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Toddler - Week #122

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Your 29-month-old toddler (week 122)

By Shelley Feldman, edHelperBaby

Your Toddler And His Little World Of Make Believe
           Don't you wish that for one second, you could be as imaginative and creative as your toddler?  Being blessed with the ability to find entertainment in the slightest thing, able to take yourself on amazing adventures whenever you want to, and having absolutely no concern for what anyone else may think of your antics?  Footloose and fancy-free, I believe is the correct term, and it is something that is so easily lost as we grow-up.

       Imagination is one of the most wonderful gifts that we are given at birth, and it is your job as a parent to encourage your toddler to appreciate his own little world of make-believe.  Allowing your toddler to "test out" what he might like to be when he grows up, while he pretends to try on various hats as a little child, is actually the perfect way to practice and use his "gift" to its fullest potential.  Imaginary play also allows your toddler to see what "fits" and what types of role-playing brings him joy, providing him (and you) with a sneak peek into what the future may bring.

       Quite often toddlers this age enjoy taking on strong and powerful roles like superheroes, policemen, firefighters, mommies and daddies...people who in their eyes are respected, in control, and looked up to.  It also makes your toddler feel good when he can pretend to be as good at things that he can only wish about right now, and in essence is able to temporarily live vicariously through his budding imagination.

       Imaginary friends are also the perfect companions for your little one right now, and they can come in handy when your toddler wants to try something new, yet is a little frightened to take it on alone. You may also find that your toddler wants to take on "roles" of different characters that he learns about in storybooks and from shows he watches on television, and that he is starting to make the connection between the pictures he sees and the world around him.

       Because your toddler's language and thinking skills are developing by leaps and bounds this month, he is developing a new understanding about how the world works, which allows him to identify with people and characters that once appeared so different and unattainable (so don't be surprised when he leaps off the couch trying to fly like Superman).  He is also figuring out how to "pretend" that an object is something that it is not, and this is the perfect opportunity for you to encourage your little one to think "outside the box," and get creative on his own.  Don't be surprised when your little one's chicken nugget becomes a race car, a box becomes a house, and a spoon becomes a magic wand, and encourage his creative juices to flow.  Your toddler is learning to find entertainment in the smallest of things right now, and an occupied child is a happy child.

       Unfortunately, there is a slight down-side to your toddler's imagination beginning to take over, and that is that he is still going to have a bit of difficulty differentiating between reality and his own little dream world for a little while longer.  He may become fearful of monsters in the closet, or sharks in the bathtub, shadows on the wall, and creaks on the staircase, so bring on a little extra T.L.C. and acknowledge that his fears, although irrational to you, feel completely real to him.


Toddler Art And Writing
           Did you know that every time your toddler creates her latest "refrigerator masterpiece" for you, she is actually practicing her writing skills as well?  For toddlers this age, learning to draw and learning to write are exactly the same thing.  Both are essential components to the learning process, and at this point in time they are one in the same.

       The first time that your toddler was given a crayon, she had absolutely no idea what it was for (hence, the reason why it went directly into her mouth), and now, after months and months of practice and guidance from you, she has connected that when you place her favorite shade of pink into her hand, and place a clean white sheet of paper before her, she can create something "beautiful."  Right now, your toddler is just figuring out that she can control what she creates.  When she moves the crayon or paintbrush in her hand across a piece of paper, she is making the marks that are left behind, and this simple act alone provides your toddler with a great deal of joy and pride.

       Your toddler's understanding of this simple lesson in cause-and-effect is one of the first steps in the long line of developing her "symbolic thinking skills."  So the more opportunities that your toddler is provided with in order to practice, the more willing and excited she will be to take on new challenges like writing, once the school days arrive.

       Simple, random scribbles are your toddler's forte this month when it comes to art and writing, but watch carefully as her motions slowly become more controlled, and her creations more intentional.  Take a few seconds to watch your toddler practicing her skills, making circular motions over and over again, giving horizontal then vertical lines a shot, and even try out various ways to hold the implements in her hands.  Your little one's fingers, hands, and arms are finally beginning to work together, and her ability to think about what she would like to create and then execute it is right down the road.

       This month because your toddler's verbal skills are also improving, it can be fun to ask her to identify the images for you while she is creating.  Although right now she isn't really capable of picking a "theme" and going with it, she is able to decipher through her squiggles and come up with a pretty good response to what she's making, leaving you amazed with the creative answers that she provides you with.  And although you may never "see" what your toddler is able to see through her eyes...she'll never know the difference.


           Bouncy-Ball Painting       

       Have you ever wondered what to do with all of the little "bouncy-balls" that your toddler has accumulated, and begged you for every time that you go to the grocery store?  Well, read on...

       Now the messiness quotient for this art activity is a bit on the high side, so prepare yourself, your toddler, and your house ahead of time with a few large sheets or drop-cloths.  After reducing your chances of a new paint job to a minimum, locate a shoe box (one on the larger side works best), a few sheets of white paper, three bouncy-balls, washable paint in red, yellow, and blue, and three shallow bowls.

       First, cut the white paper and tape it so that it fits flush against the inside bottom portion of the shoe box.  Next, pour the washable paint into the bowls, putting only one color in each bowl, then drop one ball into each bowl so that all surfaces are completely covered in paint.  After the balls are completely covered, remove them from the paint (using a spoon), and place all three of them inside of the shoe box, and tape the lid shut.

       Then for the fun part...hand the box over to your toddler and have him tip it, shake it, and rock it back and forth allowing the balls to roll around on the paper inside, all the while painting it in the process.

       When your toddler is finished, remove the lid of the box, carefully take out the balls, and peek inside at the beautifully marbled design.  Your best bet is to wait until the paint is fully dried before removing the paper from the box, and be sure to wash the bouncy-balls off again before you return them to their rightful owner (or you will be blessed with a multi-colored, polka-dotted ceiling).


  Andrew and Devin's Opinion
           This activity was surprisingly less messy than I had expected, however I did heed the warning, and fully covered my kitchen floor before beginning.  I also fully prepared my 29-month-old twin boys, and pulled out the old over-sized smocks for them (as well as myself) to wear...which I highly recommend as well.

       I decided to use an old muffin pan to hold the paint, instead of trying to hold onto three separate bowls that would have inevitably ended up on my floor, and I found that it actually worked very well.  As for scooping the painted balls out with a spoon...I just dove in with my fingers knowing full well that my balancing skills would fail me, and the balls would be bouncing throughout my house.

       So, after successfully getting the painted balls into the shoe boxes (yes, we had to make two), and securely taping them shut, I handed them over to Andrew and Devin.  They had a blast running around the house shaking their "maracas" as dubbed by Andrew, and I did become worried that they would end up with muddy pictures after all of the bouncing.

       Nonetheless, when they finally tired of running 20 minutes later, I quickly took back the boxes and opened them up revealing very interesting, and quite pretty images.  Andrew and Devin loved the surprise of discovering their hidden "masterpieces" inside of the boxes, and although I'm sure they didn't understand exactly how it happened, they did have a lot of fun in the process.


  Have you begun to wonder...
           What can I do to encourage the development of my toddler's writing and art skills?       

       There are many fun things that you can do to instill a love of art in your toddler while fueling her creativity.  To begin, try your best to set aside a little time every day for art making, and make it fun.  These experiences can be as simple as handing your toddler a few crayons and a piece of paper, or even breaking out your old Etch-A-Sketch, or for  the brave few out there, go ahead and bust out the paints, markers, glue, and clay (and drop clothes, a change of clothes, wipes, and a Magic Eraser).

       During your "art time," encourage your toddler to be a toddler, and allow her to express herself "freely," not overwhelming her with structured, rudimentary art activities, but instead providing her with more of an "Open studio" approach.  Avoid activities that have too many steps or rules that must be followed in order for the experience to work, and just allow her to explore and experiment with what she has been given.

       Remember that Elmo doesn't "have to" be red, and that the sky doesn't "have to" be blue, art does not have to make sense, and the end product is not what is important.  Instead, talk about the art process with your toddler as it is occurring, let your toddler lead the way, and don't wait to be impressed with the result at the end, because at this age you'll most likely end up looking at mud.

  It is also important that you let your toddler play with various art materials, and that she is allowed to experience all types of media.  Teach her how to take her time and explore the world around her, and set a good example by not rushing her through it.

       Show your toddler how she can use art as a means to express herself, and explain to her at an early age how the colors she chooses, and the way that she draws can show the world around her how she feels without having to use words.  If she's angry give her some Play-Doh to punch and squish, or some colored paper to tear into shreds.  If she's happy let her paint a bright picture, and if she's bored give her a box of crayons because they're a guaranteed boredom buster.

       Lastly, be sure to proudly display your toddler's masterpieces for all to see, most importantly for her to see, because when she sees the refrigerator covered with all of her creations, she'll surely know that you value her accomplishments and that art making was time well spent.


Batteries Not Included
By Amber Kleefeld, edHelperBaby

           As you walk into the toy superstore, you may find yourself barraged with exciting new toys that "do something."  Many toys only serve one purpose:  to talk, to light up, or to go, and they all carry that dreaded label: "Batteries Required."  These playthings can be entertaining for a while, but pushing buttons repeatedly will soon bore your child.  Often, your toddler just wants to do what you are doing!  They are ready to pretend or practice what older siblings and parents do.  Try these ideas out!
  • Create a mailbox for your child.  You can construct one from a cardboard box, or you can purchase a cheap one from your local hardware store.  Be sure to include a door to open and close and a flag to put up when there is outgoing mail.  Supply your child with letter and number stickers and help him label the box with his name and house number.  Other fun supplies include envelopes, small boxes, crayons and square shaped stickers to serve as stamps.  Soon, your little guy will be delivering the mail!  You can also use this opportunity to send family members little notes showing them how much you love them.
  • Allow your child to help with yard work.  While you shovel and rake, enlist the assistance of your child.  Supply him with a bucket and a toy gardening kit.  All he needs is a rake and shovel that work similarly to those you use.  As you weed, have your child pick up the clippings or shovel dirt into his bucket.  Your child will enjoy being helpful, and you will have an easier time keeping an eye on him while you work.
  • Purchase a child size broom and dustpan for your child.  Yes, they will enjoy it!  It is common for toddlers to be fascinated with the trash and your child will love seeing the process from start to finish.  While they may not be the most effective or efficient housekeepers, children will benefit from learning to clean up after themselves.  Show them how to put the trash bags in the can at the curb, and give them a special treat by watching the sanitation worker collect your trash!  You will be surprised how intrigued they are.

Easy Crock Pot Beef Stew Recipe
By Julie Stiglets, edHelperBaby

           1-2 1b. beef stew meat, cubed

       1 can stewed tomatoes

       1 package of McCormick beef stew mix

       2 cups of sliced carrots or baby carrots

       2 cups of cubed potatoes

       3 cups of water

       2 tablespoons of Tony Chachere's brown gravy mix

       Salt and pepper to taste

       Rice (if desired)
  1. Mix the potatoes, carrots, stewed tomatoes, beef stew mix, and 2 cups of water together in the crock pot.
  2. Mix the other 1 cup of water with the 2 tablespoons of brown gravy mix.  Add to the crock pot.
  3. Coat the meat with flour.  Add the meat to the crock pot.  Salt and Pepper to taste.
  4. Cook on LOW setting for 10-12 hours.


The Secret to Two Year Old Teeth Brushing
By Amber Kleefeld, About my child Aidan

           From my desk on the other side of the house, I can hear my son wailing away again.  His bath has ended, and it is time for the dreaded ritual of brushing teeth.  Like many young children, he is addicted to Mama.  He has actually started to say, "No like Dada.  Like Mama."  He is in it for shock value, for sure, as Dada has more patience than Job and Mama frequently uses her "angry face."  When it is time to brush our boy's teeth, however, Mama is the only acceptable teeth brusher.  Unfortunately, even then, it is not guaranteed that he will not scream.  Over the last year and a half, we have tried different methods, but what my son seems to require is entertainment during the torturous act.

       My husband and I are both musical people, so we frequently use a song or make one up to distract our son.  For many months, my child would only allow us to brush his teeth if we sang Neko Case's "Favorite," which, by the way, is not a kid's song by any means.  He would even hum along with us, as foam dribbled down his chin.  One day last month, however, he began to demand "Different song"  and I knew we were in trouble.  After exhausting the Neko Case songbook, we moved on to other artists.  Last week, I listened at the door as my husband tried in vain to calm our whiny boy with Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire."

       Now, storytelling is our little guy's new entertainment of choice.  I can tell him anything, as long as my words come quickly and my inflections are dynamic.  I just put the toothbrush in his mouth, start gabbing and he is quiet.  I have told him about how my brother and I used to fight over the T.V. remote when we were little, but solved the problem by taking turns.  I have discussed the merits of sunscreen to prevent skin cancer and wrinkles.  Last night, I told him the story of his birth.  I know it is a hit when every tooth is clean!       

My Girls Make a Happy Plate with This Recipe!
By Julie Stiglets, About my child Riley

           I have made this beef stew recipe many times and my family enjoys it.  Both of my girls just eat it up!  This is one of the meals I would make when they started eating table foods.  The meat and vegetables are always so tender that my girls have never had a problem eating them.  Sometimes, I cook minute rice and we pour the stew over it.  Add some corn bread to it and YUM!  Hope you enjoy!


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