You’ll have a busy month ahead as your toddler builds on all their social, emotional and physical skills. Some days you’re likely to feel really frustrated with them and others you’ll be simply delighted. Just like the rest of the population, toddlers can have good and bad days but they aren’t very good at keeping the bad ones to themselves. Frustration fuels alot of tantrums for 2 year olds, who aren’t always able to communicate what they want to the people around them.
Many parents try their best to avoid tantrums from happening, but there is a point at which distraction is no longer effective. The secret to reinforcing “good behaviour” is catching the child when they are playing appropriately and then praising the behaviours you want to see more of. Children who learn the only time they get any attention is when they are misbehaving, keep repeating the same behaviours they know will make the parent respond. When you’re nearly 2.5 years old, any attention, even when it’s negative, is better than none at all.
Your toddler will be expanding on their range of words and expressions now and should be able to use around 50 words or more. They will string 4-5 words together in a sentence, use plurals correctly and follow instructions which have a couple of parts to them. If you ask your toddler to go somewhere and collect something for you, they are likely to be able to do this without a problem. They will be also able to tell you what they did and even fill you in on what happened along the way. The speech and language centres in your toddler’s brain are absorbing so much information now that it is the prime time to make sure their home environment is rich with language. If you find them making a mistake when they’re talking, don’t correct them all the time. This can influence future attempts. What has been proven to be more successful is for parents to say the correct word or phrase back to child in a clear voice without any criticism. Then offering lots of praise when the child tries and gets it right.
Lots of hand washing and drying this month, especially if your toddler has been toilet trained and gets lots of practice. Make sure they can access the basin and soap, but keep an eye on them. Water play is wonderfully enticing and can be too much of a temptation to resist. Point out to your toddler which towel is theirs but don’t expect them to care much about this. Near enough is good enough for toddlers – if they see they want, what is yours is theirs and what’s theirs is theirs too. For now, they see no point in sharing or making sacrifices for the sake of others and their feelings. Which is why staring at someone with a different appearance is common. Pointing and asking why someone is different may make parents feel awkward and uncomfortable but your 27 month old has an insatiable curiosity and will pester you until they are satisfied with your answer.
Keep the blocks out this month. To be able to build a tower of 8 or more all stacked on one top of the other is common for this age group. Repeating the stacking and then knocking over game can occupy toddlers for hours. Make sure they have a range of bright primary coloured toys to play with. Different textures and mediums will appeal to them now and they will be able to differentiate between them. Your toddler may develop a close attachment to a special toy and insist on having it with them when they go to sleep. This is entirely normal and age appropriate.
No matter how devoted your child is to their “transitional love object” it can in no way replace you on the totem pole of their affection. Some children are more tactile than others and will rub or stroke a toy across their top lip, especially when they are tired or sad. The cleft between the nose and the upper lip is known as the philtrum and is particularly sensitive. Some parents worry that thumb or finger sucking, or becoming very attached to a special toy is a sign of their toddler being overly emotional and sensitive. But we know that young children develop emotional attachments for all sorts of reasons and there is generally no cause for concern.
Cries of Mum and Dad or anyone else in the family will echo through the house this month, especially when your toddler is looking for you. Sometimes they will sound quite frantic because they’ll have something they want to show you RIGHT NOW! Try to share in their enthusiasm even if you don’t think what they have is all that exciting. For 2 year olds the world is a constantly fascinating and wondrous place; remember they are often seeing things for the first time.
Not wanting to be restrained in any shape or form can cause conflicts between toddlers and their parents. But being strapped into the car seat, shopping trolleys and strollers is a fact of life. By this age many toddlers have learnt what’s involved in unbuckling themselves, which means parents need to build a repertoire of responses to deal with this. Simple reward systems work well, as does not progressing anywhere until buckles and straps are left intact and done up. If your toddler learns that throwing a tantrum and protesting gets them what they want, this behaviour is quickly reinforced.
Some aggression can show itself this month when toddlers are yet to learn about social niceties. Kicking, punching, biting and shoving are all common physical responses to frustrating situations. This means some awkward situations between other parents as you try to advocate for your own child but show the right degree of empathy for theirs. Remember that toddler behaviour frequently stems from the immature, primitive parts of the brain. They are yet to develop higher reasoning centres which generate socially acceptable behaviour. See our social development section for more information.
Don’t fret this month if your toddler doesn’t want to eat much. They will be very busy just doing what they have to, so may view any period of time where they are expected to stay still as a major imposition. Protein foods will fill them up so if you find they’re prone to snacking and whinging at the fridge a lot, make sure their meals are nutritionally sound. Baked beans, eggs, meat, fish, cheese and animal foods are all sound protein sources. Encourage your toddler to chew their food and ease back if you’re still mashing their meals. At two years of age, large grinding molars will be erupting in their gums and these are specifically designed to chew and grind up their food prior to swallowing.
If your toddler is still drinking from a bottle, you would be wise to stop them. Bottles filled with milk or juice can lead to tooth decay. There is a range of toddler cups with different types of spouts available, but most toddlers are capable of drinking proficiently from an ordinary cup. Let them see you drinking plain water, rather than soft drinks or large amounts of alcohol.
Don’t be too protective when it comes to exposing your toddler to the outside world. Their immune system will work most effectively if it is primed to respond to organisms though everyday life. There is only so much which immunisations, hand washing and minimising exposure to sick people can do for them. Supporting their immune system to do the best job it can is always worthwhile. Adequate sleep, sound nutrition, balancing rest and exercise and having a happy family life will all help your toddler’s immune system to function at its optimum.
When your little one is unwell, your empathy is vital. Research has shown that children whose parents demonstrate genuine caring behaviours and empathy are in the best possible position to develop sound mental health. Feeling “with” your toddler and doing what you can to make them comfortable is so important. Even though it sounds premature, they are learning at this very early stage what is involved in parenting. Nothing is wasted on your toddler, especially love and kindness.