19 - 21 Months

We asked 4 professionals what they wished toddler parents would do more of

Young child outside looking at a crack in the cement

We asked some of our favorite early childhood, Montessori, and resilience experts to share advice with us. Here are their top 10 tips:

1. Offer limited choices

Give them the choice between two options as often as possible: “We are going out to eat dinner with our friends. Would you like to go into the car feet first or arms first.” This kind of choice may seem inconsequential to us, but it can be very empowering to a child.

2. Give them simple tasks

In photo: The Montessori Playshelf and playthings from The Companion Play Kit

Children can start following one-step and then two-step directions around the age of 1. Suggest a task and participate with your child at first. For instance, you can say, “Let’s put your clothes in the hamper,” and let your child drop them in. Or, “Time to clean up, let’s put the tray on the shelf” With practice, your toddler can start to do these things on their own. This encourages language processing, independence, and many proud moments ❤️

3. Use interesting words

You don’t always have to use the simplest language with your toddler. They have just as much capacity to understand the meaning of a more sophisticated word as a simple one—as long as it’s used in context.  

4. Follow their lead

Observe what your toddler grabs, touches, looks at, and responds to. Then engage with those experiences or objects. This sounds simple, but it requires keen attention. 

5. Change “sharing” to “turn taking”

Toddlers are not mature enough to be ready to share. This is because they don’t yet have “theory of mind,” which means they cannot understand that another person has a different perspective. Using the phrase “taking turns” can help begin a conversation about enjoying a toy, then giving it back. 

6. Slow down

In photo: ‘Clean & Messy’ and ‘Ready to Go: Poop’ from the Lovevery Book Bundles

When you can, let your child set the pace. Pause and watch the ants with them, look at the pictures in a book until they want to turn the page, let them climb the stairs as slowly as they’d like to.  

7. Offer opportunities to learn

We get used to doing everything for our babies, but as they grow they need space, time, and opportunities to try things on their own. Let them open drawers, take off their socks, and wash and dry their hands. They won’t do these things perfectly right away, but the learning is in the doing. Let your toddler figure things out while you point out their success.

8. Give them words for their feelings

Young child crying and upset sitting in the sand at the beach

When they have an emotional experience, what your toddler needs most is for you to narrate what’s happening and name their feelings: “You feel mad because I said we have to leave the beach. You’re having so much fun, you don’t want to leave.” Or, “you fell down and that surprised you.” In addition to happy, sad, or angry, try using specific words like frustratedexciteddisappointed, or worried.

9. Let them get messy

Your toddler is a little scientist using their entire body to do research. Getting messy is one of the best ways they can explore their environment. Give them an avocado to squish in their hands, let them go barefoot even outside, and try not to start cleaning up while they play 😉

10. Make time to be truly present

In photo: Slide & Seek Ball Run from The Babbler Play Kit

You are the most important part of your child’s world, and they learn the most through face-to-face interactions. Find times when you can be truly present, with your phone out of reach and no other distractions. Montessori experts talk about “being with,” which means being present in body, mind, and spirit. 

Thank you to the following experts:

  • Sarah Piel, infant and early childhood developmental specialist
  • Gabrielle Felman, early childhood special education teacher
  • Jody Malterre, Montessori expert and certified positive discipline trainer
  • Zelana Montminy, Ph.D., positive psychologist and author


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Posted in: 19 - 21 Months, Social Emotional, Resilience, Montessori, Child Development

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