Toddlers (Ages 0-4)
Toddlerhood is the most impressionable time in a child’s life – a period when you as a parent have the power to make the most profound impact in your child’s life trajectory. This period of development is characterized by a tension between the desire for independence and the need for continued dependence on a trusted caregiver. Problem-solving skills begin to develop in the early stages of toddlerhood. Toddlers start shifting gears from simply knowing the characteristics of things and objects to being able to actively manipulate and investigate them. Here are ways to engage your toddler effectively:
Always weave play into activities with your toddler. For toddlers, play is the most meaningful context for learning. Toddlers are most engaged when they feel their parents are in their ‘play world.’ In play, they make discoveries about their world and get excited about learning more about almost everything.
Reward specific, desired behaviors. More than any period in life, the behaviors of toddlers are massively shaped by concrete, positive reinforcements. Be quick to identify your toddler’s display of virtues. Always highlight them and tie little prizes to specific displays of virtuous acts.
Catch them doing the right things. The need for approval and acknowledgement in toddlerhood is very strong. Always make specific comments that show that you appreciate their good deeds. Say things like “Andy, you are a great friend to share your toy,” or “Thanks for helping mom in the kitchen today! You were very helpful.”
Debrief every single day. At the end of each day, strengthen your toddler’s learning by asking three basic questions: (1) what did you learn today? (2) tell me three things you did today to practice xxx? (3) how did you feel when you did xxx? This reiterates learning, behavior and feelings.
Allow supervised independence. Don’t lose sight of your toddler’s need for independence and control and at the same time always take cognizance of the fact that they need a lot of support.
Apply the principle of labeling emotions and feelings. In teaching virtues to your kids, always label feelings and emotions and the impact their actions have on others. By so doing, you will increase their “emotion identification vocabulary.” For example say things like “When you refuse to share with your brother, you are selfish and it hurts him,” or “When you give to others, they feel happy.”
Social relationships form the foundation for early learning. The deeper you are able to connect with your toddler the more connected and engaged they will be and the more cooperative they will become as they get older. In other words, spend quality time playing and interacting with your toddler.
Parents: don’t forget to read this Important Note to Parents!
Tony Alagbile, M.Ed. holds a Master’s degree in Mind, Brain and Education from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, where he designed and developed, “Parents as First Teachers,” a blueprint for understanding and developing the innate abilities of kids. He also holds a First Class honors degree in Psychology from the Obafemi Awolowo University in Africa and a Master’s degree in Organizational Effectiveness, Development and Change from the University of Delaware. Read more about Tony in the About Us section.