Ways to help your toddler’s development

Whether you’re considering potty training, or just want to encourage your tot to be more independent, our health visitor passes on her best tips and advice for helping your toddler develop

Reading is a great way to help your child’s development

Develop your toddler’s learning skills

  • Play, play, play. Regular, varied play helps tots learn to experiment, solve problems and think for themselves.
  • Get out and about. Trips to the park or playground will let your little one try out new environments.
  • Have a natter. Chatting with your child allows them to learn new words and practice conversation.
  • Get messy. Finger paints, play dough, water, sand and digging help build your tot’s fine motor skills.
  • Read little and often. Street signs, cereal packs, and billboards all offer the chance to learn new words.

Ways to get your child ready for nursery

  • Encourage skills like putting her coat on, feeding herself, finding her shoes, etc. This will boost self-confidence.
  • Good eye contact when your toddler talks shows what she says is worthwhile and will help communication skills.
  • Socialising regularly with other children. Short two-hour playdates can help build friendships for shy toddlers.
  • Build a quiet hour into your child’s day, without TV or music, so they can develop listening skills to cope in a busy class setting.
  • Share books as often as you can so she gets a head start on the early skills of reading.

Potty training – signs that your toddler is ready

  • He’ll become aware of having a wet nappy some time between 18 months and 3 years of age.
  • He might run off when you suggest a nappy change or pull it off when you’ve put it on.
  • He goes quiet or stands still when having a wee, as he makes connections between the sensations.
  • Independence with getting dressed can mean he’s got the co-ordination to pull down his pants – key in potty training.
  • He’ll be curious about what happens in the loo and might ask to see you when you go. It’s good to let him accompany you, even though it’s less peaceful!

Potty training – tips for success

  • Wait until your child shows signs he’s ready for the potty. These include telling you he needs a new nappy, taking off his dirty one, or going quiet while weeing.
  • Expect it to take a few weeks before you see real progress. If your child isn’t getting the idea, stop. Try again in a few weeks.
  • Teach your tot how to get his pants up and down.
  • Ensure his clothing is light and easily washable and it’s easy to take on and off. Accidents will happen.
  • Make a fuss about every successful use of the potty, no matter how small, and ignore times when accidents happen. Just quietly clean up. Success will come!

Boost your toddler’s independence

  • Praise all efforts at doing things for himself. Even if eating is messy or shoes are on the wrong feet, he will get better with practice and praise.
  • Set small goals that he can hit. Getting into the buggy himself, or finding his beaker, for example.
  • Give him some choice, like the colour of his T-shirt, or which toy to carry.
  • Allow extra time for him to do things like putting on his coat and shoes.
  • Ask for his opinions. Be interested in what he says, giving lots of eye contact to make him feel valued.

Helping your toddler make friends

  • Let her mix with others as much as possible, as it’s the best way for your toddler to learn about friendships.
  • Get out with her regularly so she can build up confidence in social situations.
  • Give praise for playing when it goes well. Notice friendly behaviour like turn taking, smiling and sharing.
  • Play with your toddler. You’re her greatest role model.
  • Make sure she hears you telling others what she’s good at to give her confidence and boost her self-esteem.

Ways to get your toddler chatting

  • Sing nursery rhymes. She’ll love the repetition and soon join in. Ask what she thinks of the story in the rhyme.
  • Build some quiet time into your daily routine, as this gives the opportunity for a conversation to start.
  • Use eye contact when talking to her to show you’re listening properly.
  • Let her choose an activity so she can explain what she’d like to do and why.
  • Ask what she thinks about things. Questions like “Did you like that?” can encourage her to give her opinions.

Help your toddler love learning

  • Read together no matter how busy you are. Keep a book in the buggy so when you’re out you can read a quick story.
  • Keep it fun. Bake cookies in the shapes of letters or make Play-Doh numbers.
  • Encourage messy play with water or paints. It helps dexterity in fingers, which is vital for writing.
  • Put your tot’s name on a plaque on his bedroom door to help him recognise it.
  • Go number and letter spotting, such as counting red cars or pointing out letters on signs and food packaging.

Teaching your child cooperation

  • Be clear about what you want. If it’s bedtime, say so, don’t ask him if he wants to go to bed or not.
  • Offer a little choice over minor things so he has some control. Does he want an apple or banana to eat?
  • Stick to two options when offering a choice. More can be overwhelming.
  • Always make eye contact as this will help you recognise if he’s unclear about something.
  • Say thank you, and look pleased when he gets something right, as this helps his confidence develop.

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