1 8 2
2 – 3 Y E A R S
Every day is a learning experience for your toddler.
Sometimes he will be confident and other days anxious and
uncertain. You need to be sensitive to his changes in mood
and adjust your approach accordingly, until he is at an age
where he is better able to manage them himself.
What toddlers want
What your toddler still wants more than anything is your attention. He
wants to copy you and loves being with you. But be careful that your
enthusiasm for him to learn doesn’t inadvertently tip over into pushiness.
Try to avoid encouraging him to get something right when he is too tired
or hungry to concentrate; your eagerness may end in tears, not progress.
Toddlers at this age are enormous fun, have a great sense of humor,
and will follow your lead very easily if you choose to be “silly.” Laughter
is a great catalyst for learning because it means your child is having fun.
When children experience enjoyment they naturally make more use of
their senses to “tune in” to the experience. Using humor is one way of
tagging experiences and making them distinct, which can help with
memory recall. Being able to tell the difference between how something
is meant to be and the “silly” alternative shows your toddler’s developing
ability to reason and understand that there are different ways to view the
world. However, children at this age can easily become overexcited and
will need help to know when they are going too far. This direction may
come from your tone of voice or facial expression, or by giving your
toddler a break between a period of having a laugh, then calming down.
Guidance from you
You are a very important role model for your child’s behavior; at this age
he will copy not only what you want him to do, but also many things that
you would rather he didn’t! One of the most effective methods of getting
him “on the right track” is to show him what you want him to do.
Your laughing, giggling
toddler will find lots of
things funny. The
more she enjoys an
experience, the more
she will remember
W H A T T O D D L E R S W A N T A N D N E E D
1 8 3
How your toddler can learn from you:
n Is he finding it hard to put on his socks or shoes? Show him how
you put yours on.
n Is he spilling lots of food when he eats? Show him how you guide a
spoon to your mouth.
n Is he having difficulty taking turns? Show him how it is done.
This period of learning is all about showing, not telling. Let your
toddler watch, observe, and try for himself. With encouragement rather
than criticism he will eventually get there. This is the ideal time to involve
older children as toddlers may be very attached to older siblings and be
very happy to copy their “big boy” or “big girl” behavior.
Getting your child to behave in the way that you, and society, would like
him to will take many months and years. At its extreme, teaching
appropriate behavior is known as discipline. It can be helpful to remember
that scolding should not be so much about controlling your child as
reinforcing the lessons that you have been teaching him about
how to behave and manage his emotions. During the toddler years this
takes a very simple form. Setting behavior limits so that your toddler is
clear about what he can and cannot do is the first stage in the process
of teaching him relationship and social skills.
When you set limits, your toddler learns that there is a point beyond
which he should not go. The more clear and consistent your limits are,
the more quickly he will learn that “No means no.” By having boundaries,
he also learns about self-awareness and develops an understanding
that he can choose how to behave and that different choices have
“You may be so afraid of your child’s tantrums that
you ‘give in’ for an easy life. The trouble is that short-
term gain leads to longer-term pain as he’ll learn to
use a tantrum to get his own way.”