10 Ways to Support Your Toddler's Development

Your toddler is a busy little person! From 12 to 24 months, toddlers are learning social skills, language skills, and both gross and fine motor skills. There are many things that parents and caregivers can do to support the healthy development of toddlers.

1. Read to your toddler. Children really benefit from being read to. When parents and caregivers make reading together a fun time, and keep it a priority in their day-to-day lives it can inspire a lifelong love of books. While you are reading, point out things in picture books and ask your child simple questions about the pictures. If he or she does not know the answer, tell her the answer and make it fun! Reading is a rewarding activity that does not cost a penny - especially if you visit a library regularly. Did you know that your child can get their very own library card to use?
To find out how, visit www.reginalibrary.ca/help/your-library-card-and-account.

2. Talk to your toddler. Your child now understands quite a few words! By age 2, many toddlers speak with 50 to 100 words, in 2-word sentences, and understand the meaning of many more words. When you talk to your child, try to get down to their level so that they can see your face while you interact - this helps them become more engaged in what you are talking about. Offer new words to your child and speak to your child about the things you see, feel, and do throughout the day. Make sure not to pressure a child to speak, and provide answers when your child does not know certain words. Rhymes and songs are a fun way for toddlers to learn about language.

3. Provide a variety of healthy foods for your toddler. Your toddler is beginning to develop an approach to eating, and you can help ensure that it is one that supports healthy nutrition. Dietitians of Canada recommends that parents: have family meals, provide toddlers with small portion sizes (a lot of food can look overwhelming), do not force children to eat, involve children in preparing food, provide a variety of foods, among many other recommendations! For more information, visit the Dietitians of Canada's website for information about children's nutrition.

4. Let your toddler play and explore. Make an effort to toddler-proof as much as your home as possible, so that children have ample opportunity to explore their environment, always while under your supervision. If this is not possible, try to create "safe zones" in your yard, or in a specific room in your home where your toddler has a bit more freedom, and you don't have to tell them "no" to protect them quite as often. Grassy areas outside, a sandbox at the park, or a living room floor can be good bases from which to explore. Exploration is a key aspect of early development.

5. Provide opportunities for your toddler to socialize with other children.  Toddlers are fascinated by babies and other young children for a reason! Their brains are becoming more sensitive to learning about social interaction, through playing nearby and observing, or directly with other children. These are the building blocks of learning that set the foundation for future social interactions throughout your child's life. Help provide your child with some of the social skills that help in social situations, such as sharing, co-operating, controlling emotional outbursts (distracting your toddler, or suggesting a new activity or toy can help!), and encouraging your child to express their thought, ideas, and feelings.

6. Take your toddler outdoors! Spending lots of time outdoors and in parks provides your child with ample opportunities to develop their gross motor skills, such as running, hopping, climbing, swimming, and more! Not only does physical activity help maintain a healthy body, but it also is linked to stronger school performance, and is a stress reliever for both adults and children. Children often have opportunities to meet other children their age at parks and benefit greatly from the social interaction and imaginative play with other children.

7. Set and keep limits. As toddlers are busy exploring the world around them, it is important that parents begin to set and enforce limits. Setting limits is part of helping your child learn to control his or her emotions, and to understand that certain types of behaviour are not acceptable. Providing consistent boundaries helps your child learn impulse control, to cooperate with others, and helps keep them safe. Techniques for setting limits include distracting your toddler with an acceptable activity and explaining the reasons behind limits. Some methods of discipline, such as yelling, becoming angry, or physical punishments may hinder your child's acceptance and cooperation with limits. In these circumstances, children may become frightened or resentful of their parent, and may be less likely to accept reasonable limits.

8. Support your toddler's independence. Your toddler is likely ready to become more independent and is eager to do things on his or her own. You can support a toddler's burgeoning independence by allowing him to do things (such as getting dressed in simple clothes), encouraging her when she tries new physical feats (such as climbing), and letting him help you with chores around the home or yard (such as raking leaves). If your toddler cannot figure out how to do something, show her or help her out. Soon she will be doing it all on her own!

9. Provide toys that let your child practice skills. Simple toys are very good for children this age. Objects such as balls, blocks, sticks, vehicle toys, dolls, stacking toys, crayons and paper, and nesting toys provide opportunities for children to play. Even things like plastic containers and wooder spoons can be entertaining for these crafty folks! These types of objects provide opportunities to develop both gross and fine motor skills, to use imagination, and to communicate while they play. As children practice playing with objects, they are engaging in problem-based play - an essential way for children to learn!

10. Be a good role model. To the best of your ability, try to model the type of behaviour you are trying to teach your child. Children are always watching you, and learn by copying what you do and say. Eat healthy, be physically active, co-operate with others, control your emotions, talk about your feelings and your day-to-day activities, visit with your friends and family, have fun, show your child how to do new things, make sure to read with your child everyday, and let your child know how important she or he is to you. Always make an effort to keep the promises you make to a child - this is key to children trusting you and feeling important in your life.

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