A profile of an independent toddler

Toddlers want to be independent and do everything for themselves.
It can be frustrating being a toddler, they want to discover new things but adults stop them if an investigation is dangerous or destructive.
Toddlers have no fear of danger. They need to find out for themselves. They are fascinated by all the small details of their world and have so much to learn.

Toddlers take their first steps alone not long after their first birthday. Although some will walk at an earlier age. Shoes are very significant for toddlers. It is a step to being grown-up to wear shoes and walk. Over the next 2 years, toddlers learn to control their movement. At first they walk very quickly with legs apart and arms out to balance. When they stop they fall down with a bump. Toddlers learn to stand up, balance, walk, run, kick a large ball, climb onto a chair, climb stairs - up and down and eventually carry teddy at the same time. They want to explore and have no sense of danger. Its all too exciting. Safety gates and playpens prevent accidents. Learning to use the hands progesses. Toddlers learn to spoon feed, to take tops off jars, open cupboards, turn dials, push buttons and when adult toys are so interesting it is no surprise that toddlers get into trouble.

Toddlers love to imitate, dance and sing. They echo the ends of words and repeat enjoyable phrases. Toddlers use single naming words e.g. doggie, shoes, 'brella, but soon start using action phrases e.g. me go car. Toddlers also use idea words to explain what is happening e.g. all gone, too high. They understand many more words. Everyday they learn new words when they learn to ask questions e.g. who'sat?. They can communicate but sometimes things do not happen quickly enough for them when caregivers do not respond immediately.

Toddlers are very loving, fascinated by the world especially tiny living things and they are fiercely independent. They learn best by doing things for themselves and they want to do things alone. They want to feed themselves, dress themselves, and take tops off jars and build the bricks up high. Their fine manipulative skills are not well co-ordinated and they want everything now. Toddlers have no concept of time and little patience to wait. That is why they seem angry and upset when things go wrong.

Toddlers want to do the right thing and they do want to please their caregivers, but they need to know what the boundaries are. They learn by testing boundaries, by exploring new places and things. They have no idea of danger and become cross if adults try to stop them. Toddlers exert their independence by refusing food, not settling to sleep and by saying a favourite word NO! Their behaviour is not deliberately naughty, it is just the child needs to know what is expected. When caregivers are calm and understanding and have consistent guidelines for behaviour the child will learn to behave in an acceptable way. It is all a matter of deflecting conflict, understanding the child's frustration and rewarding their acceptable behaviour so the child knows what is required. Children respond better to positive requests that are clear and if the child does have a tantrum they need the adult to stay calm. It can be very frightening to be so angry you are out of control. Toddlers need to know they are loved even when their behaviour is not liked.

Everyday, the toddler develops social skills such as spoon feeding, using a spoon and fork, combing hair and brushing teeth, undressing then dressing, and toilet training. This is a time for learning to do things yourself. It is such fun. Toddlers enjoy helping with everyday tasks. Washing-up is new and exciting for a toddler. They enjoy songs and rhymes and stories and outings to new places. There is so much to learn before school starts. Most of the skills are social and developing the confidence to be independent.

    The independent toddler:
  • learns to walk and run and climb and stop
  • learns to balance and control actions
  • learns to manipulate objects and use tools e.g. a spoon
  • wants to undress and dress, comb hair, wash, brush teeth
  • starts toilet training
  • learns acceptable behaviour and how to avoid tantrums
  • understands more language
  • learns new words and phrases
  • repeats songs and rhymes
  • needs consistent, loving guidelines for acceptable behaviour
  • learns by doing and wants to do everyday tasks
  • enjoys outings and new experiences

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