By Dr. Janine Spencer
The journey from baby to toddler is an incredible one. Walking is one of the most obvious signs, but being a toddler is about much more than physical development. It’s the in-between stage connecting infancy and childhood when language, social communication and problem solving skills really begin to take off.
Language develops rapidly from 12 months to the extent that toddlers are learning between six and ten words per day! By the time they reach their second birthday they will have a vocabulary of over 500 words. With this language explosion comes the beginning of independence. Toddlers are keen to explore their environment and to interact more with other people. They seek every opportunity to play, which is important, because they learn about appropriate social interaction through playing with other children and adults. They develop their creative side as a result of pretend play and see all play as an opportunity for exploration and discovery.
This is an exciting and wondrous time; suddenly your toddler can get around by himself, tell you what he likes (and dislikes!) and explore all those things that were previously out of reach. So don't be surprised when sleeping and eating take a back seat to exploring and playing.
- Encourage crawlers to become walkers by placing a toy on the couch just out of reach. See if your child can pull himself to a standing position.
- It's never too early to read to your toddler. The simple story structure of children’s books will help your child’s language development.
- Make cookies with your toddler. Eating the final product will give him his first edible chemistry lesson.
- Toddlers need to play with other children to learn about sharing and compromise. Supervised play dates are a safe introduction to socialization.
- As toddlers become more mobile, remember to keep delicate objects out of reach. Interesting toys that have more than one function should keep toddlers entertained.
Dr. Janine Spencer is a developmental psychologist and director of the Centre for Research in Infant Behaviour (CRIB) in the UK.
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