Hey y’all! Welcome back to The Social Nanny. My name is Jessica Jones and I’m so glad to be with you today. I’m really excited about this blog because we will be talking about the toddler stages of life: those 1 year olds, terrible twos, and threenagers. Before we begin, let’s recap a little on what we talked about before.
Last week, we introduced the infancy stage. We talked about how infants have 3 basic needs: food, shelter, and attention. Food, of course is essential to growth and overall wellness. The main tip is to offer food to a baby anytime he or she is fussy. You, as the caregiver or parent, will know when too much is too much, but still offer food in case of growth spurts or bouts of hunger. Shelter is important, especially in helping to regulate the climate of that shelter or to give the baby a sense of being protected. Whether that is adjusting physical temperatures, keeping your tone even, or holding the baby, shelter is essential. The third tip is to bathe babies with attention. From changing diapers to recognizing discomfort to speaking life over the baby in your care, attention is needed and vital and will shape the baby’s mind, body, and personality.
Now your baby has had its first birthday! Yay! You are now the caregiver to a beautiful and blossoming toddler. I think the toddler stage is such a fun time of life and it’s one of my favorites to experience with children. They are learning so much about themselves and the world around them, they are confident, and they have no filter. 12 months to 36 months, or 1 to 3 years old, is the definitive time of life called toddlerhood. Each day can be completely different, so instead of taking you through any and all scenarios that could happen with a toddler, I thought that we could talk through each year as it pertains to a child.
Let’s start with year 1. This is such a formative time in a kiddo’s life: parents and caregivers begin to help shape a sense of right and wrong, give boundaries, and give encouragement. Your baby is now walking or beginning to walk, his or her brain is 60% of what will be his or her adult size, and he or she is learning new words every day. Maybe your baby is learning how to eat with a spoon or fork, or learning how to brush hair, or even learning that the stove is a thing that he or she shouldn’t touch. It is SO important that during this time, you begin to really teach and be patient with your little one.
I used to work in a daycare, and I had the privilege of taking care of eight 1 year olds. Let me tell you, each day was an adventure. The first year, the kids that I had were a HOOT. I had two girls who would do nothing but scream all day if they did not get their way. I had another two boys who were wild; biting, hitting, and kicking were their ways of communicating with each other. Another kiddo was an eater. If I would sit down with him all day and feed him, I have no doubt that he would never stop eating. Two other kids were more on the shy side, and the last kiddo was an observer. He would observe, learn, and adjust. It was so awesome to be able to see all of them together and see their little personalities shape up.
One day, I was in the middle of changing diapers and asked another teacher to step into my room so that we could have eyes on all of the kids while I was performing this task. Side note: if you have a toddler or any younger child for that matter, make sure that you are always in reach or able to keep an eye on them. If you are in the childcare business, this is especially important. I know that there are laws that prohibit you from not being able to see all angles of your classroom, therefore, you need to know where your kids are and what they are doing at all times. But I digress. I was changing diapers and saw that a couple of the kids were trying to open the door. One of the little girls who was a cryer, had come up with a game. Anytime the door would open, she would take off like a bullet and run out of the door. And she was QUICK. I never in my life had seen a one year old move so fast. She was faster than most 4 year olds I knew! So anytime that she could, she would try to open the door and run out. She didn’t realize that she was still too short to get to the door. The tallest kid in the room was disinterested in opening the door, so she was stuck. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the kid that was the observer. He looked at her, looked at the door, and then grabbed a chair. I watched in amazement as he pushed the chair up to the door, smiled at the little girl, climbed up, and gently opened the door. The runner, of course, dashed out of the door with the biggest laugh. We were able to catch her and bring her back into the room.
From that day on, anytime I changed diapers, I had to take all of the chairs out of the room and put them into the hallway so that the kids would not escape. I found it hilarious! But then those kids did something so ingenious that I was shocked. The little observer had one of the kids get down on his hands and knees in front of the door. He then climbed on top of him, then had another kid climb on top of him to open the door. These kids had built a pyramid of sorts to accomplish their goal. And once again, when the door opened, the runner dashed out. Only this time, she had a whole host of friends follow her, laughing all the way. We decided to let them run up and down the hall a few times before bringing them all back inside.
This is one of my favorite stories from that time because it just shows how much 1 year olds learn during this time. Because God made the brain so amazing, their little brains create grooves for new things that they learn. And when they learned that opening the door could cause a 1 year old stampede down the hall, they became eager to do it.. By any means! They learned how to adapt to their surroundings and problem solve. Kids during this age learn SO much: they talk, they walk, learn to run, learn to jump, how to count on their fingers, motor skills are developed, social skills are developed.. SO many things happen during this time!
So how can you as a caregiver take care of a 1 year old in the best way during this time? Patience and guidance. Be present, be aware, and know that it might take one or two or three or sixteen times for a kid to get the hang of something. Celebrate milestones instead of letting dread fill you that your child has found yet another way to climb up on the couch. This 1 year old is learning! Their brain is storing information and processing at rates that are astronomical. That is amazing. Encourage this learning - within boundaries, of course - and have fun. Year 1 will be gone before you know it.
Then comes year 2. A lot of people call this age the terrible twos. For a long time, I saw it in 2 year olds… they would turn two and all of a sudden, it seemed like this rage filled them and they wanted to tear things apart, they were obstinate, they were more vocal, and they ran EVERYWHERE. I decided to research this because I was super curious.. Was it diet? If it was, how was every single two year old being introduced to the same things in their diets at the same time? Was it environmental factors? Did boys become more affected by this than girls?
Turns out, at the age of two (for some kiddos, this can occur in late 1’s/early 2’s to late 3’s), kids have more energy in their little bodies than they will EVER have in their lives. Which explains why at this age it’s easier for them to fight nap times or bed times, why they seem to have insatiable appetites, and why almost everything that excites them results in some sort of physical manifestation. Have you ever noticed that the biting stage happens around this age? Not when they first begin to cut teeth or even when they start eating more solid foods. I knew this little 2 year who would get excited about everything. If I said, “let’s all go outside”, he would literally start this high-stepping running in place, squeal, and then turn around and bite the nearest thing (or person) beside him. He had so much pent up energy that he did not know what to do with it.
During this time, I would suggest one thing: activity. Let your two year old be as active as possible. This doesn’t necessarily mean letting them go outside and run or letting them tear up the house. It could mean teaching them how to channel their energy into something productive. This little 2 year old that I mentioned before? I noticed that his favorite thing to do was help people. If one of his friends needed water, he would run and try to climb whatever obstacle was in the way to grab their cup. If someone took a toy from another kid, he would go and fight said kid in order to bring the toy back to the rightful owner. Instead of focusing on the “wrong” things he would do, I would encourage him in his helping. I would say things like “You are such a servant; when we need something, ask me and I will help you, too.” I would also start to give him simple tasks. When changing diapers, I would put the soiled ones into a gallon sized Ziploc bag to eliminate odors from spreading around the room. Instead of throwing it away myself, I would call over this two year old and ask him to throw away the diaper. I would thank him afterwards and tell him that he did so good helping. Let me tell you, when I announced that it was time to change diapers and use the bathroom, he would be the first to go so that he could stand by my side the rest of the time, high-stepping the whole way, and throw away anything that I needed him to throw away. He would carry the clipboard when we went from place to place. He would help me to rub kids’ backs during nap time. Little by little, the biting incidents went down. He was channeling his pent up energy into something that excited him.
The activities that your 2 year old likes may be different: do they like art? Let them experiment with mediums: paint, crayons, markers, water and paintbrushes (which is genius because kids get to paint without any of the mess that comes with it). If you’re wary of letting kids go all over the house with these art mediums, get a little kiddie pool. They can do their art in there (inside or outside) and you can rinse it off with a hose once they are done. Notice that your 2 year old has a propensity for music and dancing? Buy a tutu or some “dancing shoes” and let him or her experiment with music, whether it be a stereo or a little play piano or play guitar. What about athletic kids? Take them to a park. Give them a ball and let their imaginations run wild. Go take them to see people playing basketball, football, soccer, etc. Let them throw soft things and measure how far they throw. If your kid likes to read, take them to a library and let them peruse the aisles. Does your child talk your ear off? Learn a new language with them. This takes time, but find out what your 2 year old likes and help them channel that energy during this stage.
The next age that comes is the threes. I have heard a lot of parents call their 3 year old a threenager, and it cracks me up any time I hear it. There is SO much truth in this statement, though. The 3 year old stage is one of my favorites ever because they become little adults. They have opinions, love to talk to whomever will listen, and love to imitate adult behaviors around them. 3 year olds begin to be more vocal and are now able to express their excitement in a more eloquent way like the adults around them do. They become more independent and you may hear the phrase “I can do it!” And also.. They begin to test boundaries and push buttons. They see how the world around them reacts to certain cues, and they begin to test to see if they can get these same reactions. It is a game of cause and effect, and during this time it is SO important to set boundaries. We will talk further about boundaries in future episodes, but the first thing to do is stand firm. Lovingly correct, teach, and discipline as needed.
During the threes stage, your kiddos will start to become even more social and probably will talk about their “best friends” fondly and want to copy behaviors, words, and actions of those that they admire. Be sure to look out for these and address if needed.
Overall, this toddler stage can be tough, but fun! Remember this: patience is key. The Bible tells us in Ephesians 4:2, “Do not be proud at all. Be completely gentle. Be patient. Put up with one another in love.” If this does not describe how we as caregivers should steward the toddler age, then I don’t know what does! Toddlers need for us to be gentle and patient with them in LOVE. That means everything we say to them should be said in love. Everything that we do, including discipline, should be done in love. Everything that we demonstrate should be done in love. And one of the aspects of love is patience. Take a deep breath; your toddler needs to know that no matter how overbearing they may seem, they are always loved and you have the time and patience for them.
Thanks for reading; join us next week for a talk about preschool and elementary school ages. I know that there are a few things on this blog that we didn’t get to go in depth about this week, so if you have any questions about anything or would like to delve in further about any of the topics we covered today, leave a comment here or visit my instagram page, @thesocialnannybr and leave a comment under the most recent post. I’m so glad to be learning and growing with y’all. Until next week, this is your Social Nanny.