While you’re in the thick of baby rearing, it can be so hard to look ahead to the great joys of raising a toddler. We’ve all heard the stories about the “Terrible Twos”. Everyone has been witness to a full-blown toddler temper-tantrum, I’m sure. Yes, 2 year-olds get a “bad rap” as being challenging to parents. There’s the constant busyness, the mess of toys and yikes, the limited vocabulary! But it’s all in your perspective as a parent and I think that two is a fantastic age. There are definitely unexpected and often overlooked joys of raising a toddler.
Moving from Baby to Toddler
Let’s say you’re just coming out of the baby stage. Your baby has finally stopped the projectile spit-up. She’s sleeping longer than 13 minutes at a stretch. Or he’s finally entertained long enough trying to yank off his sock to allow you to use the bathroom!
And then just like that, your baby is a toddler! She’s cruising around the furniture and taking her first steps. He’s trying to use a fork and spoon. She’s chattering away, and you start to actually understand some of the words! He’s playing with a toy instead of just stuffing it in his mouth.
So much is still the same as when they were a baby; your toddler is still wearing diapers, can’t be left alone and still has lots of attachment to mom and dad (thank goodness!) So much changes quickly as your toddler learns how to play alone and follow simple directions. It’s all a move towards independence. Which can sometimes also include the frustrations of learning new skills. And yes, those dreaded temper tantrums!
Raising a Toddler
You might be in-between wanting to have a happy toddler or to just needing to know how to make a toddler behave. Parenting toddlers is a daily roller coaster of emotions, for both parents and little ones!
But with the frustration comes incredible joy. Your baby will develop her own personality as she grows. Toddler-hood is a wonderful time for learning, exploring and growing together as a parent and child. Here are some of the sweetest things to look forward to with raising a toddler!
1. Learning How to Play Independently
This is one of the best parts of your baby growing into a toddler; they can finally sit alone for a few minutes without needing you to constantly provide the entertainment! When given their own quiet time away from television and other distractions, toddlers will play alone with their toys and books.
To encourage this, make space in your day for independent play. Start by playing with your toddler, then moving away and eventually leave the area. You might get away for a few minutes before your child engages with you again. Keep trying. Eventually your toddler will be able to play for longer stretches of time before seeking your attention again.
What are the best toys for independent play?
Look for open ended toys that will develop creativity and engagement. “Unplugged” toys that do not require batteries are best. Items like blocks for stacking, cars, dolls, silk scarves, and safe magnetic toys offer hours of entertainment for toddlers.
2. More Engagement
No longer does your little one sit and stare blankly at you when you talk. Now he’s able to understand many words, even if he’s not yet speaking them out loud. This also means he can follow simple directions that include one or two steps. Try making requests of your toddler, like asking him to bring you a book.
Once your toddler can follow a one step direction, try two steps. Ask them to bring you a book and a pillow. Engage your child by talking about everything, even if you think they can’t understand yet. Toddlers will pick up tone, expression and words. Use language and speak out loud, narrating to your toddler as you do things throughout the day.
3. Distraction Can Diffuse
Outside of feeding and changing wet diapers, it can be a challenge to calm a crying baby. However getting a toddler to settle down quickly may be easier with this trick. Effectively using distraction can transition a toddler from tantrum to giggles. When my toddler is fussing about bedtime, I’ll ask, “Did you hear that?” and she’ll stop whining to listen to the dog barking outside. This segues into a story about how the dog is barking to tell her it’s bedtime and that she’s keeping him awake with her fussing! Come up with creative distraction techniques that you can implement quickly when a fit is imminent. There are many other positive ways to stop a temper tantrum in this helpful article.
4. Improved Memory
This summer we went on several trips with my just-turned-two-year-old. Surprisingly in the months since, she has recalled small details of our vacations, including flying on the airplane, who she sat next to on certain theme park rides, the swimming pool at the hotel and even the ice cream cone she ate! I love that toddlers can remember and recall. Thinking back on favorite memories is one of the bedtime activities my toddler and I have when settling in for the night.
Questions to ask toddler to help with memory –
Where did we go today? Did you like when I took you out of the stroller? Was there anything special we saw at the park? Which is your favorite, the swings or the slide? What snack did you have?
Fill in the gaps of the conversation for your toddler when speech is limited. Pause and allow them to speak, especially if they are slower to converse. Avoid “baby talk”, changing words or speaking in staccato. The conversation should flow naturally just as if you were chatting with an older child. Use regular language and speech patterns and your toddler will pick up on the conversational flow.
5. An Expanded Mealtime Palate
One day your toddler can’t get enough of broccoli. And the next day, she throws it off the plate! While your toddler may still prove picky when it comes to certain foods, he’ll also be expanding his menu to include more diverse options. Consider adding something new to his plate every few days and see if he likes it. The tiniest little taste will do, no need to go overboard. These tips for feeding picky eaters can help!
At this age, toddlers enjoy feeding themselves although they aren’t very coordinated with their delivery. Toddlers will also go back and forth between utensils and using their fingers, which is totally okay. Continue to offer toddler-sized utensils and relax on the mess. Supply your independent toddler with specifically sized plates, utensils and cups. Character designs and favorite colors may entice toddlers to the table!
6. Playing Games
Don’t pull out the board games just yet. Game play is another fun thing that toddlers can start learning how to do. But you’ll have to keep the rules very basic for now. A Memory Matching Game game can be used. Instead of following traditional rules, try having your toddler just pair up the matches.
Looking for more toddler games?
Simple “finger songs” like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Itsy-Bitsy Spider improve fine motor skills and memory.
There is nothing like the giggles from a toddler! Seriously, toddlers have a great sense of humor and the sillier the better. This is why you can be a total goof-ball with your toddler and they’ll only love you the more for it! You’ll also start noticing that your toddler will try making you laugh as well. My daughter just learned how to roll her eyes back and fake sleep; naturally, she keeps doing it because she knows it cracks me up! And of course, running away from me when I’m trying to take her photograph!
8. Fine-Motor Skills Means New Play Ideas
Finger pinching and grasp improve as your child moves from baby to toddler. Encourage these fine motor skills by offering crayons and paper to color with and child’s play dough or non-toxic clay to squish and mold. You’ll still need to watch your toddler closely as many kids will still put items in their mouth; my daughter will tell me flatly, “No eating clay” and then pop it into her mouth!
Best Fine Motor Skills Items for Toddlers
Blowing bubbles includes holding the wand, dipping and blowing softly.
Textile items like Play Foam, Play-Doh, Kinetic Sand and modeling clay are all perfect for toddlers, with constant adult supervision.
Coloring books and crayons
Chunky beads and strings for “sewing” or threading
Sensory boxes that include items like water beads, beans, rice
Peg board type toys
9. Toddlers Have an Opinion…And That’s NOT a Bad Thing!
When raising a toddler, you’ll notice early on that toddlers start having very strong opinions on what they like and what they want. And they don’t have a problem telling you that you’re doing it ALL WRONG! Wailing, screaming, crying and all out tantrums are often the way that toddlers express themselves when they can’t find the right words. Giving your toddlers choices can help with these frustrations. They give your toddler a decision to make, but still keep you in charge.
Offer your toddler an opinion on their choice of two things, pre-chosen by you. You don’t want to give them the entire closet of clothes to choose from, so just pull out two outfits and let them decide between them. Try letting your toddler choose whether they want a ham or turkey sandwich, which book they want to read or whether they want to go right or left down the street when you take a walk.
10. Celebrating New Skills and Moving Towards Potty Training
My just-turned 2-year-old toddler is rounding the corner towards potty training but for now, she’s still in diapers. My daughter is the fourth child I’m going to be potty training, so I know from experience with my other kids that she’s just not quite ready yet. The signs for complete toilet training aren’t there. But no pressure, I know that it’s not worth it to push. And diapers are just fine until she’s really ready for the potty.
When you do notice your toddler might be ready for toilet training, I highly recommend reading the tips in this post, Potty Training in 3 Days. I share the cues to look for, printable charts and the best advice for potty training toddlers.
11. Craving Movement and Activity
No more baby “tummy time” with your little one just lying there on the floor. With a toddler running around the house, you’re guaranteed to be more active too! I’ve decided to encourage exercise with my daughter by taking her for walks in the neighborhood out of the stroller. I allow for stops so she can and pick up sticks and leaves along the way. Getting outside is a great way to diffuse a bad mood! Read more tips for taking a walk outside with babies and toddlers.
12. Toddlers Love to Help
After so many months as a baby, laying around helpless, toddlers can finally start pulling some weight around the house (just kidding!) But toddlers do love to help so include him in the chores you’re doing! It’s a great example to set when raising a toddler, to allow them to pitch in with household chores. My toddlers have all enjoyed shoving the wet laundry into the dryer. Sing the “Clean Up” song as you tidy their toys and soon enough, they’ll be picking up and singing alongside you.
13. Developing Imagination
Give a baby a doll and she’ll chew on it. Give a toddler a doll and you’ll likely get a different reaction. Some toddlers will talk to their dolls, wrap them up in blankets, pretend to feed them and truly put their imagination into their toys. Give your toddler open-ended toys like blocks to play with and see what they do with their imagination. Watching their imagination blossom is one of the best things about raising a toddler.
As I shared earlier, supply open ended toys for your toddler to play with to spark imagination. Seemingly non-play items like cardboard boxes, egg crates, pillows and blankets can be used for play as well.
14. Extremely Curious
Raising a toddler doesn’t have to be frustrating, though there are moments. Oh, I know how annoying it is when your toddler keeps grabbing the same “off-limits” items in the house. My daughter has just learned how to open doorknobs so I’m on high alert to make sure she’s not getting into things that she shouldn’t. However, I know that she’s curious, so I do allow for certain explorations in a well-controlled way. I have drawers in her room with toys and pajamas and I let her dump out all the contents daily. She takes the time to sort through the items and then we clean things up together. Here are more ideas of things to do at home with a toddler.
15. Better Coordination
Develop your toddler’s large motor skills with activities that show off their improved coordination. That’s not to say they don’t still trip and fall a lot! Having safe places for your toddler to play and work on balance and coordination is important.
Raising a toddler can be exhausting, especially if they have high energy levels. How can you encourage those large motor skills that don’t include jumping off the sofa? Active toddlers need lots of play time that involves running and movement.
If you have a toddler who enjoys jumping, climbing and swinging, set aside time for playground skills that will strengthen their muscles and burn off excess energy. Help your toddler to safely climb the ladder or rock wall. Hold their body while they move their arms to navigate across the bars.
My daughter loves attending an open gym class with other toddlers and preschoolers that allows her to safely run and play.
Can’t get outside? There are safe indoor activities that encourage movement. Parents and toddlers can turn on music for a dance party, balance Bean Bags on their heads or follow a simple obstacle course that’s set up through the house.
16. So Much Love
For the first time in your child’s life, you’ll start to feel the love that your toddler has for you. No longer the baby, that just takes and takes, your toddler is starting to recognize their emotions. The first time your toddler wraps his arms around your neck, kisses you on the cheek and says, “Wuv you!”, you’re guaranteed to melt. All those unlimited hugs and kisses alone make toddlerhood something to celebrate!
In your experience, what is the BEST part about raising a toddler?
This was a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Signature Care diapers. This article originally published Sept 20th, 2018 and has been updated and republished.