Toddlers (18 months to 3 years)
The transition from baby to toddler
Your child may have started walking anytime from a year old or younger but the Toddler stage (referring to the funny way in which they walk or ‘toddle’) starts around 18 months to 2 years. Your child will be taking their first steps towards independence and the journey takes on a new momentum. However, they still need a lot of support in all developmental areas.
Physically she will want to explore whilst keeping you at a safe distance. With this ability to walk comes the beginning of the realisation that she is not the centre of your universe, and if she can walk you can too! The neuronal pathways in her brain will have developed to a point where she can successfully pick up objects without falling over, start to throw a ball whilst successfully letting go and feed herself whilst generally getting most of it in her mouth. As with earlier stages it is important that parents do not ‘push’ their child to into different developmental phases before they are ready. For example toilet training will go much more smoothly if parents wait until the child gives signs of physically and intellectually being ready. See Potty Training in earlier stage 9-18 months.
This is a great time to venture out and discover the wealth of play parks, indoor play areas and nature trails in Luxembourg. There are plenty of places where young children can learn to ride their tricycle and move onto a bicycle with stabilisers. Most of the country’s public school playgrounds are open outside school hours and are an excellent place to practice safely away from traffic. There are also pathways along the rivers or around the lakes that are pedestrianized but watch out for more serious cyclists.
Intellectually your child will be developing the beginnings of self–awareness that is, he will start to see himself as a separate person. This can be quite stressful for him and he may experience some separation anxiety as he realises that his most important caregivers are not always present. This usually starts in an earlier developmental phase but can continue to be an issue until he learns that generally one thing follows another. Cause and effect thinking is a very important intellectual milestone because with it comes the opportunity for him to start to think for himself, make simple choices, and to realise that people who love you do come back!
If you haven’t already found some routines that work for your family now is a good time to start. Children love routines because routines help them to know what to expect next. Routines give them familiarity, predictability, and can help them feel more in control of their environment. They also help the development of cause and effect thinking. Children can be engaged in following simple commands like ‘after play we put our toys away’ because this is part of a routine they follow every night before bedtime. As your child grows in intellect their routines will change but generally it is a good idea to start with a morning and night time routine that allows them to become more independent and gives them some limited choices like laying out what to wear tomorrow – the green or blue jumper?
Language (Communication) Development
Language or communication development at this stage is more complex than it may first appear. It has been shown that newborn babies can often recognise the voices of their parents especially if they spoke to them in the womb. Non-verbal communication like moving their head towards the speaker, trying to make eye contact and starting to point to what they want develops very quickly in these early years. In fact children under the age of two generally know what they want and understand a lot of what is being spoken to them, but lack the ability to talk. However, they enjoy communicating if parents listen and can start to interpret non-verbal communication as well as the rudimentary beginning of language development.
By the age of 3 most children will speak over two hundred words, be able to join 2-3 words in a sentence and will use their own name to refer to self. Not surprisingly as they start to think for themselves their favourite word will be ‘no’ in any language! If your child is not speaking clearly and with a variety of words by this time – don’t worry. There are some things that might delay language development including being in a multilingual environment. If you have any concerns speak to your pediatrician.
Parents can encourage communication and language development in lots of ways. In earlier developmental stages it will have been suggested that talking (in a normal adult voice), singing and reading to your child as part of a daily routine can help them to start to associate words with ‘things’. In this developmental stage they can begin to associate words with more abstract concepts like past activities with present experiences. Many parents use baby sign language as a way of helping their child to communicate what they need pre-verbally (from 1 year) to 3 years or even older. Learning baby signs together with your child can be great fun and has certain advantages as it uses a lot of repetition, as a parent you need to slow down in your communication and it encourages using eye contact. It’s also a great way to involve a sibling old enough to talk.
Baby signs can also work well with developing language skills with bilingual children.
In Luxembourg children are growing up in a multi-lingual environment whether it is in the home, in crèche or school or on the street. If you and your partner (or other significant caregivers) speak different languages this maybe a perfect opportunity to expose your child to multiple languages. There are many advantages to language development of starting this process as early as possible.
As your child moves into this stage they need increasingly more positive reinforcement for their emotional development. This is because the journey towards independence inevitably starts to bring up conflict between you and your child. Children at the stage need lots of encouragement, praise and recognition for their success however small. Inversely there may be times when some behaviour needs to be ignored. Your child may have developed some control over their emotions at this stage but they are still often completely in the ‘now’ and overwhelmed by them. This is due to the immaturity of the brain, which is still being ‘mapped’. Calling this ‘the terrible twos or threes’ is not necessarily helpful because it does not respect that many of the reasons children (and their parents) experience meltdowns or tantrums are for simple reasons. Hunger, tiredness, over stimulation and frustration because they cannot communicate what they want, are often the underlying factors in these emotional outbursts. They are also at an age when they are learning about pushing boundaries. Our boundaries are the expectations we set as parents about acceptable and non-acceptable behaviour for example ‘no hitting or name-calling’. Children will naturally push these boundaries to find out if we really mean it! It is normal for children to do this and in fact clear boundaries like routines make children feel safe.
It is important to understand that during a melt down or tantrum it is impossible to reason with your child. This is not the time to teach lessons because they are not open to learning. The brain is generally overloaded with stimulus and emotion and the most sensible thing we can do as parents is to remove the child to a place where they can be encouraged to calm down. Only then can you ascertain whether there is an underlying reason and give the child reassurance. Tantrums can feel like the worst possible parenting experience, in fact often parents talk about wanting ‘the ground to swallow them up’, but to your toddler they can feel like the end of the world because you might not love them anymore. Whatever you are feeling your child needs to know that you still love and accept them. To find out more about how your child’s mind is developing we would recommend the ‘whole brain’ approach books by Bryson & Siegel listed in our further resources section.
Generally by this stage your child is turning into a little social being and will enjoy the company of other children, although at the beginning they may still prefer to have you near. Social development can be encouraged by arranging a play date with another toddler, going to a play group with a parent or caregiver, or just going to the park on a sunny afternoon. Depending on their temperament your child may be a little timid when you first go into a group or just ready to run off and play. It is important to take your time, ask them if they want to remain with you maybe sitting on your knee and just observing what is going on. Encourage them slowly to explore the area around you by putting a toy of interest next to you or at your feet. You may need to do this a few times when going on a play date, first attending a play-group or visiting a crèche. Limit the time you spend out socially at first and be aware of the dangers of imminent melt down. It’s often a good idea to carry a few healthy snacks with you at all times.
There are lots of groups who organise activities for pre-school aged children. Some of these groups you will have to pay a membership to or sign up for, others are less formal. There are also activities available in your local commune for listings of these you will need to visit your local Hotel de Ville (commune building) or the Bierger Centre (off Place Guillaume) for the city communes.
Introducing a New Sibling
Possibly the greatest challenge (or gift) to your child’s social development at this stage will be if she has a new brother or sister. Whether she is the oldest or the youngest, a new sibling will mean change in the family dynamics. Change or unpredictability is generally something that upsets young children. However, there are lots of ways parents can help their children prepare for the introduction of a new sibling and forgive some of the inevitable and normal ‘sibling rivalry’ that will ensue. For more on Sibling Rivalry see our Special Needs section.
Discipline and Dealing with Anti-Social Behaviour
As your child becomes more independent so will her need to assert her own mind and push at your boundaries. As parents we are also teachers who not only instruct our children but also model good behaviour. This is why parenting is so hard! Our children may not listen to what we say but they will mimic what we do because fundamentally that’s how they begin to learn. Discipline comes from the word ‘disciple’ that is to teach. By setting boundaries, being consistent, having and sticking to routines and using lots of positive reinforcement we give our children clear guidance to what is acceptable behaviour.
Generally anti-social behaviour at this stage is learnt behaviour that they are mimicking or getting attention for. Children crave our attention and if they don’t get it by ‘being good’ then they will use other methods. As adults this may seem crazy, I mean who wants to be shouted at again for jumping on the settee? But children are NOT mini adults. They are at a point in their development where they need our attention and will do just about anything to get it. The trick to discipline is to help them to get it for the right reasons.
There are plenty of good books and articles about discipline and coping with this type of anti-social behavior. In our resources section we have listings of recommended reading and links to useful websites. We always welcome other parent’s input so please contact us with your suggestions for our Top Tips sections.
Top Tip for Parents of Toddlers & Young Children
Always have a backpack ready for trips to the park, visiting restaurants or rides in the car. Some things to include are:-
- Water (lots of it)
- Sunscreen & sunglasses & a sunhat
- Wet Wipes
- A towel to sit on or dry wet kids at the Pirate Ship Park
- Healthy snacks (to avoid meltdowns)
- Toys (especially sand toys) or small toys for restaurants
- Colouring pens and paper, books or stickers.
- Stars to give out for good behaviour
Time Out for Parents
It is important to recognise that as parents we also need some ‘time out’ sometimes to get our needs met physically, mentally, emotionally and socially. Parenting young children can be particularly exhausting at times especially without extended family to lend a hand. The time we give ourselves to relax or catch up with adult friends can be seen as an investment in our family life. For more information on ‘Time Out’ for Parents see our Resources section.
Further Information: Useful Links
If you are concerned about your child or have any questions about parenting in Luxembourg you can contact the Online Parent service in English at the Kanner Jugend Telefon
Playgroups and Mother & Toddler Groups
Other publications that have useful listings include ‘Just Arrived’
Birth to Five Timeline: An online resource from NHS charting babies developmental milestones from birth to 5.
Language (Communication) Development
Words for life: The parents section of the National Literacy Trust UK’s website offers some helpful advice and resources.
Sing and Sign: Baby Sign Language website that introduces method of learning and teaching Baby Sign Language to baby’s and toddlers to improve communication before and in the early stages of speech development.
Further Information: Recommended Reading
Babycalming: Simple Solutions for a Happy Baby by Caroline Deacon (2004)
Explores how to develop understanding of your babies 3 basic needs for food, comfort and sleep.
Child Sense by Priscilla Dunstan (2010)
Dunstan focuses on the babies sensory world, suggesting all babies have a predominant preferred sense. She offers questionnaires to help parents understand their own baby.
The Attachment Parenting Book by William and Martha Sears (2001)
The Sears are husband and wife, Dr and nurse and parents of 8 children. They share their ethos of attachment parenting in the belief it can help families be calmer and connected.
The Baby in the Mirror by Charles Fernyhough (2008)
Fernyhough mixes a personal account of his developing relationship with his own daughter and current theories about child development.
The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night by Elizabeth Pantley (2002)
Tips and step by step techniques to encourage your baby to sleep.
The Baby Sense Secret by Megan Faure (2011)
Guidance on supporting your baby to make the transition from womb to world and establish early routines.
The Psychology of Babies: How Relationships Support Development from Birth to Two by Lynn Murray (2014)
Explores babies development in 4 key areas: social understanding; attachments; emotions and self-control; and cognitive development.
The Secrets of the Baby Whisperer: How to Calm, Connect and Communicate with your Baby by Tracy Hogg (2001)
Hogg, a nanny with 20 years’ experience guides parents through her EASY routine.
The Social Baby by Lynn Murray and Liz Andrews (2000)
A beautiful photographic record of baby’s amazing communication skills from birth onwards.
What Every Parent Needs to Know by Margot Sunderland (2006)
Sunderland, a child psychologist explores some of the psychological aspects of raising a child.
The Wonder Weeks by Hetty van de Rijt and Frans Plooij (2013)
This husband and wife team explore the idea that babies encounter massive developmental leaps or milestones at predictable times and understanding this can help explain babies changing behaviour.
Language (Communication) Development
Baby Sign Language: An Evidence-based Guide – An article by Gwen Dewar Ph.D., (that first appeared in Parenting Science online) introducing the Baby Sign Language and how it can improve communication between parent & child.
My First Signs: BSL (Baby Signing)by Annie Kubler (2004)
This is the first of a series of beautifully illustrated board books for babies and toddlers introducing Baby Sign Language (British Sign Language). The series includes My First Animal Signs and signing song books too.
The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Proven Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind by Dr Tina Payne Bryson & Dr. Daniel Siegel (2012)
Following recent advances in understanding brains and how they effect our children’s development this book introduces the idea of parenting with a whole brain approach. The book is well designed and easy to read with really good examples from both the authors.
No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind By Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D. (2014)
This book is a follow on from the ‘Whole Brain Child’ and taking these principles shows how we can nurture our relationships with our children whilst providing clear boundaries and discipline.
New Toddler Taming: A Parents’ Guide to the First Four Years by Dr Christopher Green (2006)
Dr. Christopher Green’s classic bestselling parenting guide has been revised and updated. He calms fear of ‘abnormal’ bad behaviour, points out the inevitable strains of bringing up children and offers practical advice on all topics from sleep problems and tantrums to potty training. This new edition also includes updated information on childhood eating habits, sibling rivalry and discipline.
Secrets Of The Baby Whisperer For Toddlers by Melinda Blau and Tracy Hogg (2002)
This is the follow on book from Baby Whisperer. These books help parents find a middle ground of introducing routine whilst being sensitive to the individual needs and temperament of their child.
Three Shoes, One Sock and No Hairbrush: Everything You Need to Know About Having Your Second Child by Rebecca Abrams (2001)
If you can get hold of this book still it is worth reading before you have a second child. Some people say it is a bit negative but I think it has some very useful advice and thoughts about the reality of having a new sibling in the house especially if your oldest is under 5 years.
Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish (2012)
This book is written by the same authors of ‘How to talk so kids will Listen’ series. Although these books were written 20 years + ago they are still full of wisdom and recommended reading. Siblings Without Rivalry challenges the idea that constant conflict between siblings is natural and unavoidable. With this book, you’ll learn how to:
– Avoid comparisons and the perils of equality
– Intervene helpfully and step away at the right time
– Encourage good feeling between your children
Article by: Lynn Frank who is a coordinator for Passage.
Last updated: Tuesday 17th March, 2015