Encouraging Toddler Curiosity

The toddler years!

Parents of active toddlers will often say, “I have to keep my eyes on that child continually,” and how true this can be. Toddlers are learning to use their newfound motion to explore their environment. Touch is one way they learn and grow. Because they are now crawling and getting around on their hands and knees, parents do have a bigger job in protecting their child from hazards and anything that could be a potential concern! As we consider parenting children of different ages, we are looking at developmental milestones –which are things most children can do or are doing by a certain age. We know that each child develops at their own pace! Some children are early, some are on time, and some a little later.

From studies by Goodnow, J. J. (1988); and more recent studies like Bartlett, J. D., Guzman, L., & Ramos-Olazagasti, M. A. (2018)– across the board the research shows that parents who understand developmental milestones are more likely to have age-appropriate expectations, have higher quality interactions, and use more effective parenting strategies. Be sure to listen to the podcast at the 10 minute mark to hear about how brain development impacts how a child continues on their growth journey.

The toddler years may be filled with emotion for many kids. As they are just learning about who they are becoming as individuals, we note that they have very little emotion regulation skills. They are learning to express their needs but can become frustrated when they cannot communicate effectively and we may see the toddler meltdown, or tantrum.  The meltdown could also stem from too much stimulation in the environment.

A few great ideas for engaging with your toddler during this life phase include:

  • Spend time reading to your toddler daily.
  • Ask your child to name and identify body parts and objects.
  • Play games with your toddler, like shape sorting, simple puzzles, or follow the leader.
  • Teach your child simple songs and rhymes.
  • Give your child attention and praise when following instructions and showing positive behavior and limit attention for defiant behavior like meltdowns.
  • Encourage your toddler’s curiosity and include field trips as opportunities to keep learning!

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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