19-month-old Idy is into everything. You cannot take your eyes off her for a few minutes. She pulled on the dishcloth, knocking a pot off the counter top. Luckily it was empty. She grabbed hold of your expensive prescription glasses and dragged them along the floor. Needless to say…they are scratched up and no longer usable. She stuck a toy into the power socket. Only by the grace of God did she not get electrocuted. She pulled all the pots out of the kitchen drawer, making a huge racket when granny was trying to sleep. She drew lines on the living room walls with a permanent marker … red. She doesn’t listen! Just the other day, she….
If you have a toddler, you have many such stories to tell. Her/his escapades can fill a book. How did that angel become such a terror, you wonder.
But did you know that “getting into things” is how your toddler learns? This is not happening because you are doing something wrong. No. Toddlers are wired with an inborn ability and need to learn. Look at it this way; your child’s brain is hungry for experiences that will serve as building blocks for his/her learning. Her brain wiring causes her to be curious, to explore – taste, sounds, texture etc, to pull/push/climb/hide, to try and figure things out.
Now this is where you can help. Remember, you are the most important person in your child’s life. You can also take advantage of the opportunity offered at this critical time to further stimulate your child’s brain. Here are a few things you can do.
- Provide a safe environment for exploration. Dedicate some space for your toddlers play. Go down on your knees, as close to your toddler’s height as possible and look around the space. This will show you your toddlers view. Remove everything that could potentially hurt him/her.
- Provide appropriate toys. Toys should be such that can be used in different ways – balls, empty containers (different sizes), plastic spoons, cups, bowls, blocks – different sizes (you can make your own using empty cartons, boxes etc. Just tape the flaps down and you can even paint it with your toddler…fun), chunky crayon, paper, old t-shirts, hats (for dress-up) etc.
- Redirect/distract. Listen to yourself. How frequently do you say ”no”. Try to say “yes” more often. Instead of telling your toddler all the things he cannot do, draw his attention to all the things he is allowed to do. E.g. instead of repeating “no” when she is writing on the wall, provide paper and tell her “write here”. Distract him/her attention from the negative and point it to the positive instead.
- Play with your toddler. Spend some time, even 10 minutes in play, reading, talking and laughing with your child.
- Read to your toddler. Look at the pictures together and don’t worry too much about following the words strictly. Make up the story based on the pictures. Tell your own stories handed down to you by your parents, grandparents and elders.
You know all those brain genius toys where you press a button and it says/does something? Yeah, you don’t need them. Your child learns better developing his own play e.g. making music on your pots and pans. He learns difference in sound/what objects produce different sounds. Critical thinking skills. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get your toddler equipped to play. You have all you need in your house.
Remember! You are the most important person in your child’s life. Spend time and build positive connections with him/her today.