First I’d like to say that I’m sorry for slacking on Toddler Tuesdays. My plan is to have a post at least one Tuesday a month but the last few months have gotten away from me. I’ve participated in 4 themed foodie weeks this spring, including one I hosted, which has never happened before. Usually the fall is my crazy time.
Today I want to talk about milestones. As a teacher it has been easy for me to look at my students and see what they are learning and what they are not. As a special education teacher it’s fairly easy for me to know which students will qualify for a student with a learning disability simply by being able to work with them and seeing what they are doing.
This all changes as a parent. Milestones are hard folks. Whenever J hits a milestone I’m thrilled but whenever he gets to a point where he should be hitting a milestone and doesn’t I get worried. One of the problems is that different sources list different milestones so I’m never sure exactly when J is supposed to hit certain milestones and it’s stressful. I also see what other kids his age are doing and in some places he is doing so much more than others his age but in other areas he is doing less.
So instead of giving you a list of milestones they should be hitting as a toddler I’m going to give you a list of things you can do in order to help them achieve their milestones at their own pace.
Read to your child.
This is perhaps the most important one and one that I’m shocked people don’t do. Read to your child everyday. Children that are read to know so many more more than those who aren’t. In fact, a study from Ohio State University found that by the age of 5 if a child has heard 5 books a day then they will know 1.4 MILLION more words than a child who was not read too. That is huge! Not to mention that reading together can be a great bonding time. We read to J before nap and before bed but he will often go and grab books off his shelf and “read” to himself as well.
Sing songs and play games to find body parts.
Learning body parts is one of these milestones but it doesn’t have to be one that you drill and practice. Songs such as “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” or “If You’re Happy and You Know It” can teach kids their body parts through song and movement. There are books such as “Where is Baby’s Belly Button?” or “Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes” can also help teach them through repetition of reading. You can also play a game like “Simon Says” and have your child touch different parts of the body.
Talk to your child all day every day.
You may think this is a given but I can tell you I often see parents in a grocery store with the child in the cart and no one is saying anything. Take that opportunity to tell them about them foods you are buying or what you will make with it. The more you point out objects in the world around them or talk to them in general the more language they will acquire. I talk to J constantly. Sometimes I think people in stores think I’m nuts but I don’t care because I’m exposing him to language he may not hear at home.
Let your child do it themselves.
This one is hard sometimes. If you are in a hurry or want to do something you might not really have time for independence. At lunch or dinner you may want to help feed your child so they don’t make a huge mess but learning to feed themselves, both with their hands and with silverware, is a part of growing up. Toddlers also need to learn how to dress and undress themselves so if they want to try and put on their pants, shoes, or shirt on their own, let them! Even if it takes 5 minutes it’s a skill they need to know.
Play games to teach skills.
Want your child to learn how to sort? Make it a game! Set up different colored objects and race to see who can put all of one color in a pile. Big, chunky puzzles are a great way to learn to match and use fine motor skills. Use a shape sorting cube and see who can put their pieces in the correct spots. Cheer when your child does it on their own! Create an obstacle course, run it to show your child what to do, then have them do it for lots of laughs and gross motor practice.
Make crafts with your kids.
This may seem silly but it’s great for fine motor skills. Have your child color a picture with you using crayons, colored pencils, or markers to get used to a grip on different sized objects. See if they can copy the lines you are making. Glue beads onto a picture. While gluing them you can tell them (or have them tell you) the color of the beads or have them count the beads as they put them on. With older toddlers help them cut things out for their projects.
Play outside with your child.
While crafts help fine motor skills outdoor games help gross motor skills. Run around the yard together. Create an “obstacle course” and have your child run through it. My 21 month old makes his own course and runs through his bedroom doing it on a daily basis. Put rings or hula hoops in the yard and have your child hop, jump, or simply walk through each one. Throw a ball and try to catch it.
I realize that some of these things may seem like second nature but that’s not the case for everyone. It’s important to work with your child everyday on the skills that they need for the future. While they may not meet every milestone in the “normal” time frame, most children will get it eventually if you work with them.
What do you do to help your child hit their milestones?