As a toddler’s brain grows rapidly, they are learning and understanding a wide array of information. They’re taking in everything from their day-to-day world and finally making sense of it all.
As a parent, our hope is that our children grow up to be happy, successful, and good-hearted human beings. Now is the optimal time to help them build a solid foundation of abilities and knowledge.
The guidance and teachings can start in the early toddler years where their mind is developing at a rapid speed and they’re soaking in every little thing you teach them.
Around age 2 is a good time to begin teaching your child these important lessons. You can even start earlier depending on your child’s developmental level.
They can learn and retain a lot more than you probably think they can at this age, they just need to be taught.
Always be consistent in your approach to get your toddler learning. They will most likely need repetition in order to really understand what’s being asked of them and how to instill all of these lessons in their daily routines.
1. Good Hygiene
Teaching your child to practice good hygiene is great to start young.
- washing hands after meals and potty
- brushing teeth morning and night
- bathing daily
- brushing and combing hair
- cutting finger and toenails
- cleaning inside ears with a child safety q-tip
- keeping their clothes and body clean while they eat or play
- covering their mouth when they sneeze or cough
theirnose into a tissue
- wiping their own privates after going potty
Of course, safety is a crucial lesson to teach your child. This is the age where they will probably have no fear or understanding of dangerous situations.
The following practices need to be taught and don’t just come naturally to your little one:
- not running away in public
- not running out into a parking lot
- stranger danger
- staying close to mom or dad
- being cautious when crossing streets
- holding hands when in public or outside
- sun safety: applying sunscreen, wearing hats
3. Respect for others
Understanding how to properly treat others is a valuable trait to instill in your child. This goes for respecting both adults and other children.
At this age, they are starting to test their boundaries and explore new ways of getting what they want. Instill rules for respecting others even through times of frustration.
Teach them not to push, hit, bite, or pull hair and not to hurt others in any way.
4. Acting appropriately in public
The toddler tantrum that happens in the middle of Target can leave you feeling quite embarrassed.
Although it’s hard to completely remove these behaviors because it’s your child’s way of expressing himself at this point, there are ways to reduce them.
Try putting rules in place when you are out so they know what is expected of them.
Always have a way to redirect or distract them when you see a tantrum starting (using something else they are interested in).
Lastly, just avoid situations that could set them off.
This is a great article about Tips for Cry-Free Shopping with Your Toddler
5. “You can’t always get what you want”
Toddlers are very ego-centric (only care about themselves). It’s totally normal for them to only think about how things will affect them.
This almost always leads to inappropriate behaviors as they learn what behaviors get them what they want.
Don’t always give in to every cry and teach them that sometimes they can’t get everything that they want. Don’t always give them the cookie that they’re begging for or the new toy at the store.
If they must get the object that they desire, make them earn it.
6. Eating a variety of healthy foods
It’s important to start your child with eating healthy foods early on to set them off for a healthy diet for the rest of their life. Offering them a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and proteins will help them to develop a preference for these types of foods.
Avoid processed foods, unhealthy snacks, and sweets when possible. The more they have those foods, the less they will enjoy the healthy ones!
Related Post: How to Get Your Picky Toddler to Try New Foods
7. Keeping their body private
My toddler loves to be naked, especially since she started potty training. It’s so hard getting her dressed in the morning because she screams and fights it so hard.
Sometimes she just wants to strip down and take off her shirt or pants in public. I’ve had to talk to her often about how it’s not appropriate to be naked in public and that our bodies are private.
This goes along with having respect, but it’s important to teach your children how to use polite words and actions to show manners.
- Saying excuse me when needing someone to move or get their attention
- Patiently waiting for a parent to finish talking to another parent before chiming in
- Saying please and thank you shows consideration and appreciation
- Making eye contact when speaking to others
- Apologizing when you do something wrong
- Ask questions to others about how their day is or how they are feeling
- Compliment others on their clothes, hair, or something they did
- Share their toys or items that belong to them
9. Cleaning up
By 2, your toddler is able to start taking on some responsibilities around the house. This starts with cleaning up after themselves.
Once they start following your instructions to clean up when they are done with an activity, they will develop a consistent routine. Try having them to some of these tasks depending on their age and capabilities:
- Throw away their garbage (empty food wrappers, tissues, unused food)
- Bring their plate and utensils to the sink when they’re done eating
- Empty their plate in the garbage can when they’re done
- Clean up toys after a play session
- Pick up messes they make while eating
- Use a handheld vacuum or small dustpan to clean messes or after mealtime
Your child probably already has some routine in place throughout their day. However, you want to ensure that they are consistently doing what is asked of them so that they could even do it on their own if needed.
The more structure that your child has in their day, the more they will start to understand time and a daily schedule.
I love using a routine or responsibility chart so my toddler can have a visual cue of everything that is expected of her. Use one with pictures instead of just words, like this Mickey Mouse chart, so your toddler actually understands what it’s for.
Here are some examples of day-to-day routines that you can create a specific pattern for:
- Bedtime: Brush teeth, go potty, wash hands, put pajamas on, read a story, go to sleep
- Morning: Go potty, wash hands, brush teeth, get dressed, eat breakfast
- Before naptime
- Pre-dinner wind-down time
- Cleaning time
At this age, you can expect your toddler to begin showing independence for a variety of tasks within their daily routine. They may not have the ability to perform some of these activities until you show them.
However, most children will learn and pick up on these tasks if they’re taught.
I know it can be tough to let your little one dress themselves in the morning when you’re trying to rush out the door for work, but it’s so important to allow them the time to perform the activities by themselves with just a little help from you.
The only way they can learn is by doing, so give them the opportunity! Some of these tasks include:
- Dressing: shirts, pants, socks, shoes, jacket, hat
- Hygeine: Washing hands, brushing teeth, going to the potty, wiping after potty, blowing their nose
- Eating: Using their hands or utensils to eat appropriately, not relying on games and songs to eat, getting snacks from the pantry, making healthy choices for what they want to eat
- Transitions: Getting in and out of the car on their own, going up and down the stairs, ending one activity and moving to the next without complaining
12. Staying on task
A toddler has a very limited attention span (unless of course, they’re watching their favorite television show). It’s only reasonable to ask them to focus on a task for around 4-6 minutes at this age.
However, it is important for them to be aware that once they start a task they should finish it to completetion. My daughter loves to grab a puzzle and put in 3 pieces and walk away or sit down and read 2 pages and then walk away.
The goal of teaching your child to stay on task is to complete what they start.
- While playing with your child, make sure that they complete the entire puzzle or read through the whole book before they get up and run around.
- If they’re coloring or building a tower, keep them engaged in that one activity for as long as possible before you let them move on to the next.
- During mealtimes make sure they remain seated and finish their meal before getting up and playing.
13. Be a helper
Little kids LOVE to help grown-ups. They want to do everything that you’re doing because their starting to gain this growing confidence and independence.
Invite them to perform tasks that they may not be able to do independently, but that they can help you with.
- Get the mail
- Take the trash out
- Refill the toilet paper roll dispenser
- Help with cooking: mixing, adding ingredients
- Carrying in bags or groceries
- Fill the dog bowl
- Entertain a younger sibling
14. Empathy and compassion
From a young age, you want to fill your child with compassion and empathy for others. Teach them about emotions and to be conscious of other people’s feelings.
- If they see someone crying, ask what’s wrong.
- If they see someone alone, go over and play with them.
- If they see someone that looks different than them, treat them equally.
- If they hurt someone, apologize and make it better
. . . . .
As you can see, there are so many lessons that you can teach your toddler. From 18 months old and up, they have the capabilities of understanding and learning so many new skills.
Just be consistent with giving your child daily exposure to anything they’re learning and they will pick it up quickly!