From tipping over mid-toddle to the terrible twos, the toddler years can be a time of wonder, discovery, and, occasionally, an awful lot of screaming. As Baby leaves the ‘infant’ months behind and she becomes a toddler, the things she can do – and the things they wants to do – are going to grow and expand every day.
This means that Baby will be able to understand more and more of what you say. That understanding will be even more important because you’ll need it to tell her not to make a mad dash out of the front yard and into the street, or explain why climbing the bookshelf in the living room is not the best plan. She will start to be able to tell you what’s on her mind, too, and you will find out that, a lot of the time, what’s on her mind will be the same three lines from a nursery rhyme over and over, and the fact that she would really like six of the candy bars displayed near the checkout line at the grocery store. The toddler years are full of some of the highest highs and lowest lows of parenting, and having a few strategies in mind as they get started certainly won’t hurt.
- Consistency is key
Toddlers respond well to consistency they can count on – if you set a limit, like telling her that she gets one more story and then it’s time for bed, and hold her to it, it will help her feel more secure that you follow through on the things you say, even if she isn’t pleased with the results at the time.
- Practice makes perfect
Giving Baby practice making decisions will help her grow into a decisive, assertive person in the long run. And in the shorter term, giving Baby a voice in certain discussions can help her want to participate in family activities. Asking Baby to pick out a story to read with you gives her more of a reason to sit still with you through story time, and by letting her choose which of two or three options to have for dinner, not only is she more likely to clear her plate, but is also more likely to want to have dinner with the rest of the family – at least for a few minutes.
- Milestones are not a race
Baby’s developmental milestones will happen when they happen – when it comes to developmental milestones, there are countless different timelines that are totally normal and healthy, although if you’re concerned, it never hurts to check in with the pediatrician or other doctor. The rule that every child’s development happens at its own pace, and that there are many different types of normal, applies to toddlers as well as to infants. More than that, even if Baby followed a more conventional timeline for her milestones when she was younger, her pace may still change. An early crawler could still take a bit longer to walk, or the other way around.
- Variety as the spice of life
Many toddlers are picky eaters, so a picky eating phase might be in your future no matter what you do, but exposing Baby to a wide range of foods as she gets older can really help. Sometimes it takes multiple exposures to the same food before Baby starts to like it, so if there’s something she doesn’t like to begin with, that doesn’t mean you need to write it off forever, either.
- Teaching compassion
One of the many things Baby is learning throughout toddlerhood is an understanding of other people’s feelings, and the ability to sympathize and empathize. These can be some of the most important emotional skills of Baby’s entire life, and you can help her develop them. You can do this by talking through other people’s feelings, like explaining that a pre-school classmate might be crying if he or she and Baby have been fighting over a toy, or by modeling it yourself – maybe by explaining to Baby why you’ve stopped to hold open a door for a fellow shopper. Baby can and will learn compassion and sensitivity on her own, or by interacting with other children, but with your help, she will get there faster, and you’ll also have demonstrated to her that compassion and consideration are important to you, and that they should be important to her, too.