Continue from The Wonder Year – Year 1….
The second year of life begins with the achievement of uprightness, give or take a few weeks on either side of the first birthday, followed by the child’s first steps. The child’s joy in walking is obvious, but this accomplishment is of far greater significance than at first apparent. The progression of movement development that began with mastery of the head and “looking,” is followed by mastery of the hands and “grasping,” and is crowned with the mastery of “walking.” Uprightness and walking also signify the child’s growing awareness of being separate from the environment. This awareness of separation is crucial to the further developments of learning to speak and learning to think.
It is difficult for the parents to keep track of a newly mobile child, for everything is interesting and needs to be touched and tasted. Perception of space is developing along with greater surety of gait, but tumbles are regular occurrences for young walkers.
While “doing” still dominates the life of the toddler, the urge to share what is happening begins to grow, and although not yet verbal, the older one-year-old child is clearly trying to communicate.
The child can play for short periods of time with everyday objects with a deep, reverential absorption. A ball can become one of the greatest “Wonders of the World,” as can a basket or a box and putting things in and taking them out again. A cloth used for variations of peek-a-boo bring the child endless delight. A child is experiencing the physical nature of things (for example, the size, weight and texture of a ball) and also the inner quality of things (for example, the round, rolling essence of the ball). All of the elements, but especially water and different qualities of earth, are important explorations for the one-year-old. Being around adults who are involved in purposeful activities with everyday objects is also important.
There are three typical challenges during this period of development.
The first is to find the balance between keeping toddlers safe and allowing them space to practice their newfound mobility. Peace of mind for parents can be helped by “toddler- proofing” the main areas of the house. Equally important is the quality of attention paid to the busy toddler. Not interrupting their “meditation” on the world of things unless necessary requires us to be vigilant from a distance and resist the temptation to admonish, praise or comment constantly.
At the same time, having a low cupboard in the kitchen that is accessible to the child and filled with unbreakable containers can satisfy their urge to “help with the cooking.” Having a similar space in living and dining rooms can also be helpful. Caring for a toddler can be tiring and the main caretaker needs a daily break, to walk or work out, or just have time to him or herself.
The second challenge is to understand how best to support language acquisition. Parents can begin to worry if their children do not begin to talk between 18 months and 2 years of age. While it may be helpful to consult with a pediatrician or speech therapist, the timing for individual children varies considerably and the range of normal development is wider than once thought. Here are some ways to support your child’s speech development:
Avoid speaking all the time and leave space for your child to speak; speak clearly and use simple language; enjoy nursery rhymes together; avoid lots of questions and choices.
The third challenge is to discern what play objects and activities a one-year-old really needs, given the abundance of what is available. “Less is more” when it comes to the one-year-old. At this age the child is interested in ordinary objects and will focus on one for several days or a week and then move on to another favorite item. So it is not necessary to invest in a lot of specific toys. A lightweight, large ball is attractive, as are colorful squares of cloth, and objects that make natural sounds. Make sure that toddlers have plenty of experiences with the elements (earth, water, air and warmth) and have clothing suitable for winter as well as summer excursions. Introduce them to trees! “Hello, tree!”
The gift of life with a one-year-old is re-learning to wonder at the world.
While the one-year-old child enters the world of walkers and begins to comprehend physical space, the two-year-old enters the world of speech and language and makes an initial foray into social life. Children first repeat what they have heard others say and then practice using those same words in a similar situation. Affirmation by the speakers around them helps them consolidate their learning and soon they will be verbally expressing themselves appropriately in altogether new circumstances.
Development of language is a marvelous process to witness. The personality of the child emerges more clearly as he or she begins to talk. Two-year-olds delight in the sounds of words and take new interest in books. They will talk to and talk for their dolls, toys or other play objects. At a certain point, they will ask repeatedly, “Why?”
The strong will of the young child combined with the new “yes/no” consciousness will bring parents daily challenges! Being consistent with rhythms, allowing enough time between activities, and making transitions as playful as possible will minimize the potentials for child or parent melt-downs.
Use play and imagination to jolly your toddler along. You could say, for example, “Let’s put dolly in your pocket, because she might like to go to the park, too.” Another possibility would be, “Let’s take the dump truck to the sandbox; there might be some digging that needs to be done.”
A specific challenge may be new anxiety about separation from one or both parents. This may seem to be a regression, but is more likely related to the child’s awakening feelings. Again, consistency of routines before and after the time apart is helpful. Also, “practicing” separation for short periods of time (10 or 15 minutes to start with) and saying, “I will come back soon,” and then extending the time apart gradually can also be helpful. If parents are anxious at the time of separation, then the child will be as well. So, the most important support for the child is the parents’ inner state of trust and calm.
At a certain point, the two-year-old will say “why” many times a day. How should a parent answer this question?
The child is learning the concept of a question. Another commonly heard question is, “What are you doing?” (This may well be followed by “Why?”) The child is not necessarily looking for an answer, but is practicing forming a question. You will naturally answer a simple and concrete question. However, if the question is related to more complex phenomena, alternative responses could be, “hmm,” “I wonder why” or “because.” These will be much more helpful than abstract, intellectual explanations that the child is not yet ready to cognize. An imaginative picture as an explanation is more appropriate and satisfying at this age. A simple affirmation of the phenomena, such as “Yes, the trees are dancing with the wind, “ may also suffice.
The gift of life with a two-year-old is the joy of communication and companionship.