Your Toddler's Development

  • New parents often believe that kindergarten readiness means understanding the ABCs, counting, and understanding colors and writing. While these are important skills, what teachers really want to see is your child's ability to listen, focus, learn, and socialize with other children and adults. Develop these skills by having your child around other children as well as teaching your child to play alone.

  • If your toddler is attached to a special item with several pieces, consider ordering a second set from the manufacturer right away. That way, if you lose a piece or if it breaks, you'll have the replacement parts.

  • Everyone is different. You could be a loud family and still have a baby that prefers quiet. Whether your child is timid, loud, or free-spirited, encourage her to be happy and confident with her own personality. You have to learn to work with what you've got.

  • Always put a positive spin on your child's personality when talking to someone else in front of her. Say things like, "She's always been very sensitive and caring," instead of, "She cries over everything." Your toddler is always listening to you.

  • Children are born secure and then develop insecurities. Say to them, "You are not allowed to do that because you will get hurt," and "That is too dangerous to play with," instead of "You can't do that!"

  • I learned that when parents make comments like "She's a diamond in the rough," they've told their child that she's different from everyone else. This may make her feel alienated rather than part of the group. Be aware of what you say to your baby, because everything has lifelong effects.

  • The more your toddler learns about things, the more natural it is for her to worry about them. For example, if your toddler didn't have separation anxiety as a baby but now screams if you go into the bathroom, she's probably just needing a little reassurance.

  • Being afraid of the dark goes with the program at this age. Just talk it through and reassure your child.

  • Be sure to notice what's on television when baby is around so that you can minimize having her become afraid of things unnecessarily. TV is influential, so only put on programs with positive and uplifting messages.

  • Did you know that many of the scary characters we see in movies are deliberately created so children can easily recognize their dramatic and intimidating features? The same is true for the likeable characters: they tend to be big-eyed and soft, and are usually shown with a blue sky, sunset, or some other appealing context.

  • Never label your child. Don't call your child lazy just because he's not active right now. He may be unsure of himself, or he may just be extra cautious. And that's a good thing!

  • The same is true for calling your child names like "brat" or telling him that he is "bad." Your child hears and believes everything you say, so when you use these kinds of names, you are setting yourself and your child up for trouble.

  • If your toddler is afraid to be around others, don't give up. In fact, have him in the company of others more often. The more time he spends with others, the faster he will learn to enjoy being with them.

  • If you want your toddler to try something, don't forget to ask. If you want him to give up his bottle, try asking, "Brandon, you're getting older now, how about trying to use a cup?" You may be shocked when he says, "Okay, sure!"

  • Remember that you are dealing with a toddler, a small person with a strong personality, who wants to be the ultimate decision-maker. Start off by asking. If she says no, say "Okay, no problem," and don't ask again that day. Just keep the cup in view and she'll probably show off when she's ready.

  • Using reverse psychology as a strategy works great with toddlers. For example, saying things like, "I don't want you to..." The minute you explain to a toddler what you don't want her to do, she will find a way to try it.

  • Read a new book to your toddler each day at a certain time. Rituals like this are special and they are so important for your child's development.

More on: Babies

Copyright © 2006 by Jeanne Murphy. Excerpted from Your Happy Toddler with permission of its publisher, Sourcebooks, Inc.

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