“Cherish the moment…your baby will be grown before you know it!”
Although sayings like this one are trite, there’s a reason new parents hear this type of “wisdom” on an almost daily basis – because it’s true! Your infant – that sweet bundle of joy you’ve swaddled and cuddled since birth – will become mobile and expressive in what will feel like no time at all. He once depended on you and his caregivers to meet his every need, but as he grows, he’ll turn into a little explorer – and you’ll need to be prepared for it!
The transition from infancy to toddlerhood is typically marked by the ability to walk and marks the first phase of independence in your child’s development. Between the ages of approximately 18 months and 2 years, your toddler will begin to realize that he is not an extension of you. He will find his voice and begin expressing his preferences – often with emphatic emotion!
As your toddler’s world opens up, your world may feel like it is turning upside down. It’s a good idea to prepare yourself for what’s in store! Following are some helpful tips so you won’t be caught off guard when the toddler years begin.
1. “Toddler-proof” your environment to protect your little explorer from harm. Pad sharp edges or corners of tables and hearths. Remove all small objects from the reach of little hands, as they may be choking hazards. Get down on your toddler’s eye level and scan the room for what he can reach or pull, and take precautions to create a safe place for your toddler to move about.
2. Provide your toddler with age-appropriate toys and furnishings. At this age, it’s your child’s job to climb, walk, reach, touch, dump and pour. This is how she is learning about herself and the world around her.
3. Encourage your toddler to express his preferences. Remember that your toddler has just realized that he is a separate entity from you, and he’s getting his first experience of power and control. Encourage him to express what he wants, and model simple polite words and/or sign language such as “please” and “thank you.”
4. Reflect your toddler’s feelings back to her with compassion and verbal understanding. Recognize that she is experiencing a variety of emotions — ranging from frustration to joy — that go well beyond the basic needs of infancy. Acknowledging her feelings shows that you are paying attention to her, which in turn helps her feel more secure.
5. Delight in your toddler by celebrating when he does something all by himself! Encourage him to try new things, and give him opportunities to be your special helper. For example, let him do simple tasks such as wash an apple in the sink or put dirty clothes in the hamper.
Toddlerhood is the time in your child’s life where he starts to explore the world around him for the first time. Be prepared for the challenges so you can relish the joys!