“Ooooooh. What does this sponge feel like on my tongue?”; my toddler, if he could talk, probably. Does this sound familiar to you? If you have a baby transitioning over to a toddler you would resonate with this blog post even more. If you already have a toddler testing their boundaries, you will realize that all toddler moms are losing hair over the next time that their kid wants to know what that blue Lego piece would smell like if it were stuffed all the way up their nose.
I posted a few days back about worrying if we had reached those dreaded ‘terrible two’s’ really early. A place I had forgotten that we would get to – testing boundaries. The cause and effect and feeling the repercussions thereof. I’m so good at giving parents advice through my knowledge of development that I almost forget it when it comes to my own child!
So what is testing boundaries? Basically, after the hype of the gross motor development milestones up until walking, we tend to forget that there is still more to come. Development is a multifaceted word that includes gross motor skills, fine motor skills, language and cognitive development. One ceases to exist without the other.
After your little cub learns to walk, they start to realize certain things. One of the most important with regards to this topic, being that they actually don’t have to stay by your side to get the good stuff.
This new-found freedom leads to a whole lot more exploring, which leads to testing boundaries.at this moment, as a parent, you’re now dealing with a two-way dynamic. As a baby, your little cub was happy to take anything that came to them from you.
Some questions that toddlers probably ask in their language, translated
“What would happen if I changed my nappy standing up?”
“Why does this spoon only live on the table” (Followed by a throw onto the floor)
“Why are there things to climb if I’m not allowed to?”
And probably the few that is most relevant to us right now
“If I’m waiting for my bath and I wee right here, I could play with that wet stuff I play with at playgroup”
“If she rubs this rough sponge over me, I will do it to her. They always laugh when I copy them anyway”
Okay. So how do we encourage this newfound independence to become a learning opportunity rather than us starting to limit our vocabulary to “For gods sake, I said no” followed by frustrated feelings that affect our time with our children.
I always talk about setting the play environment to be conducive to learning. Remove any objects that could be potentially harmful to your cub. If objects are immovable, take yourself and your little cub out of the situation. You can manipulate the situation to work in your favor,in a good way, of course. For example, if you take your child to a mall or grocery shop while they’re tired and hungry – you’re setting yourself up for failure. Get what I’m saying here?
Let them take the lead (Sometimes)
With newfound independence, comes great responsibility. No child can learn this from someone telling them what to do. Goodness, no adult learns this way either. Rather facilitate something that may potentially cause harm to your child. Don’t always allow them to be the boss, there’s a time and place for both of you to exert your authority. For example, you wouldn’t allow exploring to extend to your child climbing on the balustrades of balconies or playing with a hot oven.
A good example and I like to promote this in our playgroup setting. When our little cubs don’t want to pack away for tidy up time, I use the two-option rule. I say, “Would you rather hold onto this cushion or carry the blocks?” In this way, we are still tidying up, but the child was able to exert authority on how they were going to help.
Children respond better to positive words rather than words that would challenge them to test the line. Have you ever wondered why some babies first words are “NO”? In growing up, this word and its intended context becomes insignificant to the toddler. Rather save ‘no’ and ‘don’t’ commands for emergencies so that they learn that this command is final and not a flexible boundary. For example, if you saw my last post about how my little cub sat himself on our coffee table in a tray and played, I responded to this by saying “I see you like this tray. I would prefer if you sat on the floor and played in it”. For 3 days now, the tray has been lying on the carpet in our lounge and he has sat in it and played already. Has he tried to climb on the coffee table again? Oh yes. But not in the tray or with the tray. It’s a small difference, but that boundary has been set.
A reminder that toddlers are growing by leaps and bounds when we can’t even see it. They are creating new messages and impressions daily and we need to be conscious of what messages they’re taking home. We need to make play an empowering experience that allows them to feel heard and well rounded. No child is attention seeking in my eyes, rather, they are all connection seeking with something in the world and it is our job to make it a good connection.