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Toddler - Week #114

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Your 27-month-old toddler (week 114)

By Shelley Feldman, edHelperBaby

You Are Your Child's First Teacher
           From the moment that your toddler was born she has been learning.  You are the one person that she has been able to depend upon when it comes to teaching her about the world and helping her to navigate throughout safely.  And you are also the one person that can make an enormous impact on how she approaches learning from this point on, so do your best to make a lasting positive impression.

       One lesson that your toddler should be focusing on this month is manners.  When you begin to teach your toddler about manners, start by explaining "why" it's important to be respectful and kind to others, and then show her "how" to do it by being a good role model and living out the values and morals that you would like to pass on.

       When your toddler's impulses get the best of her and good manners are nowhere in sight, it is important that you be consistent with your lessons, and patient regarding how long it may take for your toddler to catch on.  Whenever the opportunity presents itself, teach your toddler about how her actions influence others, and how she could have handled situations differently, but don't expect miracles right away.

       When the inevitable situation occurs, and you watch your toddler run away with a friend's favorite teddy, explain clearly to your toddler that when she took the teddy it made her friend sad, and that is why she's crying.  Explain simply that it is her friend's teddy, not hers, and then lead your toddler gently by the hand to give it back.  When your little one returns the stolen goods (possibly after a melt-down of her own), teach her to say, "I'm sorry," although at this point they're only words with very little meaning behind it.  And then when all is said and done, get down on your toddler's level, look her directly in the eyes and tell her what a good job she did making her friend feel better.

       Keep in mind that the best teachers in life have three things in common.  First, they explain things in a manner that everyone can understand, and then proceed to explain things over and over again until it all finally sinks in.  Along the same lines, these teachers listen to any questions that may arise over the course of the learning process, and provide their students with the undivided attention necessary to make them feel heard.  Secondly, these teachers model the behavior that they would like to see, while showing empathy, kindness and taking the feelings of others into consideration.  And last but not least, these special teachers maintain a certain "standard," are consistent regarding sticking to the rules they have set, and most importantly, their expectations do not exceed the student's abilities.  Put all of these characteristics together and what do you have?  A child that loves to learn.


More Than Just Please And Thank You
           You've made it!  Your toddler has finally reached the age where he is beginning to develop a bit more control of his impulses, and empathy is slowly on the rise.  He is starting to recognize that there are rules and boundaries guiding his life, and most importantly, that his behavior and actions directly correlate to how others respond to him.  Because of this newly developed insight, it is the perfect time to begin teaching your toddler about basic social etiquette, and how to treat others kindly.

       Now, it may take your 27-month-old a great deal of practice and encouragement from you before he fully grasps these new concepts, and there is a part of him that still believes he is the center of the universe to which all others pale in comparison.  However, despite these small hurdles that you are bound to run into along the way, the effort is well worth it in the end.

       Initially, your toddler's improvements in these areas may develop out of a desire to make you happy and out of a sheer respect for your "authority"...nothing more.  Over time this "kindness" will (hopefully) develop into something a bit deeper, however, for the time being any step in the right direction is a good step in my book.

       Keep in mind that etiquette is much more than correctly spouting out "Please," and "Thank You," at the appropriate times, and it is more than sharing the last cookie on the plate.  It is about learning to treat others with dignity and respect, and most importantly that we treat others as we would like to be treated.  It's about understanding that everyone has feelings, and that everyone's feelings can be hurt.  And it is also about beginning to understand that at some time or another, we'll all find ourselves on both sides of the fence.


           A "Color" Hunt       

       This is a fun activity to further your toddler's understanding of colors, while learning to differentiate one color from the next.  It is also a great way to teach about similarities and differences found between various household items, while exposing your little one to everyday things that surround him.

       All that you'll need to get started on this activity are 6 pieces of construction paper (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple) as well as 6 plastic or paper bags.  Simply attach one piece of construction paper to each bag and explain to your toddler that the color on the bag represents the color of the things you will be hunting for throughout the house.

       Once your little one understands the concept, go around your house together, and search for various items, one color at a time, and until each individually colored bag is filled to the brim with found objects.

       When you have completely filled all 6 of the bags and have an assorted rainbow of categorized items, sit down together with your toddler and discuss all of the colorful items you have collected.  Lastly, a great way to further reinforce the concept of colors (and to clean up all of the items you have collected) is to have your toddler, one bag at a time, place the items back where he originally found them.


  Andrew and Devin's Opinion
           We loved this activity!  Once again, a simple activity prevailed and provided much needed entertainment for my twin 27-month-old twin boys.  Before we began our "Color Search," I had prepared 12 large paper bags (there was no way Andrew and Devin were going to share) with 6 different colors of construction paper.  I then placed all of the bags in front of my boys, and pointed out the different colors that were represented.

       Next, I placed one "red" bag into each of their hands, and encouraged them to go on an adventure throughout the house in search of red items.  Together we searched high and low, and despite a few minor brawls, were able to gather numerous items for each of their bags.

       We then followed suit with all of the other colored bags, until we had a rainbow of assorted goodies neatly stored in12 bags placed on the floor in front of us.  At this point we went one by one through all of the items, discussing what they were, their colors, and reinforcing how all of the items we had discovered were similar in some ways and different in others.

       On and off throughout this activity, Andrew and Devin did require a bit of redirection, as well as a little guidance in order to seek out appropriate items that would fit in their bags, however they did appear to enjoy themselves on our little expedition.  Not surprisingly however, my boys were not as willing as I had hoped they would be when it came time to put away all of the items we had collected.

       Despite every attempt that I made to make the clean-up portion of this activity just as enticing as the collection portion...Andrew and Devin kindly decided to leave this part of the activity entirely up to me.  Obviously some things will never change in my household.


  Have you begun to wonder...
           What types of things should I be teaching my toddler at home?       

       Consider your home your toddler's first school.  In fact, take it one step further and regard everything and everywhere you go over the course of your day-to-day activities to be educational.  There is a lesson to be learned in everything that you do, so take every new situation that your toddler faces as an opportunity to learn.

       Remember to keep learning fun and to think out-of-the-box.  Teach about colors as you sort the laundry, and talk about the shapes that you can find at the grocery store.  Explain about similarities and differences by sorting out the silverware drawer in the kitchen, and practice counting the cars that you pass on the way to the park.  And last but definitely not least, teach your toddler about language, increase her vocabulary, and instill a love of books by reading to her every day.

       Your child has a natural instinct to learn about the world around her, so help to give her a head start now.  Everything that you teach your little one from this point on is in preparation for all of the years of schooling that lie ahead, so start early, set a great example and be the best teacher that you can be.


Keeping Halloween Safe for Toddlers
By Pam Worthen, edHelperBaby

           Start by making a safe costume selection.  Make sure the costume is not too long to prevent your child from tripping.  If you are purchasing a costume, look for flame-resistant labels.  Beware of pointed props.  You can make safe inexpensive costumes by using things you already have at home.  You can make almost any animal with a sweatshirt, matching pants and a head band to attach the ears.  If you have a hooded sweatshirt, you can attach ears directly to the hood.  For a tiger or an animal with spots, you can attach felt pieces right to their sweatshirt and pants.  Painting your toddler's face is always better than a mask that would block their vision.  You can blacken their nose and paint whiskers on their cheeks.  They will enjoy imitating the animal they have become.  For a princess, they can dress up in their favorite party dress and wear a crown.  Trim their costume with reflector tape that you can purchase in a hardware or sporting goods store to make them visible at night.  Do not forget to double tie their shoelaces.       

       With toddlers, the trick is going early and stopping before they become overtired.  Prepare them ahead of time for some of the scary things they might see.  Explain to them how they are just children wearing masks.  When you visit department stores before this, you may want to stroll down the costume aisles showing them the masks.  Try some on demonstrating that it is just a friendly person under the mask.   If your child is afraid, try taking them to a nursing home to trick or treat.  The residents love to have such cute little visitors and there usually are not as many scary masks like what you would see in a neighborhood with teenagers trick or treating.  Some local churches offer alternate activities as well.  It would provide fun for the holiday, but also not subject your child to the scarier elements of Halloween.       

       Pick toddler safe snacks for your household treat.  Things that would be considered unsafe for a child three and under are: candy corn, caramels, gummy bears, licorice, small hard candies, chocolate kisses, raisins, and jelly beans.  When you have arrived home with your bag of treats, make sure to check your child's candy for any signs of tampering.  Carefully examine each wrapper to make sure there is no sign of its having been opened.  Accept homemade treats only from neighbors you know, and cut up fruit before serving it.  Some local hospitals set up a program to x-ray your child's candy.  Keep their goodies some where out of reach so you have control over how much and when they eat it.       

       Paint your jack-o-lantern instead of carving one.  Toddlers love to paint and will be proud of their masterpiece.  You could outline the face on the pumpkin to make it easier for them to paint.  This eliminates having to use sharp utensils or a candle that creates a fire hazard for toddlers.  Watch out for decorations that have small pieces that your toddler may put in their mouth. I hope these tips will provide a fun and safe Halloween for your toddler.       

Stop Comparing Yourself to Other Moms Be The Best Mom That You Can Be!
By Laura Delgado, Ph.D., edHelperBaby

         It does not take very long for a new mom to begin to compare herself to other moms.  By the time she has a toddler, the average mom is very well accomplished at looking around her in despair, sure that everyone else is a far better parent than she.  Such thinking is detrimental on so many levels! The stories that we tell ourselves have such a great impact on our day-to-day emotional well-being.  If we tell ourselves that we are great mothers, and that our children are lucky to have us in our lives, then our children are lucky to have us in our lives! If, on the other hand, we tell ourselves that we are too disorganized, too impatient, too lenient, or too whatever, and that our children would be better off if only we could be more like Susan or Jackie (for example), then we run the risk of focusing too much on what is wrong with ourselves, rather than focusing on what is right.   Everyone has something about herself that she would like to change, but that should not stop her from realizing that she is a great mother! Try focusing on the fact that your child loves you, and not Susan or Jackie, and that your child's love alone is a truly great thing.       

     Of course it is easy to say that you are going to stop comparing yourself to other moms and it is much harder actually to cease the comparing.  One realization that can really help with this process is the knowledge that not all moms value the same things! This is vitally important because you may be comparing yourself to Susan, but if Susan has a different philosophy of motherhood than you do, then the comparison is meaningless.  For example, if you practice attachment parenting, you probably value keeping your children close to you much of the time, including co-sleeping, nursing, and slinging your baby.  Conversely, Susan may favor a more independent style of parenting.  She probably tends to let her children soothe themselves to sleep, she may bottle feed, and she may have never heard the term "baby wearing".  There can be many more differences.  Perhaps you value a clean house, to the point where you will give up your rest time, or the time when your children nap, to clean.  Alternatively, Susan, while she enjoys a clean house, is not willing to sacrifice her afternoon rest in order to tidy up.  Again, another difference is that maybe you place a high value on the relationship between your children, and you want to nurture that relationship, before nurturing your children's relationships with other friends.  Alternatively, Susan thinks that it is very important for her children to form friendships with children outside of the family, in order for them better to appreciate people's differences.

      Obviously, it would make no sense for you to compare yourself with Susan! You value different things, and you would define yourself as a "good mother" differently! Susan would not consider herself a good mother if she followed your example of parenting, and you would not necessarily consider yourself a good mother if you were to emulate Susan.  It is impossible to compare yourself with someone unless you are playing on the exact same field, and according to the exact same rules.  Very few mothers meet this standard.  Even those mothers who generally follow the same style of parenting have their own way of doing things that works for their families.  Those variations are what make families unique and interesting, and each mother should be glad that she contributes to that uniqueness - that she has something special to offer in terms of parenting skill.  The time that she wastes comparing herself to someone, who in all probability does not even parent the same way that she does, is completely pointless.

     The temptation to compare ourselves with someone else is natural, and everyone does it.  The next time you feel compelled to compare yourself as a mother, though, first ask yourself the following questions:
  • Would my children love me more if I parented more like that mother?
  • Will I benefit from comparing myself to that mother?
  • Will my children benefit from my comparing myself to that mother?

     If the answer to these questions is no - and most of the time it will be - then do yourself a favor and stop the comparing before it starts.  Someone will always have a cleaner house, but you do not know what steps she has taken to get it that way. Someone will always have better behaved children, but again you do not know what steps have been taken to achieve the results.  Concentrate on being the best mother that you can be.  That skill is one that will benefit both you and your children far more than will time spent on useless comparisons.

     At this point you might be asking, "But how can I stop making these comparisons?" Fortunately, there are three concrete steps that you can start taking today in order to begin your life as a happy, comparison-free mom!
  • Stop reading all of those parenting magazines.  I realize this sounds like a hard thing to do, but for moms who are prone to comparing, obsessive reading of such magazines only fuels the fire of inadequacy.  Yes, somewhere out there are mothers who have the time, energy, and inclination to make themed cupcakes for every event, to sew their children's clothes, and to make their own baby food - but that does not mean that you have to! If you do not know about those mothers, or at least if you are not reading about them every month, you will not have to worry about competing with them!
  • Start concentrating on what it is that you are good at - and there are lots of things! Make a list of at least five things that define you as a mother.  Maybe you are very funny - what a wonderful gift to give to your children! Maybe you are super smart - another skill that not all moms can pass on to their kids.  Maybe you were blessed with the Martha Stewart gene - lucky you! Focus on what makes you a great mom, and nurture those skills. You do not have to be great at everything.
  • Be genuinely happy for other moms when they talk about their skills, even when they end up showing off a little.  When Susan shows up at the bake sale with a cake that looks like a professional decorated it, really mean it when you tell her how fabulous it is! Do not secretly bemoan the fact that your children will be forever stuck with a mother who is lucky if she can accurately follow the directions on a boxed mix.  The more genuine joy you feel for other mothers, the more joy you will be able to take in your own mothering.  Try it for a week and see!


Communication Skills
By Pam Worthen, About my child Leah

           Although Leah's language skills are improving at a tremendous rate, sometimes she does not use words the way we would.  Recently she had a cold and was congested.  She told her daddy that she had a screwdriver stuck in her ear.  They took her to the pediatrician and she had an ear infection.  She knew something was wrong and tried to describe the pain she was feeling instead of just saying her ear hurt.

A Lifetime of Comparing Myself and Coming Up Short
By Laura Delgado, Ph.D., About my child Therese

        I am one of those people that have always compared myself to others, from elementary school onward.  When I became a mother, the comparisons only intensified.  Unfortunately, I never came out on top in my comparisons - I always found myself wanting.  When my oldest daughter started reassuring me that I was a good mother, I knew that I had to stop voicing my dissatisfaction with myself aloud.  It was obviously noticeable to my children, and could not be good for them.  I devised the three rules above, and I have found that they work quite well! The more I focus on what I am good at, the less I focus on my shortcomings, even though I am certainly still aware of their existence.  I am convinced that all of us have something wonderful to offer our children that no other mother could, and we need to focus on these unique qualities.  I have noticed that my daughter has to reassure me less these days!


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