The toddler years are adventurous, full of twists, turns, and unyielding excitement; so why not take a step back for a moment and see what the lessons of toddler development can teach us as parents, educators, and caregivers. There is a lot we can take away from this powerful stage of development and here is a look at how finding your inner toddler may have a positive influence.
Be in the moment. Toddlers have yet to acquire the ability to tell time; the cognitive development needed to understand this abstract concept (such as a year is a long time) does not take place until between the age of six and eight. This is why it is often difficult to use phrases such as “wait a minute” or “grandma will visit in a couple of days” and why routines are so important in toddler domain. As a result toddlers have all the time in the world and can struggle to end or switch activities if interrupted without warning. As adults we can support toddlers by planning for adjustment time as we guide our children through the day; however, if we take a step back we can learn the value of becoming immersed in an activity every once in a while. Loosen the schedule, go with the timeless pulse of the activity, and enjoy the little moments through a toddler’s eye once in a while.
Ask questions along the way. Toddlers are notoriously curious. Memorable is the scene from Jerry Maguire where Tom Cruise’s character is bombarded with facts and questions from the inquisitive toddler in the backseat. “Did you know the human head weighs eight pounds?” We can feed a toddler’s curiosity by turning every day excursions into adventures. Take an ordinary trip to the grocery store and turn it into a scavenger hunt. The thirst for knowledge makes everything that much more exciting in the toddler years, so why not apply a little of this same energy to our lives as adults. Stop and look for animals or shapes in the clouds with your toddler. Take a little time to be curious in the seemingly ordinary parts of your day.
Use your imagination. As your child moves through the toddler years he/she will begin to engage in imaginative play. This exciting shift in your toddler’s world signifies an ability to move from playing with objects literally to a more symbolic play (think about how that cardboard box just became a race car, train, or fairy house). As children engage in pretend play they begin to explore problem solving, understanding other perspectives, and gain self-confidence. In the land of adults we are easily consumed with the logistics of life and goal-oriented initiatives, but we would all benefit from time spent creatively. Make up a silly song with your StrongTot, enjoy a messy paint session, or dress out of character for yourself. The creative time is likely to inspire or spark an element in your regular routine.
As you play with your toddler think about how you can be in the moment, use your imagination, and ask questions you might not otherwise consider. Finding your inner toddler might be what most of us adults need as we navigate the parenting waters and support our children. Whether it is stopping to take in an exciting moment on the job, celebrating an accomplishment with your child, or taking time to explore your own creativity, our lives may be that much richer if we take the lead from our toddler and put aside our parenting hat for a little while. Enjoy finding your inner toddler – see where the adventures take you and your child!
What is StrongTots? StrongTots is a website/resource committed to supporting the toddler community with accurate (research driven) information, practical ideas, and a look at the whole child in this important stage of development. The toddler years are full of adventures and unexpected twists and turns – this is the foundation for our site and all we do at StrongTots. You can learn more at www.strongtots.com or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @StrongTots.
Chrissy K., StrongTots Founder - Chrissy is a mother of two energetic toddlers, a passionate educator, literacy specialist, school administrator, and consultant with experience in both public and private education. She has worked with students preK-12, consulted on educational learning plans and student placement for families, and advised schools on literacy curriculum and planning across grade levels. StrongTots is her latest project and an effort to form a supportive parenting network grounded in research-based information.