What Are Toddlers Like?
Toddlerhood, which encompasses the ages of eighteen months to three years, is an exciting period of your child's development. You have most likely noticed that she's growing rapidly and quickly acquiring many new skills and abilities. It may seem to you that just yesterday she was an infant, very passive and dependent on you. Now you can see that she is on the threshold of becoming a full-fledged individual.
Your toddler is truly caught in a time of transition. She is just starting to develop her own sense of self. At first, her only knowledge of her identity was that she was united with you. During the first few months of her life, she developed an attachment to you (and you with her). Her first relationship was with you. Now, however, she is slowly starting to see herself as a separate person, and soon she will develop new relationships.
This time of becoming an individual includes separation and can be difficult. However, it will be easier if your toddler feels securely attached to you. When she knows that she can rely on you for love, comfort, and reassurance, she will be emboldened to take those first tentative steps away from you.
Some children have trouble during this developmental stage. Many toddlers begin to experience some feelings of separation anxiety anywhere from the eighth to twenty-fourth month. If your child is experiencing separation anxiety, she may become clingy and resistant to any separation. She may throw a temper tantrum and exhibit fear and anxiety around other people, even those who are familiar.
You may not be able to prevent your child from experiencing separation anxiety, but the way you respond can make things easier for all. Be sympathetic. Continue to be available to your child for comfort and reassurance. Whenever possible, avoid forcing her into situations that will be difficult. If your child feels safe and secure, she will outgrow separation anxiety.
As your toddler develops, she acquires many new skills. Along with physical and cognitive development, she also is maturing emotionally. You may find that your toddler's emotions are very close to the surface. Like flipping a light switch, she may go from happy and calm to fussy and agitated. At this age, she is likely to be easily overwhelmed and frustrated. Your calm, patient demeanor will be beneficial as you help her cope with and appropriately express her emotions.
Desire for Independence
You have probably noticed your toddler beginning to show a desire for independence. No longer completely dependent on you, she may even resist you during care-giving routines. She may start to insist, “ Me do it,” or “Let me try.” Your child is developing autonomy. It is important that you give her opportunities to have some independence and to be sure to recognize both her efforts and her accomplishments.
Desire for Power
Along with this new desire for independence comes the wish for some degree of control and power. Your toddler is starting to learn that she can influence both the events and the people around her. Feeling a sense of autonomy and power is an important emotional milestone. Children who are restricted in this area can become doubtful of their abilities and may be reluctant to try things or act independently later on.
In an effort to assert this desire for autonomy and control, some toddlers may become defiant. They start to challenge limits and say “No!” to your requests. If you recognize that these behaviors are not made out of spite, you will be better able to manage them with patience and humor.
Keep in mind that although your toddler is acquiring many new skills, she still has many limitations. She is still quite egocentric, meaning that she has difficulty understanding the world from the perspective of other people. This makes sharing and empathetic behavior a challenge.
Your toddler still has a long way to go in developing language skills. The second and third years of life are the times of the most rapid growth. Some of the activities in this book take into account that some toddlers are still nonverbal, and many activities in this book will actually promote your child's language development.