You’ll need to start pulling back a little this month as your toddler develops more independence over his / her little body. Sometimes their skill level won’t match their intent though, so you’ll need to help them out when things get a bit too tough. “Me do it” will become a familiar cry. Although you know you’d be able to do what are trying to achieve in less than half the time, that’s not the point.
A wise parenting expert once said that one of the main objectives of parenting is to make our roles obsolete. Not in an emotional sense of course, but in terms of not needing to do things for our children once they have learnt how to do it themselves. It takes a lot of practice and skill-building to become proficient at tasks such as dressing, eating and communicating. But with support and positive guidance, your toddler will learn that perseverance can be a good thing.
Growth and development
Your toddler will become taller and possibly leaner over the next few months. Their appetite may still not be great and, because they are so active, any extra fat they have will be burnt off in exercise. Current research has shown a strong correlation between excess weight in childhood influencing the likelihood of obesity and being overweight during the adult years.
Your toddler will like to run, jump, hop and skip. By now, they will be able to balance on one leg and coordinate their legs in sequences of hopping and jumping, not always in a forward direction either. They will still need to look down at their feet if they’re walking in unfamiliar territory or if they think they are going to walk on something.
Your toddler will become more adept to undressing this month - though not as skilful at dressing themselves. Bath time will become a wonderful adventure and, although your 26-month-old may need some persuasion at first, you won’t need to encourage them much to stay in there. Baths are fertile territory for imaginative games so you’ll find your toddler creating all sorts of adventures in there. Water games, bubble play, squirting and pouring activities will all help them to link concepts and improve their fine motor skills. Keep a close eye on them though. They are still too young to be left unsupervised even if they are bathing with an older sibling. A grip mat to avoid falls, hot water temperature regulator and more sitting rather than standing, are sound safety strategies.
Play and interaction
Stacking toys or those that can be sorted into similar colours and shapes are popular now. Name colours yourself as you play with your toddler, but don’t expect them to be able to recognise them accurately just yet. They will be able to group pairs of similar shapes and you may notice them look for missing parts to their favourite toy. You will see that, around this age, your toddler will like to do things the same way and in the same order. If this is not possible, they could become quite upset and not understand. They are yet to learn about flexibility and being able to achieve the same outcome in different ways. Be patient and calm and let them know it is alright to try alternatives.
Make a point of playing with your toddler every day. Research has shown that toddlers whose parents actively engage in play time activities tend to be less demanding. They seem to know that they will get lots of lovely attention by playing well rather than needing to misbehave to get any. Your toddler’s attentionspan will still be short so no matter how interesting, exciting or new a toy is, it will only hold appeal for short periods.
Set up a craft table with different coloured sheets of paper, safety scissors, rubber stamps and paints. Avoid overwhelming your toddler with too many choices of activities to pick from – between 3 and 4 will suffice.
Rotate the different mediums they can play with to include play-dough, clay, cutting, pasting and paints. They may need some help to get started on an activity but once they understand what’s possible, stand back and leave them to it. Some kids are more creative than others and some are just not interested in gluing and drawing. It is important to have a range of activities that will keep them stimulated and occupied.
What you can expect this month
Your toddler is still too young to have learnt any social etiquette, which means their table manners will be non-existent. There is plenty of time for them to learn how to use cutlery properly and not put too much food into their mouth at one time. Let them see how you do it and, when they are eating neatly, make a point of genuinely praising them.
Your toddler will be able to comprehend what you are saying to them, as long as it isn’t too complex. They are at the age where they will begin to link two concepts in a sentence such as “go to the table and get an apple”.
Their language ability still won’t match their comprehension and there will be times when they are trying to make you understand something that seems to make sense to them. A process of elimination is often called for, as well as needing to interpret their cues about what they want.
Expect your toddler to look for entertainment in the most interesting places – bathroom cupboards, toolboxes, pantries and even your wardrobe. Get into the habit of closing doors and blocking their access to areas you’d prefer to quarantine.
Don’t expect them to keep their toys and belongings in one part of the house. For now, they are incapable of doing this so you may as well save your breath and change your expectations to being more realistic.
Food and nutrition
You won’t need to be feeding your 26-month old now. They’ll be perfectly capable of doing this by themselves. Some parents continue to spoon food into their toddler’s mouths, especially when they are concerned about their child not eating enough. But this does not address the core issues of toddlers needing to learn what is involved in independent eating. Controlling what goes into their mouth and when to stop eating can only be perfected by exposure. This means parents need to let go of controlling their child’s meal times.
By now your 26-month-old can have reduced fat milk, rather than full cream. As long as they are obtaining some fat from the other foods in their diet, this will be sufficient to meet their growth needs.
Rice, soy or milks other than cow’s milk need to be calcium-fortified in order to meet the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of calcium. Get into the habit of reading labels and product information guides when you are shopping for the family. Becoming an informed consumer can take some investment of time, but it is always worthwhile.
If your toddler eats their evening meal at around 5-6 pm, you could find they need another snack just before going to bed. Yoghurt, a piece of fruit, cheese and crackers or toast will be enough to fill their tummy and promote sleep.
Keeping your toddler healthy
Hand washing will be fairly straightforward now, but you’ll still need to give lots of reminders. Hair and face washing may be another matter, so you’ll need to be quick and organised to get these tasks over with.
Colds and respiratory infections are common with this age group and for some, a permanently runny nose continues through the winter months. Use tissues once, avoid hankies and encourage your toddler to sneeze into a tissue. They won’t understand why, but if you can instil some of the basics over these months, then your job will be easier as time moves on.
Toilet training for this age group is common, but expect some accidents along the way. Bladder training usually comes before bowel training and there can be a difference of months between both. Clean up messes as they happen and encourage your toddler to come and tell you if they’ve missed the toilet.
Although they’ll undoubtedly want to do everything on their own terms, you’ll still need to monitor all your little one’s grooming practices. Hair brushing, tooth cleaning, cutting finger and toe nails, even wiping their bottom will all fall into your to do list.
Keep reading together every day.
Have a few comfortable spots in the house where you can nestle down together and become absorbed in a good book. Audiotapes which match a story are very popular for this age-group. Check with your local library or specialty children’s bookstore.
Encourage your toddler to go bare foot as much as possible.
Children learn about the world through all of their senses, including the soles of their feet.
If you have some spare cash, don’t automatically spend it on your child.
There are always a million enticing things to buy for little people, but don’t neglect yourself. Think about your own needs and if you could do with something new to wear or a personal treat.
Have your toddler’s eyes examined if you need to.
If you notice your toddler needs to get up close to objects in order to see them, have their eyes examined by an ophthalmologist. If visual problems are detected early, the outcome is generally more positive.