Toddlers Are Concrete Thinkers
Little Jaxon is going to be the ring bearer in his aunt’s wedding, so his parents help him practice. On the wedding day, Jaxon starts walking down the aisle. Every few rows, he stops and gives a loud roar! Everyone is laughing and his parents are mortified. After the wedding, mom asks, “Jaxon, why did you growl at everyone?” Jaxon replies, “I’m the ring bear.”
Two-year-old Ava grabs her mom by the hand and says, “Tea party, mommy” and pulls her mom into the bedroom. Ava’s play dishes are on the table with water in the tea pot. They have a lovely tea party. After a bit, the tea pot is empty. Ava says, “Me do it, Mommy,” and runs out of the room. About 20 seconds later, Ava’s older sister yells, “Mom, Ava is filling up her tea pot in the toilet AGAIN!”
Toddlers think literally, not abstractly. Toddlers see things from the point of view of what they already know. Jaxon didn’t know what a ring bearER was, so he chose a word he DID know — BEAR. Ava knows what water is, but doesn’t understand the difference between water in the sink and water in the toilet. Besides, the toilet is much easier to reach.
Toddlers may be frustrated when things they think they have figured out suddenly change.
Every morning, 2-year-old Evan watches Daddy back his car out of the garage and leave for work. One day, Dad takes Mom’s car so he can get an oil change. Evan goes ballistic! “No no Daddy, Mommy’s car!” he yells. All day long he keeps remembering this event, whining and repeating, “No no Daddy, Mommy’s car” until Daddy brings the car home. Evan’s concrete thinking tells him Daddy drives one car and Mommy drives another car. When this is challenged, his sense of security is compromised.
Toddlers Learn by Repetition and Imitation
Toddlers are watching and listening all the time. When they learn something new, they do it over and over until they understand it. Toddlers want to hear the same books, listen to the same music and play with the same toys. They want real things to play with, like car keys, cell phone, hair dryer and remote. They know these items do things, and they want to experience that. Imitation can get them into trouble when they see mom or dad taking medication, curling hair or shaving.
Toddlers Are Looking for a Predictable Response
Yesterday, 14-month-old Liam toddled over to the outlet to stick his toy in it. His dad jumped up, yelled “NO,” ran over, and grabbed Liam. Today, Liam is heading for the same outlet, grinning at Dad as he goes. Believe it or not, Liam is not being naughty. Remembering yesterday, he is trying to predict what will happen this time. Toddlers repeat actions, even those with a negative consequence, to gain a predictable response.
Toddlers Learn from the World
The more experiences a toddler has, the more positive faces he sees and the more positive words she hears, the better off that toddler will be. Take your toddler with you on errands and around the neighborhood. Turn off the screens and talk to your toddler about things you’re doing and things going on around you. Help your toddler load that little computer we call the brain with the software it needs.
Now that we know a little more about how a toddler thinks, in our next blog we’ll tackle the issue of toddler guidance and discipline.