Invite some little friends over for your toddler to play with this month. Watch how they relate to each other and communicate in their own special ways. Some toddlers are more assertive than others and make their feelings very clear. Others are more passive and slower to warm up. At 22 months some character traits are starting to become quite obvious. It can be fascinating to see the evolution of a toddler’s personality as they get older and mature into the person they will become.
Although your toddler will still be stuck in the middle of their parallel play phase, they will of course be relating to other children. Just like adults, they can have their favourites and get on more easily with some. If your toddler is at day care, they will be exposed to lots of different personalities, adults as well as other children. This is generally seen as a positive factor, as it helps children learn about human differences and how to be adaptable.
Growth and development
If you’re sick of changing nappies by now, you could consider starting to toilet train your toddler. Signs of readiness include:
Recognising if they are wet or dirty
Waking up dry from sleeps
Being able to hold on for long enough to get to the toilet and then release when they are there
This is more about nervous system maturity and development than anything else, so if your toddler isn’t showing the vaguest interest, don’t stress. Some parents equate toilet training with intelligence, but this is simply not true. Boys are often slower to train than girls.
You may also be thinking about moving your toddler from their cot into a bed now, especially if they are tall. You could need the cot for a new baby or the time is simply right for graduating to a bed. For whatever reason, there can be a period of adjustment until your toddler acclimatises to their new sleeping environment. Stay calm, think about your own responses, and be consistent in your approach. Your toddler is old enough now to understand simple directions such as “it’s sleep time, put your head on the pillow, close your eyes”.
You may want to record your toddler’s height on an (inconspicuous) portion of wall in the house from now. Your toddler will still be growing in fits and starts, some months they will grow like a bean and others they will plateau. If it’s winter time, you’ll notice their trouser legs creeping up their calves. A toddler’s clothing always shows if there has been an expansion of growth.
Play and interaction
Encourage your toddler to develop an interest in nature by taking them outside, to the local park or just for walks around your block. A trip to the zoo or to a duck pond will entertain them for ages. A bored, under-stimulated toddler is prone to whinging and whining. They are also more likely to throw a tantrum and look to their parents for entertainment.
Place some rugs on the grass outside under a shady tree and have a teddy bear’s picnic, fill small buckets with water, sand or dirt and make mud pies. If it’s summer, turn the hose on to a drizzle and give them some buckets and containers to fill up.
Use your imagination to initiate some games and then leave the rest to your 22-month-old. They are designed to seek their own stimulation and fuel their brain growth, but they will need your help to get started. If money is tight, source second hand toys from thrift shops, fairs and garage sales, or swap toys with friends that have children of the same age. Rotate your toddler’s toys so the novelty of playing with something new is maintained.
Toys don’t need to be complex to keep your toddler entertained. Look for ones that combine colour, noise and an interactive option. Those that have a cause and effect function are still popular for this age group. But don’t expect your toddler to handle their toys gently or appreciate them as much as you do. Special toys that require some level of parental supervision are likely to last longer, but they won’t be considered much fun if you need to hover every time they’re brought out of their box.
What you can expect this month
Some emotional meltdowns are common in this age-group, particularly if the child is tired or under-stimulated. Your toddler’s brain is still a work in progress and there will be times when they resort to primitive responses. The way to manage tantrums depends on what type it is.
Tantrums that result from frustration, distress, fear or misunderstanding are best dealt with by using empathy and reassurance. But tantrums that stem from the child wanting the parent to do something or relent to the child’s requests are best managed by ignoring and walking away.
Kids of this age can become distressed very quickly and overwhelmed by the magnitude of their own feelings. When this happens they really need their parents’ support to know that everything will be fine and they are not on their own.
Everyone else may seem like an expert when it comes to toddler management, but don’t be fooled. So if your 22-month-old has a meltdown at the supermarket, don’t get caught up in other people’s opinions of how best to deal with them. Have a plan of action in case you need it and follow through. There may be times when you need to abandon your plans and make a quick exit.
Time your outings for when your toddler has woken from a sleep and isn’t hungry. Take some snacks with you and be organised. Being restrained in a stroller while pushed around a shopping centre for hours is always a recipe for a potential hissy fit.
Food and nutrition
Don’t let your toddler skip breakfast; it really is the most important meal of the day. If they’re not keen on cereal, offer them whole grain toast with a healthy spread, fruit, yoghurt, muffin, eggs, baked beans or even leftovers. Let them see you eating breakfast as well and sitting down while you do. Offer them a cup of milk after their meal, unless they are good eaters. Avoid adding sweet flavouring to their milk – this can lead to a reliance on it tasting sweet and a refusal to drink milk at all if flavouring isn’t present.
If your toddler won’t drink plain milk, try a gradual weaning process of adding less flavouring over a period of time or simply stop buying it.
At 22 months they are old enough to take their plate and cup to the sink and help a little with cleaning up. Plastic plates and cups are ideal for this age-group as crockery inevitably ends up on the floor. Keep their special plates and cups for fully supervised meal times and let them know they need to be extra careful. Children that are fully insulated from having access to good things don’t have the opportunity to develop an awareness of what special, good or nice things are.
Keeping your toddler healthy
Keep a broad spectrum sun-block by the front and back doors and get into the habit of applying it before you go out. Teach your toddler about sun-safety and the need to wear a hat when they go outdoors. Look for shady trees for them to play under, dress them in sun protective clothing, and restrict their time outdoors to before 10 am and after 3 pm. Remember, the sun in winter is just as damaging to skin as it is in summer time.
If you are unwell, see your doctor or make active steps to improve your own health. Children who see their parents prioritising their own health and working to stay well learn that this is important and valuable. Try not to invest so much energy into your parenting that there is nothing left for yourself or your partner. Couples that retain some shared interests and look out for each other are in the best possible position to care well for their children. Avoid seeing the time you invest into yourself as being selfish. Your children can only benefit from this.
Learn the valuable strategy of distraction this month.
When your toddler is about to throw a tantrum or wants something they can’t have, discover a fascinating item that demands their immediate attention. An upward intonation of your voice, widened eyes, and “oh look” is likely to have the most positive effect on heading off a looming meltdown.
Restrict your toddler’s screen time at this age or, better still, don’t let them have any at all.
Sitting down for long periods and focusing on a screen impacts on positive interactive play opportunities.
Show your toddler the moon, the stars and the sun and make some early attempts at teaching them the seasons.
Although they are still too young to comprehend the different seasons, it is important they have early opportunities in learning about seasonal cycles. Teach them to name how they feel (i.e. cold, warm, hot) and what they can do to become more comfortable. Showing them how to pull on a jumper, ask for a drink, and take off their shoes, are all tangible ways they can contribute to their own comfort needs.