Your toddler is growing every day—physically, mentally, and emotionally. If you sometimes struggle to keep up with all the change, you’re not alone. We gathered together five key facts to help you better understand your toddler and what’s happening with their development right now.
Here are 5 facts about toddlers that can help you better understand them:
1. Your toddler’s brain is working twice as hard as yours
“Before preschoolers enter kindergarten, their brains are more active and more flexible, with more connections per brain cell than the brains of adult human beings,” says Alison Gopnik, a leading cognitive psychologist at University of California, Berkeley. “By age three, the child’s brain is actually twice as active as an adult’s. It has some 15,000 synapses or connections per neuron, many more than in the adult brain.”
In other words, your toddler is processing a lot. Try to keep this in mind and give them (and yourself) a break next time they express big emotions in the form of a meltdown, tantrum, or power struggle.
2. Giving independence to toddlers early on can lead to fewer power struggles later
When you grant your toddler independence, they develop confidence and a greater sense of self. As early as 14 months, try offering them responsibilities and chores to help them feel valuable and like they have a place and purpose in the home.
Here are some chores you can offer your toddler:
- Throwing away pieces of trash around the house
- Letting them clean up/wipe up spills (you can offer a spray bottle of water to help clean tables or other surfaces)
- Letting them transfer clothes from washer to dryer
- Helping to “fold” laundry
- Setting the table for mealtimes and sorting silverware
- Opening and closing doors
- Prepping snacks: peeling eggs or oranges; chopping soft foods like bananas or avocados (supervised ❤️)
- Taking small bags of trash out
- Feeding pets
- Loading the dishwasher
- Watering plants
- Helping with siblings
- Opening mail or packages
3. Toddlers have a universal desire to help without the expectation of getting something for it
Setting your child up to help with chores takes time and energy, but trust us: it’s worth it. The benefits extend far beyond that one specific task. Helping around the house cultivates self-esteem, teaches real life skills, and instills in your toddler a real sense of belonging. Best of all, they’ll want to continue helping 😉
“Researchers have found strong evidence that very young children innately want to help, and if allowed to do so will continue helping, voluntarily, through the rest of childhood and into adulthood,” says Peter Gray, Ph.D., research professor at Boston College.
Before you offer your toddler a reward for their help, consider this: studies have shown that being rewarded for an act changes children’s attitudes towards the act, and discourages them from wanting to do it again on their own. A simple “thank you” or positive words of encouragement can be enough acknowledgement.
4. Routines provide comfort, stability, and a sense of safety for your toddler
Children of all ages thrive on daily routines and rituals. Patterns in your toddler’s day are comforting because they help them understand and prepare for what’s going to happen next. They also encourage thinking in more advanced ways. When your toddler learns about order and sequence and can recognize patterns, they build more advanced thought processes like reasoning, judgment, and anticipation.
Some ways to incorporate routines are:
- Wake up time: sing songs, open the blinds, make the bed, change clothes
- Before meals: wash hands, get a water cup, sit at the table, say a prayer or sing a song
- Before/after play: select a play space, play some music, choose toys, set up, sing a clean up song
- Bedtime: bath, turn on a sound machine, dim the lights, close the curtains or blinds, read some books, and sing a few songs
5. When toddlers know they can make people laugh, it builds their self-esteem
According to Dr. Mary L. Gavin of KidsHealth, “kids with a well-developed sense of humor are happier and more optimistic, have higher self-esteem, and can handle differences (their own and others’) well.”
The benefits of laughing go beyond social-emotional. Dr. Katrina Lindsay, a pediatric psychologist at Akron Children’s NeuroDevelopmental Science Center says, “laughter and a humorous outlook have been shown to lower blood pressure, aid in digestion, decrease symptoms of pain, and improve overall immunity.”
Dr. Lindsay adds, “when kids are using humor, they are using both parts of their brain. They are using the left side of the brain for thinking of the jokes, and using the right side for laughing and appreciating them.”
Try reading funny books together, putting funny words and sounds together, playing a game of who can make the silliest face, or having a wacky dance party. If comedy isn’t on your list of strengths, just be playful and laugh. Neuroscientists believe that hearing another person laugh triggers mirror neurons in a region of the brain that makes listeners feel as though they are actually laughing themselves. So let your toddler know how funny they are when they make jokes or do something silly by laughing out loud ❤️
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