The Joys of Toddlerhood: Tips for Making the Most of this Magical Age
By Stephanie Agnew, Assistant Director of Parents Place on the Peninsula
My “Grandtwins” just turned 18 months old. I am so fortunate that they live close by and I get to spend at least one day a week with them. I am being reminded of why I have always loved this age so much and would like to share some of my joys with you.
Enjoy Adventures with your Toddler
According to psychologist Erik Erikson’s Eight Stages of Psychosocial Development, 18-24 month olds are beginning to move past the stage of Trust and into the stage of Autonomy. It is a wonder to see how much more adventurous our twins are. They truly seem comfortable in the world and excited to try new things and meet new people. We recently visited a pumpkin patch, and I was thrilled and amazed that both of them were willing to go into the arms of a “cowboy” and ride on ponies without a familiar adult by their sides. I wasn’t very surprised that our outgoing little girl was willing to go, but even our “slow-to-warm” little guy was so interested in riding the pony that he went along.
Tip: This is such a great time to take your toddler out on adventures in your area! Let her walk. Take the time to look at the world through her eyes and experience so many wonderful things again for the first time!
Adjust to Individual Temperament
It is fascinating to see the differences in my grandchildren’s’ temperaments. Our little boy is more cautious and can be fearful of new and startling noises, lights, or strange looking things, but when given time to adjust to something new, he will often come back to look at it again and enjoy studying it. He loves to figure out how everything works.
His sister takes on new things with a sense of adventure and openness. She is also very opinionated and lets us know under no uncertain terms when she is unhappy with something. “No” is her first response to many requests these days, but she is still pretty easy to distract with a game, song, or toy that can encourage her to cooperate. That is one of the reasons 18 months is so much fun – you are beginning to see their assertiveness come through, but they are still mostly willing to come along. I think we need to brace ourselves for the Twos with her, however!
Tip: Appreciate your toddler’s need to assert him or herself or to take a little extra time to get comfortable with a new situation. Getting to know your child’s temperament will help you set reasonable expectations for him and also know how to respond when he needs a bit more positive guidance from you.
Talk to One Another
Their language is probably the most amazing part of this stage to me. The twins have a Spanish-speaking nanny, and they are learning as much Spanish as English. Every time I see them, I hear new words, and for the first time recently, I was pretty sure they were speaking Spanish that I couldn’t understand. Of course, their articulation is not at all perfect, but they try to say everything and it couldn’t be cuter!
Tip: Listen to your toddler no matter what it sounds like she is saying. Give her eye contact and act as though you understand her, even if you don’t. Sing and read and laugh together in whatever language is most comfortable for you. Talk A LOT and show enthusiasm for everything she says, and before you know it you will be having full conversations together!
Activities to Do Together
Here are some of our favorite activities to do together that will support the different areas of your toddler’s development:
- Stacking and knocking over boxes or blocks
- Playing in boxes of all sizes—making houses and learning to climb in and out
- Dumping things out of and putting them back into containers and bags
- Climbing through tunnels anywhere we can find them
- Playing chase and hide-and-seek in the house
- Putting together puzzles that are simple, with large pieces
- Drawing with markers and big crayons that are easy to hold
- Drawing with chalk on the patio
- Painting with pudding finger painting
- Enjoying water play of any kind
- Playing with Playdoh
- Reading “lift the flap” and touchy-feely board books, as well as books of all kinds
- Carrying anything that is big and a bit heavy
- Walking the neighborhood and collecting rocks and leaves, and smelling flowers
- Feeding pets
- Climbing and running and swinging at parks
- Playing in the sand area at parks and learning how to take turns with sand toys
- Dancing, singing and playing musical instruments
- Visiting zoos, aquariums, children’s discovery museums, and art museums
- Playing with Duplo blocks, magnetic blocks, and wooden blocks
- “Driving” toy vehicles of any kind
- Blowing bubbles
- Watering plants, unpacking groceries, loading the washing machine, sweeping, and other chores
This is just the beginning! Enjoy this special time with your child—it will all be over way too soon!
Stephanie Agnew is the Assistant Director of Parents Place on the Peninsula. She coordinates all parent workshops at our Parents Place San Mateo location, and she teaches classes on preschool, kindergarten, and elementary school choices; positive discipline; and behavior management for young children. She also leads teacher training workshops, consults with families on many parenting and child development issues, and observes children in their homes and at their schools. An expert in early childhood education, Stephanie taught in Palo Alto area preschools for 20 years and owned a preschool for 5 years. She received additional professional training at the Bing Nursery School at Stanford University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree.