Vivaan (18 months) was busy playing hide and seek with June, his older sister (6 years) .Both were having a great time running and trying to hide themselves. Suddenly, Vivaan could not find his sister anywhere in the house because unknown to him, she had hid in the outside balcony where Vivaan had never gone alone. After about five frantic minutes of searching for his sister, Vivaan was about to pucker his face to burst out crying, when he heard his mom call out to him to have his favourite snack of strawberry yogurt. He forgot everything and rushed to the dining table. He was about to dig his spoon into the cup of yogurt, when he saw his sister making faces at him and threatening to take away his snack. She then tapped his head, grabbed his spoon and danced away laughing gleefully.
Shouting and crying at the same time, Vivaan got off his chair and toddled after her. He kept on asking for his spoon, but much to his chagrin, June smiled at him wickedly and ran around him in circles. He then screamed with all his might and threw himself on a nearby sofa and stomped his feet in a terrible tantrum.
His mother came running and tried to calm him but to no avail. It took her all of her self control and a cartoon film to quiet him down, away from June.
Vivvan was about 3 minutes into watching the cartoon film, when he felt his sister standing next to his chair. He smiled and made room for his sister, next to him, on the chair.
Toddlerhood is usually considered between 18 to 24 months especially for learning personal development skills .A few more weeks may be added to consider him ready to embark on learning the emotional skills as they are more complex than the former.
Each toddler develops emotionally, at his own pace of development and level of maturity. Toddlerhood may thus overlap between the stages of infancy (before) and preschooler (later).
In the above case, Vivaan is a typical toddler who has mood swings within a span of few minutes. It is just a part of growing up. He wants to explore the environment, test his limits and of those around him. He still has to learn to control his feelings and impulsive actions, but lacks the skills to meet the challenges posed by the environment, safely.
Highlights of Toddlerhood
*Emotional changes in the body.
Toddler struggles to control his impulses, feelings, actions and motor responses.
*Learns and imbibes concept of object permanence (that out of sight objects still exist) .
Toddler is fearful and anxious of losing parents when they leave.
*Explores environment and shows adventurous behaviours.
– tests his own limits, those of others and of the environment.
– finds out that he lacks vast skills to overcome his limits and fulfill his wants.
– knows that his parents, especially his mother will protect him when he oversteps his limits.
*When he crosses the line and is pulled up,
– reacts with anger, temper tantrums or frustrations.
*Lacks control of impulsive behavior.
– this is his way of dealing with the hard environment.
– sometimes his behavior may harm him or others, unintentionally.
*When left with caretakers such as a babysitter,
– curbs his negative reactions/ outbursts and turns himself into a little angel.
– develops clinging and whiney behaviours with parents, to seek safety and protection.
How should parents address toddlerhood?
There are certain steps you want to take in order to make toddlerhood easier for your child.
. Let the child explore the environment and seek little adventures. Intervene to help him only if his or others’ safety is compromised. This will promote his self confidence and his independence, and , make him eager to go to the next level without undue fears.
. Go according to the pace of the child as well as his level of maturity. Reasons for the same are covered above.
. You, as the toddler’s primary caretaker, may want to model appropriate behaviours and watch that others in the family follow suit, as the toddler learns appropriate behavioural responses to different situations, from watching you and the others in the family.
. Every time your toddler shows positive behaviours, do give him a pat or a word of praise. Hug him or cuddle him every so often to show him how much you love him for obvious reasons. But remember it also promotes his self concept, knowing he is loved and protected.
. Spend quality time (even if it is for a short time) with your toddler. Talk about his likes, dislikes, his feelings and so on, so he knows you love him for himself and are there for him always.
. Do not get anxious if your child takes longer than some other toddler, to overcome some of his negative behaviours. Go slow and easy without putting the pressure on him.
. Last but not the least, provide him with play materials and activities to support him in his toddlerhood journey to the next stage.
The play activities address his needs while relating to others and the environment :
. Channelize his behaviours, energy and address concerns in constructive ways.
Provide him the following activities such as:
-Safe water play in a tub, with play accessories, protective clothing and your supervision. Water is calming to the nerves and promotes concentration in activities such as pouring. Salty dough with food colour or wet clay may also be provided for the same purpose.
– Read him stories so that your toddler can empathize with characters of the story, learn about positive behaviours and emotional responses which later help him translate them into his own behaviours. It also helps him learn about the emotional reactions of others.
– A child’s favourite toy or object may be used as a comfort object to allay his anxiety and fears in situations such as a visit to a doctor’s office.
– therapeutic toys such as an air filled plastic bobo doll( huge but light rocking doll which never falls down when punched) are a favorites with children of all ages as it relieves the pent up energy by punching the doll. An unused pillow with a neutral face painted on the pillow cover, and tied with a string at the middle like a belt, can be used as a substitute for the bobo doll.
These are exemplary activities which you may offer your toddler.
Just remember to give your toddler a five minute warning for winding up the activity he is engrossed in. Toddlers do not like to stop abruptly, the activity that they enjoy.
Your positive attitude and personal investment in your toddler will promote in him a healthy self image and a healthy attitude about the world around him.