There are ways to help toddlers meet milestones without pressuring them to grow up before they’re ready. After parenting four toddlers in the past 11 years, I’ve learned that the following 3 tools are key–and easy to implement in helping your toddler develop at his or her own pace.
If you had asked me four years ago about the toddler stage, I would have told you that I enjoyed it but was glad it was over. I was happy to be moving on with life, as my girls were all growing older and were in early elementary school or preschool at the time.
Little did I know that our little boy would surprise us in 2017! The past 2 1/2 years have been nothing short of cuddles, laughter, and memorable moments, and this time around I’m savoring every single season of motherhood with my fourth and final child.
While it was easy to worry and obsess over toddler milestones when the girls were little, I’ve found myself much more relaxed this time around.
That said, in 11 1/2 years of parenting, I’ve learned that there are a few things we, as parents, can do to help our children meet milestones.
An added benefit of having three “older” children now (11, 9, and 7) is that Little Man basically has three extra mamas who can also come to his aid in helping him learn and meet toddler milestones along the way.
The following three ways are what we as a family do to help Little Man meet his toddler milestones in a relaxed, pressure-free, and fun way.
When our oldest was a baby, I said that I hated baby talk. That said, I admit there have been times that I’ve used baby talk with my son. I’ve ooh-ed and ahh-ed over him. But, for the most part, I now talk to him as if he is as old as the girls. As a result, his receptive language skills have skyrocketed this past year.
In fact, a little over a year ago he was more than 4 months delayed in receptive language skills.
Today, he has no receptive language delay at all.
Children learn language by listening to their parents and older siblings. The best way for us to help them reach their speech and language milestones is by talking to them correctly.
As well, it’s important to use hand motions, eye contact, and other visual cues to teach children whatever we are talking about.
For example, when I am getting my son dressed, I talk to him about the sleeves on his shirt, his socks, and his shoes. I point them out to him. I ask him questions about them.
He has learned all of this vocabulary just by listening to me talk to him and describe what is going on all throughout the day each day.
I will sometimes notice my son talking to himself as he plays, and I am 100 percent OK with that. I know that he is further developing his language skills and getting closer to meeting his milestones. I love how he will sometimes assign human characteristics to his cars and trucks.
I couldn’t help but laugh as I watched him play with his Little Tikes Dirt Diggers™ in our back yard the other day. The Dirt Diggers™ were “talking” to each other, and it was the cutest thing ever.
Reading is my favorite pastime, and a love for reading is something I hope to instill in each of my children.
Reading to your child, again, fosters good speech and language development.
As well, multiple studies have shown that the best readers are those children whose parents read to them frequently before they begin school.
I find it helpful to designate a specific time to read to my son each day. For us, it’s right before his nap. The two of us cuddle together in his rocking chair, and I read him two to three books of his choosing. His sisters all read to him as well at various points in the week.
Along with helping children to develop good listening, language, and pre-reading skills, reading to them can also help them learn other life lessons–like social skills, science, history, etc.–depending on the book choices.
Playing with your children is the number one way in which you can help them meet milestones.
I was sadly unaware of this when my girls were infants and toddlers. I regret that I did not get down on the floor and play with them more and, instead, busied myself with keeping the home.
Because I now know how quickly each season of motherhood passes and because I know how helpful playing with children can be for meeting milestones, I’ve taken a much more proactive role in playing with my son.
Once again, he is also blessed with his older sisters who play with him anytime I’m not able to do so. I find it both touching and hilarious that my son will actually cry when I drop my girls off at school because he knows he will miss playing with them all day.
One of my son’s favorite toys right now is his Little Tikes Cozy Coupe® .
It’s small enough that we can even bring it indoors when it’s too cold for him to ride in it outside, and his sisters love to push him around in it!
This pretend play is helping foster both language skills and large and fine motor skills as he climbs in and out of the car and turns the steering wheel.
I’ve talked a lot about meeting speech and language milestones in this post, and that is because Little Man was born with a speech delay. What has been very interesting to me in our journey for Little Man to develop speech and language skills (he’s doing AMAZING, by the way!) is that his therapists have highly recommended we work on him meeting his other milestones as well.
I love watching him jump on his Easy Store™ 3’ Trampoline (also from Little Tikes). Little Man’s speech therapist has recommended I incorporate exercises like jumping into his daily routine to strengthen his muscle tone, and I love how easy it is to store this little trampoline when he’s not using it.