Your toddler: 2 years old

Growing independence, great toys for this age and stage and how to create a toddler-friendly home. Learn all about life with your 2-year-old.
Photo: iStockphoto

Photo: iStockphoto

Declaration of independence
Two years old! Your toddler is probably a very busy little person… and you, a busy big person. She’s taking her first steps towards independence from you. In the process, she is finding out who she is, what she prefers to eat, wear and play with. It’s a time to celebrate, and yet…

The transition from helpless baby to independent child can be a stormy time. Many of the exchanges the two of you have in a day are over differences of opinion: you suggest a hat would be a good idea, she hates it; you think peas are food, she thinks they are a caulking material. She “needs” to climb up the drawers onto the kitchen counter (and no, she doesn’t remember what happened the last time she did that). She has very little experience of how the world works and although her cognitive abilities are growing, they are still limited. Some days she’ll run headlong into frustration after frustration.

You can support her by striking a balance — encourage her to do whatever is reasonable, help out when she’s tackled a task that’s impossible, and be there to comfort if it all falls apart and she needs a hug. Remember, this is a time of emotional growth in fits and starts. If your child is ill, if she’s tired, or if there’s been some disruption in her life, she may become “babyish” and cling to you. That’s OK. She’s not backtracking. It’s part of the winding road towards independence.

Read more: Parenting: The magic of getting out of the way>

Toys for two-year-olds
Now that your child’s two, you will see her play expand in complexity and imaginative scope. Her growing fine-motor and language skills will open lots of doors to play and learning.

Although you can certainly enhance her exploration with a few good toys, you don’t need to go out and buy a truckload of expensive new stuff. Rather, you’ll want, simply, to look over what she’s got and consider possible gaps. Here are our picks for toddler toybox essentials.

Read more: Boxes: How to turn them into hours of play>

The toddler-friendly home
While safety is still of the utmost importance, at this stage your child also needs to feel comfortable and competent in her own home — that she can do things successfully. This will happen naturally if you adapt your home and routines to her growing skills.

A few suggestions:
• Put a little juice in a small pitcher so your toddler can learn to pour. (Non-purple juice highly recommended!)
• A low stool in the bathroom will help your toddler reach the sink so she can wash her hands (or at least run water over them).
• Store non-messy craft supplies like paper and crayons together in an easy-to-reach spot. When inspiration hits, your toddler can get at them.
• Install some low hooks so she can hang up her coat.
• Buy clothing with a minimum of tricky buttons and zippers so she can learn to dress, or at least undress, herself. If you keep them in a low dresser, she can choose her own clothes, too.
• A low table and chairs aren’t necessities, but it’s a big world, and a little furniture to scale makes your toddler feel at home.

Read more: Dawdling dresser>

Family Resource Programs
There’s a place, probably right in your community, where your toddler can play with some little buddies, learn a new finger play at story time, make a craft and perhaps borrow a toy to take home. Find the Family Resource Program in your area — because as much fun as a visit is for your child, it’s also a place that has a whole lot to offer you. Every FRP is different but many centres offer drop-in programs, play groups, lending libraries, parenting courses and information sessions.
There will definitely be a friendly welcome and another parent with a toddler tale to share. Find a FRP near you!

Read more: Making mommy friends>

Originally published on Oct. 23, 2o11.

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