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child development
YOUR 0-2 YEAR OLD
NATURAL BORN LEARNERS

KEY ACHIEVEMENTS
• Beginning mobility and dexterity – from being at one with the world in mother’s womb to taking first steps in the world.
• Aspiring autonomy – from passive to active in selecting and recognising parents and loved ones.
• Visual recognition – begin to distinguish themselves-as-object and others can be different from themselves.
• Experimenting with cause and effect – exploring boundaries which are divided in to good and bad experiences and expressed through tears.
• First marks on the world – first words spoken and eager to leave traces behind.

What to expect?
A newborn baby is the most innocent and precious thing in the world but at the same time their inherent learning capacity is enormous. As a result they understand much more than they are able to express because their communicative skills have not been honed in yet. The first two years of children’s developmental progression is bigger than at any other stage of their lives. Going from completely dependent on their caregivers, being at one with the world, and not distinguishing between self and others to the emergence of own will. In order to achieve the attention from trusted caregivers babies use smiles, cries, bangs and giggling. In children’s first two years of their lives they will say the first words, be able to stand up, and eventually by the support of improved sense of rhythm and balance take their first steps in to the world.

TERRIBLE TWOS: WANTING IT THEIR WAY

KEY ACHIEVEMENTS
• Walking – ready to explore the world
• Conflicting desires – let me go, do not let me go
• Growing sense of self – what makes me unique and distinct?
• Exploring independence – take me seriously, I can do things myself
• Seeking logic – still governed by appearance
• Figuring out the world – trial and error, hands-on and minds-on
• Pretending or make-believe – talking to themselves and collective or individual monologues


What to expect?

Two-year olds are newly “expert” walkers; and with their increased mobility, come the thrills and chills of taking off – all by themselves – and “getting lost” in a world too big for them. One thing toddlers and teenagers have in common is conflicting desires as they search for independence. They want to be on their own and be trusted, yet they also still want the comfort and help of their parents, or people close to them. Terrible twos love to carry along items of comfort such as blankets, teddies, etc. They love to explore boundaries both within the world and with other people.
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ME

 
USING OUR BODIES

What are 2-3 year olds interested in and able to do?

The main theme for children this age is the never-ending ‘let me go – don’t let me go’ story. While challenging for parents, this conflicting quest is a constructive way for children to come to grips with the tradeoffs that becoming an independent agent requires. As they take off, their walking styles range from wobbly to quite secure. Soon they will begin to run, and will enjoy practicing their physical skills just for the sake of practicing, like walking backwards, trying to climb things, and spinning until they fall down.
What specific things will 2-3 year olds like to engage in?
At this age children can jump in place using both feet, and kick a large ball. When throwing a ball they will bring it behind their head, step forward, and throw it with both hands. They catch the ball by trapping it against their chest with their hands. Walking downstairs is now possible with occasional help from adults. Toddlers scoop their food with a spoon, pour water from a pitcher into their glasses, and drink with a straw. Also, they begin to turn pages in a book, build towers, before smashing everything down. Making noises while hammering pegs through holes is another toddler favourite.

How to encourage and support 2-3 year olds’ interests and abilities?
Respect the children’s search for independence, let them make their mistakes as long as it does not jeopardise their safety. Keep encouraging and comforting them in their explorations regardless of their frustration and struggles. Invent activities that can help perfect balance, sense of rhythm, running and stopping, as well as playing give-and-take games with big soft rubber balls. Engage in gentle pretend play like being a roaring lion, or barking dog. And of course read stories aloud, scribble and engage in art-and-crafts as much as possible.

KNOWING OURSELVES

What are 2-3 year olds interested in and able to do?
At this age children develop a growing sense of self, and the words “me”, ”mine”, and ”no” have found their way into the toddler’s vocabulary. This is also an age when children become quite aware of their cuteness and will use it to get their will. Being able to deal with symbols, like words, or token-objects (like teddy bears and dolls that represent things) enables the children’s playful exploration of who they are, and what they want to do. 2-3 year-olds strongly express what they like and dislike, they will begin to cry when contradicted, or denied something they want.

What specific things will 2-3 year olds like to engage in?
2-3 year old children are eager to explore who they are through comparing their bodies with those of others. Helping their mother change the diaper of a baby sibling, they are likely to stare endlessly and ask: “what’s that?” At this age they will have a better sense of the shape and size of their body, and begin to recognise sexual differences. Yet, they still only have a vague idea of what is inside their bodies. This is also a time in their lives when frustration runs high. They are constantly reminded of their own physical limitations, and those imposed by their caring parents, while they try to imitate and explore the world.

How to encourage and support 2-3 year olds’ interests and abilities?
As a general rule, make the children feel comfortable in their bodies, proud of who they are, and take their needs seriously. Keep in mind that toddlers’ ego easily gets bruised, but that does not mean they should take control over the household. Stay in control when the children are out of control. Let them take safe risks but help them understand when boundaries cannot be crossed. Toilet training should only occur when children are ready, being forced to use the potty can be a traumatising experience that can take months to recover from.

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RELATING TO OTHERS

What are 2-3 year olds interested in and able to do?

At this age children want to do things themselves without any help from people around them – they will simply refuse any unmasked help with loud vocals. On the other hand, when they feel they are being taken seriously, they enjoy helping others with everyday tasks. By the time they grow out of the let-me-do-it-myself phase, they have learned to express and to a certain extent negotiate their wants. They are now ready to play.
What specific things will 2-3 year olds like to engage in?
This is the age when children’s most frequent word is No, No and No. Twos simply want to do everything themselves. At the same time they are sociable, and love to help others with bringing things, opening doors, and putting laundry in a basket, or washing dishes. Apart from their caregivers they now seek comfort in blankets, rag dolls, teddy bears, and other familiar things. A plush teddy or a doll can be more “forgiving” than mom or dad, which is a comforting substitute in times of hardship.

How to encourage and support 2-3 year olds’ interests and abilities?
Help children in their struggle for independence by offering choices. For example when getting dressed in the morning show them a selection of shirts, they can pick from. Since they want to be taken seriously, speak to them in a regular voice. Let them feel strong while you set boundaries. And yet again if they do erupt in a tantrum the best thing is to remain calm and in control, until the children calm down again. After such an emotional eruption always allow them to save face and feel loved, unconditionally.

UNDERSTANDING OTHERS

What are 2-3 year olds interested in and able to do?

At this age children begin to understand other people’s moods, especially as related to their own behaviour. They can tell by their caregiver’s facial expression if they are angry, sad, irritated, or amused. Actually, this understanding of how other people feel and think is a way for children to get to know right from wrong. Even at this early stage, children will know how to pitch their voice differently to babies and adults. This ability will further evolve as the child grows older.

What specific things will 2-3 year olds like to engage in?
2-3 year old children undergo rapid changes in their abilities to read – and manipulate – others. When 2-year-olds have a dispute with a sibling, they will often respond very crudely by hiding, screaming, robbing, or banging their sibling’s favourite toy, whereas later when nearing their third birthday, they may use humour, deception or their “cuteness” to get what they want. 3 year-olds can blame their siblings for something they know their parents will dislike. In their fantasy play, they are likely to divide dolls and things into moms, dads and babies; this will help them explore relations. Playing with a friend, it is very common to overhear: “Now, I’m the mommy and you’re the daddy.”

How to encourage and support 2-3 year olds’ interests and abilities?
Engage as much as possible with the children when they initiate conversations about emotions. Resolve disputes with peers without lecturing, instead try to ask questions and let the children come up their own solutions. If they do not try to, offer alternatives they can choose from.

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WORLD



EXPLORING THE WORLD

What are 2-3 year olds interested in and able to do?

At this age children’s understanding of space, time, and cause and effect is growing fast: which is not surprising since they themselves have become quite “nomadic” and gained increased mobility and flexibility. They use location to orient and navigate. They learn about where their body fits and does not, and they realise the sequence of things, as they move about in space. Time is slowly understood through words like: later, soon, morning, and night. The concept of past and future is still fuzzy at this age.
What specific things will 2-3 year olds like to engage in?
Being 2-3 years old, children begin to explore the world more systematically. Often they will discover that water likes to go down, sand changes shape, and wooden blocks can be stacked to a certain height before they crash. Spatial understanding increases as they use their mobility to move around, and discover up and down, in and out, and far and near. Sense of scale might be a little cumbersome: children sometimes will try to sit in the chair that they just have put a teddy bear or doll in.

How to encourage and support 2-3 year olds’ interests and abilities?
Let children participate in all the activities that take place around them according to their abilities. Provide as many materials and tools as possible so they can explore further in playing with puzzles, blocks, sand, clay, and finger paints, etc. Use shadow-puppets and projections as a way to playfully explore the scale of things, including their own bodies.

MAKING SENSE OF FINDINGS
What are 2-3 year olds interested in and able to do?
2-3 year-olds gradually build a very preliminary sense of quantities, magnitudes, and begin to count. Yet, at this age they still struggle to understand the meaning and math behind the numbers. The children also start grouping things, i.e. putting together elements that “belong”. Categories build are not yet logical: a horse goes to the farm. A cat goes into the house. Horses and cats are less likely to be grouped into a sub-category: “animals”.

What specific things will 2-3 year olds like to engage in?
At this age children may be able to recognise numbers from one to ten, and count digits (often out of sequence), but they still do not fully understand what each number means. Toddlers can recognise different colours and shapes, though trying to sort things according to those categories may not always be successful. Being governed by appearance rather than the logic behind the surface, children will think that because a horse has four legs all animals with four legs are horses.

How to encourage and support 2-3 year olds’ interests and abilities?
In general help children to practice grouping things according to size, shape, colour, and numbers. Do not worry if they do not get it right. This will come later in their development. Also, make them aware of differences between things, or variations around a continuum: like “check out: there is a big one, a small one, and a tiny one”, or “see, it is dark red, light red, hot pink. Proportions can be explored with scaling games.

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CREATIVITY

IMAGINING POSSIBILITIES
What are 2-3 year olds interested in and able to do?
At the age of two children begin to engage in simple forms of make-believe activities, from fantasy play to appreciating absurdity and nonsense. They even begin to crack their first jokes. These activities are needed during a time where children struggle to build a budding sense of self. Pretend-play and humour will help them internalise and dramatise situations in everyday life at a distance and more easily imagine different outcomes of those situations. At the end of year two children begin to incorporate peers in collective pretence activities. Humour at this age goes through two stages. In the beginning children need obvious physical things like going through their hair with a ruler saying “hair comb”, while laughing. Eventually, this practice will be replaced by humorous sound distortion of words (poo, shoe, floo).

What specific things will 2-3 year olds like to engage in?
By the age of two children will talk to everybody who is around; parents, peers, things, and animals, while they engage in pretend-play. Usually, they will re-enact scenes from the past and play out variations of these situations, while they pretend to be parents, kings, ninjas or characters from their favourite TV show, making their dolls and teddy bears carry out actions. In case of disobedience among their “subjects”, they will be turned into stones or nasty toads with “magic” words. At this point the rules of the games are solely made up by the children. They often will carry out monologues – either alone or next to peers – without expecting or pursuing any response from each other.

How to encourage and support 2-3 year olds’ interests and abilities?
Let the children be in control of the pretend plays and engage with them as much as they allow. Do not hesitate to support the play with other humorous actions: children this age love when adults call things the wrong names, or use things out of place. If the children attempt to engage in toilet humour, fear not, this will pass eventually.

CREATING FORMS AND EXPRESSIONS

What are 2-3 year olds interested in and able to do?
At this age children begin to scribble and to draw. While random to an adult eye, the scribbles produced are generated differently when the child means to draw or the write (lifting the crayon off the paper when writing, and making large movements when drawing). The children also begin to match photos and drawings with the actual thing they represent. As a matter of fact it is not uncommon for children this age to attribute life to pictures and statues.

What specific things will 2-3 year olds like to engage in?
2-3 year-olds can pronounce about 50 words but they know many more. As mentioned earlier they enjoy talking to themselves alone or next to a peer or while doing simple dance, or finger games. They engage in pretend-play where they get their dolls and other toys to carry out tasks, and talk to each other. Children love parents to write their name and naming the letters as they appear. Books are an opportunity to point at many intriguing things. Twos can match objects and pictures, and will often consider the pictures to be the real thing. As a result they may be hesitant to touch pictures of dogs, but more willing to touch pictures of babies.

How to encourage and support 2-3 year olds’ interests and abilities?
Play with the children and read to them. Involve them in naming and pointing games relating to books and the real world. Sing and dance with them, be visual, take photos of everyday things with them, post it around the home for them to look at. Try to come up with scribbling game activities e.g. ask them to draw familiar things, or animals, get them to write a shopping list, take them for a walk at the beach, and let them follow their own footprints back again.

To learn more, click the links below to download .pdfs from The Whole Child Development Guide:

"Overview of Babies: 0-12 Months" 

"Early Childhood Years: Ages 1-4 Years"