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Toddler - Week #101

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Your 24-month-old toddler (week 101)

By Shelley Feldman, edHelperBaby

Not So Terrible Twos
           Looking back over the past two years, it's amazing when you think about all of the milestones that have been met, and how quickly your toddler has changed from a tiny helpless baby into a little independent person magically before your eyes.  From this point on, your toddler will continue to change and develop for many years to come, however nothing will compare to the miracle you've watched grow over the past 24 months.

       Now that you have officially entered the world of the two-year-old, be prepared for a wild and bumpy ride, and be sure to bring along your sense of humor.  Your toddler now has the "irresistible urge" to take the reigns, create his own game and make up the rules along the way, so although this is a very exciting developmental time for everyone involved, it can also be one of the most challenging.

       This month, your toddler will begin to figure out that the best way for him to show-off his independence is to disagree with everything and anything that comes his direction.  Breakfast's ready?  No, it's not!  Time for a nap?  Uh-Uh.  Bath time?  No way!  Want to play?  Go away!  Are you starting to see a pattern developing here?

       So now that you've been provided with a general idea about what you may be in for over the next few months, think of it as a rite of passage that every parent must go through and don't take anything personally.  Keep reminding yourself that your toddler loves you more and more every day, he's just a little uncertain about how to show his affection right now.


The World Through The Eyes Of A Two-Year-Old
           The two-year-old child is usually characterized by a great deal of negativism, frequent mood changes and of course, tantrums.  Sounds like fun, right?  When you are experiencing a "difficult moment" with your toddler, remember that it is just as uncomfortable for her to go through this stage as it is for you.  She is not intentionally trying to be a difficult little rebel grating on every last nerve; she is just frustrated with herself right now, and completely unsure of how to handle it.

       Around the age of two, your toddler has so much that she wants to do, and so much that she wants to say, but can't.  This month your toddler is very aware of her likes and dislikes, and won't hesitate to make sure you're aware of them as well. She wants what she wants right now, and can't for the life of her understand why you would ever stand in her way from having all of her needs met immediately.  Then, to make matters worse, she wants to do everything on her own, doesn't want any help from you, but simultaneously needs you by her side.  Toys break, pieces don't fit right, and you have to find the pink nose for Mr. Potato Head that she stuffed behind the radiator three weeks ago, right now!  Stepping into the mind of your two-year-old is pretty uncomfortable, and it's no wonder she has such a difficult time keeping herself in check.

       There is no question, that being on your toes through this difficult emotional time, and understanding what to do and not to do, can help more than anything else to survive and remain in one piece.  Do your best not to add any fuel to your toddler's fire by sticking to a regular routine, offering your toddler the ability to make simple choices, and most importantly, setting limits and sticking to them.  Although it is difficult, do not give in to your toddler's tantrums this month, and most importantly, do not have one yourself when your buttons get constantly pushed.


Toddler Discipline101
           As opposed to thinking about how and when to begin disciplining your toddler, it can be refreshing to look at the concept from a new angle.  Specifically, instead of solely thinking about using time-outs, and laying down the law, consider using a few tools that may teach your 2-year-old how to avoid having to be disciplined altogether.

       It may help your toddler to stay out of trouble if you can teach him from an early age about what is okay to touch and what is not.  Help your little one understand about limits by providing him with words that can be associated with certain actions.  Respect and understand that your toddler has a natural instinct to grab at anything within his reach, so move things out of harm's way before they're ever discovered.

       Look at things from your child's perspective, and remember most of the trouble that he gets into is entirely developmentally appropriate.  Exploration and experimentation are his primary focus right now, so curiosity is to be expected.

       Keep in mind that a toddler this age is still very easily redirected, and his path of destruction can be diverted with a little creativity on your part.  If you catch your little one headed towards trouble, provide him with an alternative plan without his knowledge, and more often than not he will never notice the difference.

       It is also essential that your toddler understand from an early age that you are in charge.  Not in a negative "your opinion doesn't matter" sort of way, but in a healthy "I can help and I'll do the best to protect you" sort of way.  Along the same lines, you will learn very quickly as a parent that it is much easier to set limits now and eventually loosen them, than establish loose and unpredictable limits and try to rein your child in down the road.  Everyone needs boundaries that provide a sense of security, and children in particular need them in order to explore the world safely.

       Your final lesson in Discipline 101, involves learning the importance of structure.  Structure is the last piece of the puzzle that allows you, as the parent, to say "yes" a lot more, and "no" a lot less, while protecting your toddler and providing him with the chance to develop and explore.  Keep in mind that the structure you provide your toddler with now will change and morph as he grows, so do not feel confined by your initial floor-plan.  Instead, think of it as a gradual evolution that will be reconfigured to meet the needs of both you and your child over the next 18 years.


           Gift Bag Treasure Hunt       

       This is the perfect activity that allows you to have a little fun with your toddler inside.  Before you begin, gather together all of the gift bags that you have collected over the years, because it's finally time to put them to good use.  Select about 5 or 6 of the most vibrant bags, or those that have your toddler's favorite characters on them for your treasure hunt.  Next sneak away with a few of your toddler's smaller toys, especially those that have been forgotten about and ended up at the bottom of the toy box, and place one in each gift bag.

       When your toddler is not looking, go and hide a few bags in each room of your house (or in each of the rooms that your little one is allowed access to), and then send your toddler on a treasure hunt to find them.

       Initially, you may want to leave the bags in obvious places where your little one can easily locate them, but as the activity goes on, and your toddler gets the hang of it, hide them in more challenging places.  Your 2-year-old will love running around the house looking for long lost toys, and it will definitely keep her attention for quite a while.


  Andrew and Devin's Opinion
           I love activities that get my twin 24-month-old boys running around, especially late in the morning when my goal is to exhaust them just in time for a nice long nap.  Fortunately, this was one of those activities that worked out just as planned.

       For some odd reason, I hate throwing away gift bags and my collection has grown quite large over the past few years.  Needless to say, I was very pleased to finally find an activity that would allow me to justify being such a pack-rat while entertaining my boys simultaneously.

       Prior to beginning our treasure hunt, I sorted through my bags and decided to stick with solid colors in order to add an educational element to the day.  My plan was that as we ran through the house in search of the "treasure," I could encourage Andrew and Devin by providing them with clues about the color of the bag they were looking for.

       Next, I retrieved ten toys that were at one time or another favorites, but had recently been either stuffed under cushions, or lost in the bottomless pit of the toy box over the past month or so.  I then put one toy in each of the gift bags and placed them in various places around the house.

       After all of the treasures were ready, I then brought Andrew and Devin into the living room where the first yellow bag was in plain sight.  Instinctually, both of my boys ran over to the bag, ripped it open and revealed a car.  In order to avoid a fight, I then encouraged them to search the room for a red bag where another "lost treasure" would be found.  Andrew and Devin did need a bit of help searching for the bag, however were thrilled to find it under my desk.  Again they tore through the bag in an instant and revealed a book.

       Together we walked through the remaining rooms of our house in search of eight more colorful, treasure-laden bags.  By the second room, Andrew and Devin knew exactly what to do and helped one another in the search.

       After gathering all ten bags, I expected the boys to be thrilled with locating so many of their long lost toys, and thought they would once again become obsessed with playing with them for the rest of the morning.  But of course, as I've learned time and time again...who needs toys when it's much more exciting to play with the brightly colored bags that they came in?


  Have you begun to wonder...
           My toddler turned two, and now she stopped sleeping through the night.  Why is this happening?       

       A typical two-year-old still needs about 12 to 14 hours of sleep every day.  If your toddler has suddenly begun to wake in the middle of the night after sleeping soundly for months, there are many factors that must be considered.

       First of all, this is the prime time for teething once again, and like any physical discomfort, it is always worse at night, no matter how old or strong-willed you are.

       Secondly, at this age toddlers are very aware of the emotions that people around them are experiencing.  If your household has been stressful lately, and if your toddler is sensing a heightened level of anxiety, it may be also be affecting her sleep.  If this is the case, send a little extra love and attention her way, and do whatever is necessary to make her feel more secure once again.

       In addition to these extraneous variables, it is possible that this month your toddler has begun to experience nightmares.  When your toddler hits two, her imagination is growing rapidly and her mind is like a little sponge absorbing everything she sees and experiences.  She is now at the age when she can create some very frightening situations in her mind, however does not yet have the ability to calm herself back down again and understand that what she's imagined is not real.  Hence, this is where you step in.

       If you believe that your toddler is having nightmares, the best thing to do is reassure her when she wakes and help her to fall back asleep quickly.  Interrupted sleep can lead to difficult days, and the last thing you need this month is a tired 24-month-old on top of everything else.  Be sure that your toddler is not being exposed to frightening television shows, loud music, and even scary books before settling down for bed, and do your best to make the night time environment as relaxed, safe and calm as possible.


Do Babies Dream?
By Pam Worthen, edHelperBaby

           Most dreaming occurs during a type of sleep called REM sleep, for rapid eye movement, which is a type of sleep that occurs at all life stages, including infancy and even before infancy in fetal life.  Adults spend around 20% in REM sleep and young babies engage in REM sleep for over 50% of their total sleep time.  Premature babies spend even longer time in REM sleep.  We can only guess what a young child dreams since they can not communicate to us what they are dreaming.  During non-REM sleep, the brain rests.       

       Children do not start communicating their dreams to us until they are about three or four years old which is when children wake in the night with nightmares and want to climb in bed with their parents.  This is the peak age for fears.  When my children were older and afraid to go back to sleep after a nightmare, I would help them solve a solution to the nightmare so they were not afraid to go back to sleep.  The solution seemed to help calm their fears.

       Nightmares may begin in infancy and the children wake crying but can not tell us why.       

       Older children can have nightmares for the following:
  • surgery according to Anesthesia and Analgesia 1999; 88: 1042-1047)
  • tooth extraction reported in the British Dental Journal 1999 13; 186: 245-247
  • motor vehicle accidents cited in the issue of European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 1998; 7: 61-68
       Has your child ever talked, screamed or opened their eyes while they were still asleep?  These are called night terrors.  Children are stuck between two stages of non-REM sleep.  When this would happen with my children, I would calmly rub the side of their face and talk calmly to them that everything was okay.  The talk seemed to help them calm down.  Babies are incredibly sensitive to sounds, especially your voice.       

       Do children begin dreaming even earlier and just can not communicate to us what they are dreaming?  Researchers have found that even fetuses in the womb appear to dream.  It is now known they begin to sleep at about four weeks of gestation.  REM sleep waves have been found as early as 28 weeks of gestation.  Some research states babies begin dreaming two or three months before they are even born.       


What a Talker!
By Pam Worthen, About my child Leah

           At 23 months your child should be starting to put two or three word sentences together.  Leah is able to tell me just what she wants and does not want.  It is so great being able to communicate with her.  She wants to know "why" anytime I tell her anything.  This is a great way for children to learn so they do not lose patience explaining "why" a few hundred times a day.  She can explain why she is crying or upset which is a great help to me.  No longer do I get a one word answer such as a "yes" or "no" but now I get "I want yellow one."  She gets so excited about our discoveries and can not wait to run and tell someone else.


     The Bubbles, The Bubbles, The Bubbles

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