Imaginative and Symbolic Play
Have you noticed your child lifting his play phone to his ear and engaging in a lively conversation—very similar to what he may have witnessed while watching you? Or has your child picked up a cup and brought it to you to take an imaginary sip of tea or cocoa?
Your toddler is entering into the fantasy world of imaginative or symbolic play, a type of play that supports many different realms in development, including cognitive growth, motor skills, language acquisition, and emotional development.
This type of play is based on imitating what toddlers have seen others do—whether at home, at childcare, or even when out running errands with Mom. His world is a palette of information from which he can pick and choose and act out those activities that seem interesting.
Parents’ Roles in Symbolic Play
Toddlers are developing the skills to play cooperatively with others. You are still, by far, his favorite playmate to share his new ideas. Try to resist the urge to jump in and reciprocate with your own ideas for play. Sit back and let him take the lead. Be supportive of his ideas by describing to him what he has done. “You picked up that broom and now you are sweeping. You are such a big help for Mommy.” This type of validation is supportive of his developing sense of self—his learning that he is a person capable of coming up with ideas and doing them all by himself.
If he has the opportunity to play alongside a child who is slightly older, he’ll be fascinated by the older child’s manipulation of objects and ideas about play. This sort of scrutiny is very enriching for the younger child. By observing and learning, he can incorporate this knowledge or variations into his own toddler play.
Scribbling and Other Art Projects
One way to engage your toddler while you cook dinner is to provide an interesting activity for him, such as using big crayons on paper. Holding a crayon or marker and figuring out how to use it on paper is also a great way to hone fine motor skills. Some children scribble back and forth and up and down with wild, exaggerated arm motions; others have more control and keep their movements smaller. Either way, these pictures look perfect when displayed on the family fridge (or one of these clever display methods).
For real (but messy) fun, introduce your toddler to finger paints. Or let her paint with brushes on an easel or even pudding on a paper plate. Obviously, prepare your environment: There will be paint on the floor, on your child, and on you.
(Curious about where your budding artist might next take his talents? Check out these art milestones for kids.)
The Move to a Big Bed
Active toddlers surprise their parents with their amazing abilities to climb, including climbing out of their cribs. Some toddlers are ready about now for a bigger bed, while others are still quite content in their cribs.
Transitioning to a big bed is a big step for your toddler and you, though some make the transition very easily. Many toddlers are tickled by the prospect of having a big bed, like the one used by Mommy and Daddy or an older sibling. The transition nicely complements their developmental desires to emulate the older people in their life and feel grown-up. On the other hand, their cribs have been a safe, comfy haven for them for the last 20-some months. Giving up the crib requires letting go; the ability to let go varies for each child.
There are two important factors when considering the transition to a big bed:
- Timing: Don’t attempt this change if the toddler’s routine has already been altered. For example, obvious times to avoid making further changes include if another sibling is being introduced to the family, the toddler is starting a new childcare or preschool, Mommy or Daddy are away on a trip, or if the family has just moved to a new home.
- Safety: If your toddler is attempting already to climb out of the crib and you have concerns about his landing on the floor, you may have to act more swiftly in initiating the transition. And when your child is in the big boy bed, you still have to consider his safety.
Guardrails can be used to prevent him from rolling out of the bed, but active sleepers can wriggle to different spots on the bed and fall out around the guardrails. Place some padding on the floor, such as pillows or a thick rug, to provide a softer landing.
Also, he will get himself out of bed either to find you or explore his room. Prepare the environment so that his wandering will not lead him to trouble. Dust off the monitor that you may have retired so you can keep an ear alert for sounds of exploration coming from his room. /p>
Is It Time for Toilet Training?
This is a huge topic for parents of toddlers and preschoolers. You may have noticed that your toddler tells you when he needs a diaper change or that his diapers are not as full after he sleeps. He may be more curious about what happens when adults go into the bathroom and even watch you in action as if you are a science experiment. These are some of the signs of toilet training readiness.
But we warn you—many toddlers show these signs but are still not ready for the big step to underpants. Support your toddler appropriately. You may want to buy a potty and have it available in the bathroom for him to explore, or you can buy a few books or videos about children who are learning to use the toilet. (Use this potty-training checklist to ensure you’re set to get started.)
Learning to hold and release one’s bowels is up to the child. There are physical, emotional, and cognitive factors that must play together. It is the ultimate demonstration of control for the child. (Find out if your child is ready to start toilet training with our quiz.)
Again, like the crib-to-bed switch, this is a huge chapter for toddlers and their parents—one that should not be opened if there are other stressful events occurring in the household.
Baby Turns Two!
High five, Mom and Dad! You can proudly congratulate yourselves on making it through a second year with your child. (Just think about where you were this time last year!)
Of course, whatever kind of celebration you choose to mark your child’s entrance into his third year will be special for you and your family. If you’re looking for some help planning a small or super-sized party, use these simple ideas, tested and vetted by other parents like you:
- Birthday Bashes on a Budget
- Parties for Little Kids: Keeping It Simple
- 3-2-1 Countdown! Party-Planning Timeline
- Quiz: What’s Your Party-Planning Style?
- Babble Toddler & Preschooler Party Guide
Support at Your Fingertips
We have addressed many different topics in parenting within the first two years of your child’s life. We cannot overemphasize the importance of reaching out to other parents when faced with challenges or wanting to share a wonderful discovery made by your young genius.
Our community boards are very active with BabyZone members who are interested in responding to the questions of other parents. If you are feeling the stress of parenting or isolation, would love some feedback from another parent, or if you have made a discovery about parenting that you would love to share, please be sure to visit the Babble online parenting community.
More Development Help
As you’re considering your child’s development, keep in mind that all children are unique. Whether your child reaches milestones early or late, she has her own developmental path to follow. The dividing lines between these months are very fuzzy. If you have any concerns or questions about your child’s development, please check with her healthcare provider.
- Review what was happening in your toddler’s last months.
- Learn what to expect in your child’s 25th, 26th, & 27th months.
- Take our quiz: Are You Ready to Tackle the Terrible Twos?