Two years is a milestone! The second birthday often marks the onset of a tumultuous time in the lives of parents and is often termed as “terrible” But tumultuous does not equal terrible.
Terrible is a perception a parent who is unable to handle the unexpected changes in their child and not really able to get his head around the impulses that the “toddlers-turning-independence asserters “ are displaying. This period of development generally lasting from 2nd to the 4th birthday sees our little ones assert their independence in ways more than one, have meltdowns at all the unexpected moments and often bring a parent to their wits end.
But this does not have to be so. We have to be the adult in this interaction- to allow the child to “feel” their emotions, ride out the wave and then set limits. Our role as parents is not to judge and label this period, but to observe empathize and add calm to this chaos.
Give them independence while setting reasonable limits
There is no real harm in allowing a child to choose what he’d like to wear, lesser harm in keeping his cupboard accessible. The choice is the child’s; the offering is the parent’s. Let me give you an example of how we do it. Miss A has a small 2.5 feet tall cupboard to herself where I, as her parent have created a capsule wardrobe that she gets to choose her outfit out of. The capsule wardrobe is ever-changing with weather changes, growing needs, travel. However what the child wishes to wear in a certain day is left completely up to her.
Similarly, we use a system of toys and books rotation. Toys and books that I think go with the current real life scenario are kept accessible, while all others are locked away. This way the mess is reduced, the child sees change every week and has complete independence to choose what to play with or read, within limits pre-set by the parent.
Let them take their time
Young kids in the zeal to learn to wear their own shoes or create a tower out of blocks will try to do so over and over again, failing incessantly, but trying again, nevertheless. While this is something one should be proud of, and appreciate, the adult sitting closeby will be frustrated watching this and rush to reach the goal.. We forget often that learning is in the process, not in the end product. I’ve seen parents rush to intervene and put on the child’s shoes or “help” with the building of a tower- only moments later to be faced with a tantrum or meltdown.
Let the child be. Let them make mistakes, Give them room for error. Room for error is room for learning. Soon you will watch the child’s inherent ability to learn- and this ability to learn by himself is a skill you want to teach a two year old- not teach them to depend on you for direction- which is something you’d have to make them unlearn years later.
What excites a two year old
- OUTDOOR PLAY
Nothing compares to outdoor play for little ones- being out in the open and having the space and liberty to run around allows them to explore their surroundings and satiate their senses. Parks and obstacles like steps, platform and mounds are challenges that young kids need to take on to push their limits.
Mix up vigorous exercise with meditative outdoor time, sitting in the grass, feeling the coolness of the earth under your feet, watching butterflies, talking about birds and trees and collecting flowers! Two year olds love this kind of time outdoors.
I would suggest mixing up outdoor time with learning opportunities- somedays you could take the paintbrush and art sheets outdoors, some days a little dance and kinesthetics would be fun. On slower days, you could bring along a book and on more exciting days, you could pitch a tent and pretend play! Even a short amount of outdoor time can break the monotony of the day, exhaust the child and in turn help him eat and sleep better!
2. SOCIAL INTERACTIONS
No matter how shy your child is, they love to be with their peer group. Two year olds may not play with their peers, but alongside them initially. But they are in constant observation mode- watching and learning from other kids.
Set up play dates, enrol in parent toddler classes, visit play areas and children zones to allow your child to interact socially and watch them bloom!
3. TESTING THEIR LIMITS
Young kids are always excited about pushing and testing their limits- jumping off from beds to climbing a wobbly chair to push a switch button- their little bodies and minds are invigorated by being able to do something new- something more, everyday.
Set up safe obstacle race at home, or enrol in a gymnastics class. Allow children to hone their gross motor skills by pushing their limits and taking risks. Let them climb those trees- even a two year old can surprise you!
- PRETEND PLAY
Pretend play involves multitudes of imagination and often very abstract ideas that are simply put, the very core of creativity. Pretend play toys include (not gender specific) all kinds of dolls and figures, vehicles, gardening tools, kitchen tools, and specifically pretend play sets available under that heading in the market.
But more often than not, kids will pick up stones and leaves and pretend that they are airplanes, a bedsheet over a chair becomes a house and why not? You don’t need to have “pretend play” toys to play imaginary games. This is what creativity is. As a parent, I’d say, watch from a distance wthout trying to correct a child’s ideas of how things work- refrain from showing them how to play with their toys, instead stand back and be amazed!
5. USING THEIR HANDS
Fine motor skills are getting fine tuned at this age and children will keeping practising until they hone their skills. Be observant of what your child is able to do, create specific tasks to offer them exercises and keeping increasing the challenge level.
Fine motor skills activities include crayon grip, handling a spoon, using tongs, placing items in finger sized slots with accuracy (for example rubberbands on a straw), usinga paintbrush, working with blocks, stamping images, tearing and crushing paper, peeling off stickers, pasting them within small shapes- you get the drift…
6. MESSY PLAY
Messy play can become your go-to activity once a child has reached a saturation point and needs to cool off or calm down- Divert the first signs of a tantrum with messy play, control their rushing impulses by directing their attention to sand play, water play, mud play, grains of rice or some slime – BUT ALWAYS UNDER ACTIVE ADULT SUPERVISION.
7. SOLVING PUZZLES
Simple puzzle games like matching colours, mother to baby, parts of a whole -are a wonderful activity to engage in actively with a child. Under guidance of an adult who is spending time playing with them, they learn to make associations and work out solutions to problems. Puzzle games can be used to “teach” any concept ranging from shapes and colours to members of a family, plants, animals, space exploration- whatever you choose to work with. Be experimental, make DIY puzzles and engange in some bonding time with your little one.
8. FREE ART
Free expression of art is an extremely calming activity for 2 year olds. Offer them a large sheet of paper, some crayons or paints, maybe throw in some foam stamps or a paintbrush, or cotton and let the child be free- to create, to create a mess and express himself. Not only do they immensely enjoy this activity of not being “taught” but having the pressure to draw something specific- you can see them create wonders and tell you stories of what they are creating later! And you end up with creations to cherish and keepsakes to treasure forever!
9. STORIES ND ROLE PLAY
Children’s literature has some classics- research on them- see what fits your style and what you’d like your child to read and take back from a book and invest in it. Even if you feel your child doesn’t really enjoy books, spare half an hour a day for reading. And Animate. Stories have the power to awaken excitement in a child- to take them to imaginary worlds and think out of the box.
Add to reading and story telling a dash of role play- you have it- the perfect mix for a child who lives in wonder, can make up tales to inspire and entertain. WOuldn’t you love to have someone like this around you all the time?
10. HELPING AROUND THE HOUSE
This point- of allowing a child to get involved in household tasks- largely taking inspiration from the “Practical Life ” activities under the Montessori method- empowers a child to take control of his body and get independent. Taking Maria Montessori’s observations on child development in all seriousness, at 6 months when we offered Miss A water out of a tumbler (no, we never did bottles with nipples!) we started off with glass tumblers! And she learned to respect that this item was fragile. I allowed her to wipe clean delicate crockery from the start and we’ve had NO breakages from her ever.
Allow the child to be involved in household tasks- from hanging out clothes to folding laundry, to washing their toys, whisking eggs and adding that dash of salt- It empowers them and teaches them from a young age how to conduct themselves around the place.
Tame those twos and you’ll see that terrible was nothing more than a wild perception!