1. Clinging on – Entering into a room of other toddlers can be quite daunting for a young child. So when you enter the nursery for the first time, expect to be an industrial magnet for your child that will be impossible to separate. This is not an act of defiance or a sudden change of heart about going to school, but a realization that there are strangers in the room and your leg is a safe, comforting and reassuring place. The good news is that this action shows that you are their pivotal pin that they can work around, as long as you are there. It is a sign that your child needs you and trusts you. Releasing the strength of that magnet-like pull will become easier over time as your child finds new people to trust and bond with.
2. Getting messy – This is often the most complained about aspect from parents but try to remember the following the old adage: ‘a little mess never hurt anyone!’ A child that loves to explore and get involved in the whole learning process is a sign that they are inquisitive, willing to expand horizons and push the boundaries of what they know. Using hands, fingers and even feet to paint, manipulate play-dough and, of course, eat is a great way to help develop those little finger muscles and help the brain to analyse, decipher and predict what happens when they are doing these activities. So, in short, getting messy is a great way to learn forces, reasons and consequences. After all, it costs nothing for a quick bath to get clean, but you cannot put a price on the interactive learning of a child.
3. Repeating the same thing – If you watch a child independently exploring, you may see them repeating the same action over and over again, getting the same (or maybe different) results each time. For an adult this may seem repetitive and boring, but to a child it is the fascination of the action and seeing the result happen each time that keeps their attention. This is why it is important to let the child lead the activities sometimes, as it helps them to understand the concept of cause and effect. It is also stamping these processes into the brain for future reference. So when your child offers you another cup of ‘tea’ please drink it with all the excitement that you did for the first 30 times, to encourage that love of sharing, learning and exploring.
4. Using ‘no’ for everything – What seems to be a constant state of denial is actually just a child who is finding her/his identity and developing a healthy sense of ‘self’. This need for independence is a good thing and shows that your child is ready to move onto more independent things. Just accept the ‘no’ stage in the understanding that it will pass quite quickly as your child develops better words and becomes more skilled at other negotiations.
5. Rereading the same book daily – Similar to the learning process of repeating actions, the re-reading helps the child to learn and store words and to understand and analyze a story completely. This can also refer to songs and rhymes and helps your child to learn pronunciation and new vocabulary. Also knowing what comes next in the story helps improve memory and comprehension skills.
6. Throwing a temper tantrum – This is one of the most annoying and embarrassing for a parent to cope with, especially when it is in the middle of the shops and you are in a hurry. Learning this coping skill of controlling emotions and how to deal with them is a long and hard journey for your child. Although it is not good to give in to the tantrums, your child needs help to understand and learn how to control anger and frustration. If your child goes through this stage, just try to remember that once your child understands emotions and how to express them in a constructive way, it should all calm down again. Be positive, ignore it if you can, give them alternatives, distract them or just try reasoning, but do not give in to the tantrum as it only reinforces the use.
7. Constantly moving – The amazing energy of a toddler seems to be un-ending. This need to move and do things is a sign of a healthy life full of exercise and sports in the future. A child that is constantly on the move will be burning off all of that extra food that they have consumed and, in the process, keeping the metabolism high, blood and fluids moving well and is following a good path for a healthy lifestyle. Keep in mind that a fit child is better than a couch potato, embrace the energy and try to keep up as much as you can!
8. Dawdling – This seems to be a deliberate waste of time and is always on a day that you are in a hurry. However, it is also a good check for us to make sure that we are not rushing around so quickly that we lose the ability to enjoy life and all its pleasures. Try to plan some extra time and give your child fair warning before you need to move, so that you are not disturbing them in the middle of game. If you allow that extra time, you will not be stressed and your child is more likely to move faster (there is nothing more fun that seeing how far you can push mum’s buttons!)
9. Nose picking – This is an unpleasant habit and can be embarrassing for the adult. Just be reassured that it is probably not intentional and just happening because it is there. Try to keep your child’s hands busy with other fun things but also check if they have a stuffed up nose or crusted mucus. Teach them how to blow their nose if it feels stuffy. Keep in mind that this is not a continuous habit and will usually stop with no prompting once the child goes to school. It is not usually a sign of stress or other concerns like thumb sucking, teeth grinding, nail biting and hair twisting.
10. Pushing boundaries – Although it seems that every rule you make and how many times you repeat it, your child keeps breaking them. This is not a conspiracy to try to make you crazy, but just the normal exploration of a child in assessing just how much is too much. No matter how many times you have to repeat them, keep the rules and the consequences that go with breaking them. Eventually your child will learn the lines not to cross and the process helps them to feel secure and safe that you are there to keep them out of danger.
11. Asking ‘why?’ – This one word is enough to drive a parent up the wall; especially when it just doesn’t stop and, even more, when it doesn’t even make sense anymore. The good thing is that this question is how children find things out, learn about the world around them and make sense of everything. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it can be a great way for your child to learn. Try to answer as best you can and, if you do not know the answer, then it is a good chance to have a bonding time of finding out something together. Once your child knows more vocabulary the ‘why’ will change to longer questions, but they will never stop as long as your child is inquisitive and keen to learn.
12. Playing with food – We all know that your food is meant to go into your mouth, not on your head, on the floor, or even in a sibling’s lap. However, this exploration of the textures, smell, feel, and taste of each food is just your child learning about the world and may even be helping to get them to eat more. Correct and acceptable eating habits will come with time but, at the beginning of solid food introduction especially, let your child find out about this new food and all that it entails. A child will never go hungry by choice, so they will eat all that they need without you enforcing it. In this way eating becomes an enjoyable time and they will love to eat, whereas sitting properly and being fed each mouthful is boring and not an enjoyable experience, which will only enforce a dislike of mealtimes.
All in all, most of what your child is doing on a daily basis is enforcing the love of learning, exploring and creating. In order for the best scientists and geographical explorers to find and discover something new, they had to keep pushing boundaries, keep trying and repeating things and never stop finding out about the world around us. Let your child be the next great explorer and encourage this love for life and its wonders as much as you can.