so your toddler may use about 50 words and form three-word sentences.
Researcher and developmental specialist Dr Melodie de Jager explains how: suckling develops the mouth; rolling, sitting, crawling and thumb separation boost the language centres of the brain; and, relaxed calves and rhythmic breathing keep the survival brain at ease and boost the development of the language brain.
“If your two-year-old toddler doesn’t hear language, he will not speak. If he hears many languages on television, he will learn to speak, but not as well as when he is exposed to one language at a time, from a real person,” she says.
Talk to your child and listen attentively as he tries to respond, “From time to time, he needs Mom and Dad’s undivided and up-close attention; he needs to see your faces so he can mimic your mouth movements, eye movements and voice,” she adds.
Dr de Jager’s tips on language development:
- Your toddler only knows what he has been exposed to, and the clever nerve cells called mirror neurons help him to mimic, so take note and be selective about your two-year-old’s role models when it comes to language.
- No mixing – If you and your partner speak different languages, each parent should speak only a chosen language.
- If your child only hears English at daycare and only hears the mother tongue(s) at home, there is no problem. His brain will create a home language file and a day care language file.
READ MORE: Toddlers, technology and learning language
Kym van Straaten, president for the South African Montessori Association has the following tips for setting your toddler up for success:
Using cutlery and pouring
- It’s always a good idea to offer your child materials that are proportionate to his little body.
- A side plate serves well as a dinner plate.
- A 60ml glass for drinking water and an espresso cup for water liquids.
- Using cutlery should be modelled. Sit together for meals so your child can see what to do.
- Expect mistakes, breaks, and accidents, but persevere.
- Provide opportunities for your little one to explore the mechanics of pouring.
Brushing his teeth
- Children need support in brushing their teeth. A poem or song can be sung while you have a turn to brush and then your child can have a turn.
- Ask a dentist for advice if you’re unsure.
- Demonstrate brushing your own teeth.
- Provide clothing that is easy to get on and off. Elasticated waist bands, easy slip on and off T-shirts, etc.
- Let your child pick his own clothes.
- A two-year-old needs less entertainment and more freedom to explore.
- A few firm boundaries keep things stable, while a lot of freedom to move, touch, smell, taste and make noise develops a young child’s body, emotions and thinking.
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