You’ll have a busy month ahead of you as your toddler builds on all their social, emotional and physical skills. Some days you’re likely to feel really frustrated with them, and other days you’ll be simply delighted. Just like the rest of the population, toddlers can have good and bad days. The problem is, they aren’t very good at keeping the bad ones to themselves. Frustration fuels a lot 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 those behaviours. Children tend to keep repeating the same behaviours when they learn that, the only time they get any attention, is when they are misbehaving. When you’re nearly 2½ years old, any attention – even when it’s negative – is better than none at all.
Growth and development
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 start stringing 4-5 words together in a sentence, use plurals correctly and follow certain instructions. If you ask your toddler to go somewhere and collect something for you, they are likely to get it right. They will also be 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 offer lots of praise when the child tries and gets it right.
There’ll be 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. 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. That’s why staring at someone who has 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.
Play and interaction
Keep the building blocks out this month. Being 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. Some parents worry that thumb or finger sucking, or becoming attached to a special toy, is a sign of their toddler being overly emotional and sensitive. Young children develop emotional attachments for all sorts of reasons and there is generally no cause for concern.
What You Can Expect This Month
Cries of “Mom” 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. Unfortunately for them, 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. This means that parents need to build a repertoire of responses to deal with this. Simple reward systems work well. You may also choose to not start the car until until buckles and straps are 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 that generate socially acceptable behaviour. See our social development section for more information.
Food and nutrition
Don’t fret if your toddler doesn’t want to eat much this month. They will be very busy just doing what they have to, and any period of time where they are expected to stay still becomes a major imposition.
Protein-filled foods will fill them up so if you find they’re prone to snacking and whinging at the fridge, 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 and these are specifically designed to chew and grind up their food prior to swallowing.
If your toddler is still drinking from a bottle, now is the time 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, although most toddlers are capable of drinking proficiently from an ordinary cup. Set a good example by drinking plain water, rather than soft drinks or large amounts of alcohol.
Keeping your toddler healthy
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 that immunisations, hand washing and minimising exposure to sick people can do for them. Supporting their immune system is always worthwhile. Adequate sleep, good nutrition, balancing rest and exercise, and having a happy family life will all help your toddler’s immune system 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 good mental health. Feeling things with your toddler and doing what you can to make them comfortable is so important.
Even though it sounds premature, they are learning what is involved in parenting at this early age. Nothing is wasted on your toddler, especially love and kindness.
If you don’t have a pet, consider if now may be the time to get one.
Through you, your little one will learn about respecting animals and what is involved in caring for them. Gentle handling, feeding, exercise and play are all important concepts to learn.
Have a night out with your partner and focus on your relationship.
One of the most positive things you can do for your toddler is to have a solid, loving relationship with your partner. Couples who are united and share in their children’s care tend to recover more quickly from adversity and gain more pleasure from family activities.
Do some form of exercise every day and involve your toddler too.
A simple walk around the block, outing to the museum, or even bike ride is great fun and only takes a little planning.
Even if you have a phobia about creepy crawlies yourself, try to hide this from your toddler.
Research has shown that children don’t have a natural fear of wildlife, but tend to develop it as a result of observing their parent’s responses.