Managing the Family Literacy Circle with Your Toddler (24-36 Months)

Characters  and moral development, as well as spiritual reflection and moments of joy, are crucial for fully developing the nature of each child. ~ Michael Gurian PhD Nurture the Nature

 And how is your little angel doing? Flying, Landing? Managing the Family Literacy Circle with Your Toddler

Climbing up & down? Up & down? Stairs? Furniture? You? Trees are next (OMG)!!!!

Doesn’t need or want help walking (holding your hand ANYWHERE can be a struggle)? Running, and, oh, yes, the newest favorite- JUMPING, JUMPING, JUMPING ?!?

S/he has worked very hard during the last year or so to master upright movement (I DO IT!!!- is a favorite phrase now-more on that later).

Balance & coordination are improving, so prepare for some physical risk-taking.  Think tricycles ( we called them low-riders), lots of throwing (FORE!!!  INCOMING!!!!), and galloping (yes, like a herd of wild horses). With sound effects….

So ~ have you re-baby-proofed your home? S/he is a lot taller and more-much more-mobile now. Still loving to get into EVERYTHING!!! Cabinets, drawers, hampers, refrigerator doors, and, yes, toilets. Moving a chair to reach a door knob and/or latch can be expected in the near future. So, time to upgrade those knobs, handles & latches.

“No, no, no!” is pretty much meaningless. Exploration is being driven by confident mobility and boundless curiosity. YES !!!! It’s a good thing ~ a GREAT thing, actually.

Understanding Your Toddler’s Brain

Ready or Not !-Kazuend/toddler
Ready or Not !-Kazuend

If you’re like me, you’re thinking the brain’s the brain. I, however, did a little research to help me (and you) understand our most powerful & mysterious “organ”.

Dr. Bruce D. Perry, an American psychiatrist with a PhD in Behavioral Sciences, has written several books on children in crisis. Here’s what he taught me, thanks to the article – “Using Play to Build the Brain” @ gooeybrains.com.

Our brains grow from conception  in a sequence/order,  beginning with the most basic areas first. Then, the other more complex areas start to develop. Each area (there are 4 broad brain areas) needs to grow in a healthy, functioning way before we can move on and focus on building the next area- in order. 

Ready to Know More?

  • The most basic building block in the brain is the brain stem, which keeps the body functioning-heart rate, temperature, sleep & fear states, etc. It develops in us as infants during 0-9 months of age.
  • Between 6 until 24 months of age, the midbrain is developing. This area helps to build  movement, or motor skills- both gross & fine. Our 5 senses are, also, combining and fine-tuning at this time within our bodies.
  • The limbic area is all about emotions. We can gain the skills of tolerance, empathy, belonging & social relationships during the ages of 12 to 24 months.
  • The most complex area of the brain is the cortical area. Developing between the ages of 3 until 6 years of age, this part of the brain controls concrete (factual) and abstract (creative) thought. Language skills, imagination, morality & respect are gains at this time of growth.

Since the brain grows & develops each of these sections in order, don’t ask  or expect your toddler to do something s/he is not ready to do. S/he is a “work-in-progress”. Remember each child develops in his/her own time/rate.

Keep reading for a few tips you don’t have to be a brain specialist to use.

 Encouraging  Your Toddler  Brain’s Growth & Development

Toddler's World of Wonder-Jennifer Wai Ting Tan
World of Wonder-Jennifer Wai Ting Tan

Did you know by the age of 3, your child’s brain is 80% as big as an adult’s brain?

Keep in mind your toddler continues to experience the world through all 5 of her/his senses. You & loved ones can encourage your toddler brain’s healthy growth & development everyday with a few things you are probably already doing. Dr. Gurian, a brain scientist, family therapist & author of Nurture the Nature, provides these guidelines for parents:

  • Nutrition: eating right means avoid junk food or sugary snacks & try not to have long lag times between meals
  • Rest: increasing sleep might help ease cranky/whiny behaviors
  • Discovery: exploring nature is an easy way to use all 5 senses
  • Readiness: teaching every “little” thing is “big” to your toddler, so not too much at once and only when s/he is developmentally ready
  • Independence: hovering  will interfere with your child’s need to develop, play & learn as an individual
  • Behaviors: providing lessons in “right & wrong” whenever you can

Now, just a few thoughts about video screens : television, computer, tablet, game console & phone……

Your Toddler’s Brain & Screen Time

More & more early child development studies are supporting the negative effects of too much screen time. Dr. Gurian and other developmental brain specialists shared some of the recent findings:

  • It can affect: behaviors, sleep, future obesity & mood development.
  • It can increase behavior problems: even after 1 hour of educational programs-is your child more aggressive, more passive and/or more lethargic?
  • It can translate into lower reading & short term  memory scores.

When I had my Home School, the TV was never on until the end of the day for PBS’ Reading Rainbow, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood & Sesame Street. The children, ages 1-5, wandered in & out of the room during Reading Rainbow & Sesame Street, watching for 2-3 minutes at a time. Mr. Rogers, however, held their attention for much longer periods of time. Often, they responded to his soft, calm questions earnestly, sitting very still and focused……

As my child grew up, television privileges were a sure-fire way to achieve behavior adjustments. It usually took about a week or so (withdrawal period-seriously) before my lovable, communicative & creative son returned.

Environment Matters in Brain Growth & Development

Once your Toddler has mastered many mobility skills (first building block), s/he will continue to use that movement & begin working/playing on the next building blocks. Early childhood authorities generally agree your young one is working on these  4 areas of growth & development at the same time:                                                                                                                             

Toddler Learning-Bessi
I Am Learning-Bessi
  • Physical-gross motor skills (the big muscles of crawling, walking, climbing, etc) & fine motor skills (hand-eye coordination of holding, coloring, cutting, throwing, catching, etc)

  • Language & Speech-understanding & expressing thought (vocabulary, sentence structure, etc)
  • Social/Emotional- understanding self & others (playing, sharing, feelings, etc)
  • Self-Help/Adaptive-being independent (dressing, feeding, etc)

Cognitive, or reasoning, develops later, usually beginning around 3 years old.So, now, you (and I) understand why our toddlers (and we) suffered misunderstandings…..

According to Dr. Margot Sunderland, a child psychotherapist with more than 30 years of experience working with families, creating an engaging environment for your growing child needs to involve all 5 of the senses, movement, social interaction & thought-at the same time. The benefits to your child’s brain health are:

  • lower levels of stress chemicals
  • decreased anxiety in an anxious child
  • new brain cell growth

“What I’m Trying So Hard To Say!!!”

If I accept the sunshine & warmth, then, I must also accept the thunder & lightning. ~ Kahlil Gibran

One minute your dimpled darling is full of giggles, hugs & kisses and within seconds (it seems), your red-faced toddler is crying, yelling & (yikes!) biting with an almost-full set of teeth.  Try to remain calm because your puzzled frustration is small (maybe) compared to the large tantrum going on now (AGAIN!!).

A major contributor to this repetitious scenario is your toddler’s inability to speak in words.  Those articulation muscles are not keeping up with what your child is able to think & understand.

Although s/he understands A LOT of words, your Toddler continues to work on the actual physical components of speech:

  • Articulation- how we make sounds
  • Voicing- how we use our vocal cords
  • Fluency- tone & rhythm

Your toddler’s slower, physical ability to express may not be keeping pace with what s/he is thinking & understanding. However, here’s a little chart on what may be happening and/or what is to come.

Speech & Language Chart of Growth & Development

Age in Months Receptive / Understanding Expressive / Speaking
By 30 months*Follows 2-step directions
*Consistently understands basic nouns, verbs, pronouns
*Understands "mine" & "yours"
*Can point to many body parts when asked
*Consistently uses 2-3 word phrases
*Knows & says own name
*Produces direction words, like in, out, on, off
*Begins to name requested objects
*Can say 400 words
*Participates in simple. take/turns conversation
*Repeats words heard in conversation
By 36 months*Understands opposites like hot/cold, big/small
*Simple understanding of colors, space, time
*Recognizes how objects are used
*Understands "why" questions
*Understands most simple sentences
*Produces 4-5 word sentences
*Uses plurals
*Answers simple "who, what, where" questions
*Answers more "yes/no" questions
*Can say almost 900 words
*May begin telling stories about experiences
*Able to express some simple feelings
*Sings favorite songs
*Likes to make up silly words
*Talks aloud to self & in imaginary play



Special thanks to North Shore Pediatric Therapy 4 Kids Infographic: “Speech & Language Milestones” and Katie’s October 2012 article: “Your Child’s Speech & Language-24-36 Months @ Playing with Words 365 for sharing their information.

And by age 3, WHOA!!! Be prepared for an explosion of brain-fueled questions, answers & anything else needing to be expressed. You’re going to be amazed !!!

You Can Boost Your Toddler’s Language Literacy

The ability to think, reason & problem solve grows out of language. ~ Rudolf Steiner

You can  help grow your mini Powerhouse’s ability to speak, using  some of  these tips collected from The Early Bird  Program Manual,  “Boosting Your Toddler’s Speech & Language” @ the piri-pirilexicon & Dr. Harvey Karp’s The Happiest Toddler on the Block  :

  • Point out interesting sights & sounds at home, outside, on errands, trips
  •  Use simple, but  real language-no baby talk
  • Repeat words a lot, so your child will remember them
  • Describe everything your child is interested in
  • Gesture more
  • Ask questions in a questioning way, but don’t push for an answer
  • Tell stories
  • Sing songs, especially rhyming ones
  • Let your child hear you talking to other people, pets, birds, etc
  • Stop & listen
  • Be positive & fun

Rhyming, interactive poems are very enjoyable to your Toddler. Remember “Itsy Bitsy Spider” & “Hickory Dickory Dock” ?

I have create 5 games using 5 short, simple rhymes to play with your child to encourage  speech while having fun:

Toddler Talk : 5 Interactive Body & Picture Play Rhymes

Click on the BLB Shop below & check it out.

https://www.bizzylizzybiz.com/shop/blb-press-writing-collection/toddler-finger-picture-play-rhymes/

The 3 Stages of Speech Development

There are 3 stages of speech development once your child is speaking, according to Dr. Karl Konig, a therapeutic pediatrician:

  • Saying – Your child uses one-word sentences to communicate a desire (more)  or emotion (here).
  • Naming – Your child can label a thing and, then, be specific (toy/truck).
  • Talking – Your child is using whole sentences during dialogue.

Need more information? Click on this link from my Resource library:   https://www.bizzylizzybiz.com/blb-resource-library/language-speech-development-sites/

Some Other Pieces to Your Toddler’s Puzzle

I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship. ~ Louisa May Alcott Little Women

Toddler-I Am Me!!
I Am Me!!

Yes, the Family Literacy Circle would not be complete unless the “personality” of your toddler is included. Believe it or not, this part of the growth & development is very important to understanding how learning is taking place as well as the communication being shared.

Dr. Harvey Karp, a pediatrician & author of The Happiest Toddler on the Block, offers a humorous & unique approach for meeting the challenges of your “cave-kid”. 

Many toddlers are a blend of easy, cautious & spirited, depending on their mood of the moment. Dr. Karp provides 9 behavior traits for parents to observe while trying to solve the “problems” s/he is gleefully creating.  They are:

  • Activity – Does your child enjoy playing quietly OR is s/he fidgety & constantly moving?
  • Regularity – Do you have a daily, predictable routine?
  • First Reaction – How does your child react to new situations?
  • Adaptability – How does your child handle change or unexpected events?
  • Intensity – Is your child mild/gentle OR boisterous/passionate?
  • Mood – Is your child usually happy/easy-going OR grumpy/easily frustrated?
  • Persistence – Does your child “go with the flow” OR fight all the way?
  • Attention Span – Is s/he focused during play OR  easily distracted?
  • Sensitivity – Is s/he unaware of small changes OR reactive to them?

Karp estimated 40% of toddlers are easy-going/flexible, 15% are cautious/sensitive  & 10% are spirited/challenging. He goes on to say that about one-third of toddlers don’t fit into any category.

My toddler was very spirited, could be cautious with some flexibility sprinkled in, but most of the time, he “steam-rolled over limits”. YAY…… What an eye-opener for adolescence-to-come!!!

What’s A Parent To Do ?!?!?

I’m not saying those few years were easy because I understood what was going on with my Mighty Mite…….  However, there were a few strategies  that worked for us, most of the time……

Having a Home School, my children & I relied on 3 of my Four Rs: Routine, Repetition & Ritual. Relax-not so much….

If you’re interested in some schedule-planning tips…..

BLB’s 10 R’s Schedule

How About a Little Chat ?!?

And now a few thoughts about communicating with your toddler-

  • Deep breathes before you begin speaking in short, simple phrases

    I'm Listening...-BarunPatro/toddler
    I’m Listening…-BarunPatro
  • See & speak eye-to-eye
  • Use gestures & facial expressions
  • Ask (see key words & phrases)
  • Re-phrase your negatives-no, don’t, can’t- into positives
  • Help your child to use words, not actions
  • Give choices-this or that?
  • Follow through on consequences-“when you/then”
  • Pick your battles, especially with a strong-willed toddler, because if you don’t – that is all you will do all day long for months & months

Grab your Relaxation whenever you can- it is a little easier in the evening, but Quiet Time is Quiet Time. In the meantime, enjoy watching your Toddler during play. It’s a powerful thing!

Follow this website link for more Parenting Your Toddler Tips:

https://www.naeyc.org/our-work/families/growing-independence-tips-parents-toddlers-and-twos

The Power of Play & Literacy

Play is the work of the child. ~ Maria Montessori

Even though your 2 year old toddler continues to play along side not with, others,  s/he may imitate some of their play movements. Parallel Play builds non-verbal & observation skills.

I Love To Play! -Kruszyyzna0
I Love To Play! -Kruszyyzna0

S/he will begin to notice patterns in the world, identify things that match & label, sort & organize things using color words. I observed toddlers at this age lining up their toys according to size & color or putting them in groups.

Around 2 1/2 years old, you may overhear your toddler engaging in fantasy, or pretend play. S/he might play simple games that require taking turns. S/he is preparing to be interested in Cooperative, or Associative Play, which usually occurs as a 3 year old.

The article, “Using Play to Build the Brain” @ gooeybrains.com, included an infographic by Bruce Perry, a leading psychiatrist at the Child Trauma Academy, explaining the developmental skills children gain through play. Here’s my version.

BLB's Bruce Perry's Play Skills Model

Encouraging & Nurturing Your Toddler’s Imagination

Imagination is more important than knowledge. ~ Albert Einstein

Listening to Pretend Play is one of the most enlightening ways to gain a glimpse into your child’s heart, mind, and spirit. It is fascinating! Even with minimal dialogue, his/her gestures, facial expressions & body language will communicate what s/he is saying during the serious work of play.

Funny Me! Frank-McKenna
Funny Me! Frank-McKenna

In the past 40 years, there’s been a revolution in our scientific understanding of babies & young children. Long before they can read or write, they have extraordinary powers of imagination and creativity, and long before they go to school, they have remarkable learning abilities. ~ Alison Gopnik “The Start of Thinking” for Time Magazine’s The Science of Childhood

Ann Ruethling & Patti Pitcher, who co-authored Under the Chinaberry Tree, observed that creativity is necessary to imagine new solutions  with new ways of living to solve the world’s problems. They offer suggestions that really work for engaging your budding critical thinker.

  • Allow time for your child to experience hours of fantasy & outdoor play with very few toys that have only one answer & are prepackaged.
  • Allow your child to be bored without rescuing him/her because it stimulates creativity.
  • Always have materials to make things available at home, like string, sticks & boxes.
  • Limit structured daily time because it closes opportunities for open-ended play.
  • Make messes & mistakes

For centuries, children have created their toy-tools out of whatever they can find around them. They  model for us-who have forgotten- how to synchronize work with play !

Your Toddler Is A Toy Maker

My parents , who raised 5, yes 5 giggly girls, love to tell the story of the rocking horse we received one Christmas. “Red” was a large, wooden, hand-painted, red horse, accented with black detail. He had heavy, coiled springs attached to a frame and lived in our living room for almost 10 years until the youngest had her last ride.

The huge box Red arrived in received most of the attention-for days-until it couldn’t stand anymore.

With nothing more than a little imagination, boxes can be transformed into forts or houses, spaceships or submarines, castles or caves. Inside a big cardboard box, a child is transported to a world of his/her own, where anything is possible. ~ National Toy Hall of Fame

Your toddler enjoys playing with a variety of  toys. Until around 3 years old s/he will continue to “mouth” them. The list is simple:

  • push & pull toys
  • large & shaped blocks
  • cars & trucks
  • rocking horse
  • tricycle or low-rider
  • small & large balls
  • musical toys
  • dolls & stuffed animals
  • dress-up clothes
  • table, chairs & play dishes

Bubbles, Bubbles, Bubbles ! A Perfect Toy!

 Do we ever “outgrow” our love of bubbles?!? Hmmmm, let’s see… bubble baths, bubbly drinks, bubble gum, foam, froth, frolic…

BUBBLES!!!!Leo-Rivas-Micoud/toddler
BUBBLES!!!!Leo-Rivas-Micoud

Bubbles are fascinating fun, especially to your toddler.  Chasing them can engage him/her for a while, especially if those bubbly “toys” make a landing before popping.

Oh yes, and popping them is fun, too! Big ones, small ones, wiggly ones, windy ones! 

Learning to make & blow bubbles is a proud moment for her/him. Added bonus-speech muscles are being worked & new vocabulary is being learned.

Besides being introduced to a few scientific facts & skills, your child is, also, learning about:

  • cause & effect
  • visual tracking
  • hand-eye coordination
  • shapes
  • imagination & creativity

Here’s a wonderful “bubble” website you can link to connect on:

https://leftbraincraftbrain.com/how-bubbles-work-20-things-to-do-with-them/

Bubbling with Excitement Over Books

You may have tangible wealth untold. Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold. Richer than I you can never be – I had a mother who read to me. ~ Strickland Gillilan

Your toddler’s brain is like  sponge, soaking up enormous amounts of information. However,  s/he needs constant repetition because s/he forgets most of what s/he is absorbing.

What Research Has Discovered

Reading is a crucial part of bonding and brain development. Although s/he is not understanding many of the words yet, his/her future depends on the number of words heard when spoken & read. (Dr. Michael Gurian, author of Nurture the Nature, 2007)

The first three years of exploring & playing with books, singing nursery rhymes, listening to stories, recognizing words & scribbling (more on this topic later on in this blog) are truly the building blocks for language & literacy development. (“Early Literacy” @zerotothree.org/BrainWonders, 2003)

Toddler Reading- Public Domain Pictures
Toddler Reading- Public Domain Pictures

When parents & loved ones show their young children how positive the reading experience is while sharing books, they play a powerful role in their children’s reading achievement. (Strickland & Denny, 1989)

Children who have had many loving, enjoyable reading experiences before coming to school “feel the joy of making sense of the mystery of print”. (Cullinen, 1989)

Research has discovered, reading favorite stories again & again (be ready to purchase several copies of several, well-loved books-I did), is very important to the literacy development of children. After repeated readings, children will “respond more frequently to questions in more complex ways”. (Teale &Sulzby 1987)

 Discovering Your Toddler’s Favorite Books

Does your toddler carry around some of his/her books?

Have you noticed her/him reading them to stuffed animals & dolls?

Good job, Parents! Reading & books are part of your child’s life.

Ready to introduce more books into your Toddler’s library?

My Very Own Library - Pexels/toddler
My Very Own Library – Pexels

Choose books with simple, realistic life images; touchy/textured parts & look-and-see discovery flaps. S/he will begin turning the pages back & forth. Soon, s/he will noticed the print and ask you what it says.

Here are some suggestions from “BrainWonders & Sharing Books with Babies” @zerotothree.com:

  • books with simple stories
  • rhyming books that can be memorized
  • bedtime books
  • books about: shapes. sizes, numbers & the alphabet
  • books about: animals, vehicles, playtime
  • books about saying hello & goodbye

Need a few actual book titles? Check out these book lists in BLB’s Resource Library:

https://www.bizzylizzybiz.com/resources/building-baby-and-toddlers-first-library-of-25-book-titles/

 Making Books Together

Draw a  book with your Toddler watching. Make  books with photos. Including your Toddler’s life in these photo books is fun and a great ways to build language, literacy & self-esteem. Here’s some ideas for  (Baby’s Name) Helps At Home:

  • Cooking in the Kitchen – Mommy mixes in a bowl / I can mix in a bowl;  I put water in a pot / Daddy makes pasta; etc
  • Cleaning Around the House – Mommy & I dust; Daddy & I vacuum; I help Mommy & Daddy wash, dry, fold & put away clothes
  • Playing Together – We read together; we sing & dance together; we build together; we walk the dog together

BLB Shop has a short e-book full of ideas:

https://www.bizzylizzybiz.com/shop/blb-press-writing-collection/make-25- interactive-babylovephoto-books/

 A Few Words About Literacy & Wordless Picture Books

Sharing wordless picture books with your Toddler is a great way to encourage the growth of important Literacy skills. It builds oral language, vocabulary, comprehension & listening skills. Since you are creating the story, be sure to include a beginning, middle & end.

Spend time looking at the cover and talking about the book’s title. Enjoy the pictures, point out a few things,  and stay on one page as long as your Toddler is interested. Here is a Wordless Picture Book reference list from BLB’s Resource Library:

 https://www.bizzylizzybiz.com/blb-resource-library/wordless-picture-books/

How to encourage Your Toddler’s Literacy with Reading

You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read to a child. ~ Dr. Seuss

Let's Read Together -Dassel/toddler
Let’s Read Together -Dassel

Interactive reading- talking with your child about the story while the story is being read- encourages language development. Questions about the pictures & the story engage your Toddler’s attention. Comments & predictions will soon follow.

Your 2 year old Toddler may want the story s/he has heard before to be read exactly like you’ve read it the previous 10 times.  You may hear him/her reading this same story to pets & toys.

S/he will not only be pointing & identifying objects in the pictures, s/he will begin identifying the actions, too. S/he may want to hear longer and more complex stories read at different times.

When reading a book with your Toddler, encourage good reading habits by using this sequence:

  • reading the title/author/illustrator
  • looking at the book cover, ask your child to make a prediction about the story before opening the book
  • occasionally asking your child “what is happening” by looking at the pictures, especially if s/he seems “fixed” on a picture
  • tracking the words as you read
  • occasionally asking “recall” questions – what/how/do you think
  • introducing “surprise”
  • using expression as you read/changing voices for characters
  • reading the story again
  • enjoying the story with your child & make it entertaining

NOTE: If your wiggly Toddler is not interested in reading a book together, please do not push it. S/he will bring a book to you soon. Just make sure s/he sees you & loved ones reading & writing. Yes, maybe, s/he is more interested in writing…..

 A  Writer or Artist  In Your Family Literacy Circle?

Your Toddler’s fine motor skills are becoming more defined.  S/he is able to stack block towers, string  beads, hold  a spoon when eating & turn the pages of a book.

Include your child when writing short messages- phone, greeting cards, love notes. Show your child the difference between writing & drawing. When you write the grocery shopping list, include some drawings- apples, milk jug, macaroni.

Toddler & Chalk-Debsch
Toddler & Chalk-Debsch

Make sure fat pencils, crayons & sidewalk chalk are available for your Toddler to use at home.

If your child likes to draw on paper, you can make a very special “book” together.  After her/his drawing is completed, ask about it. Write the sentence, or words, on a sticky note. Ask if you can write it on the front or back of the picture. Make a collection of these in a book you can read together.

Your Toddler’s oral and written expressions are important ways to build growth in literacy. There are no rules-just opportunities!

If you’ve read to the end of this (WHEW!) long post about your child’s BIG year, I have a little something for you & yours. Click, download & print on the link below for some PlayDay ideas with your Toddler.

Toddler Playday

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