We know life is busy, and parents want what's best for their growing toddlers. What they might not realize is that
85% of brain growth occurs in the first three years. Many things contribute to development during this time period, so it's important to talk to your child to get them on board with growing big and strong. In order to develop emotionally and physically healthy children, we need to communicate positivity in everything we say.
There are many ways to offer positive reinforcement to help your toddler's development. Here are seven to try:
1. "Let's turn off the iPad and read a book together. Will you turn the pages?"
Reading to your toddler builds language and literacy skills long before they can read on their own. Early vocabulary and listening skills help predict later success in reading and other school subjects. And your toddler can't have enough good books.
Books that are best bets at this age have engaging, imaginative illustrations and help develop basic language and number concepts. If your toddler shows an interest in a special topic, like animals or cars and trucks, look for books that feature them. Caring and sharing messages and cultural diversity are all a plus; scary plots aren't.
2. "Let's have some milk instead of juice."
When transitioning off formula or breast milk, it's important to ensure that your toddler is still getting all of the nutrients they need to grow strong. Since toddlers can sometimes be selective in which foods they eat, it can be a challenge to get all of their nutrition via food. Often parents incorporate milk into their little one's diet because it is fortified with vitamin D.
3. "Let's go outside and practice riding your big kid bike!"
Toddlers love to move. Anything they can ride on, push, pull, or otherwise move with helps them practice motor skills and coordination—and burns off some of their boundless energy. Consider wagons, pedal-free bikes, doll strollers, play grocery carts, pull toys, plastic bowling sets, hammering toys, and large and small balls.
4. "Let's try a tiny taste of that broccoli, one more time."
Toddlers often change their food preferences on what can seem like a daily basis. This can be frustrating for parents, who can feel like they have succeeded in getting their little one to eat a certain vegetable or other food, to then find that their toddler turns their nose up at it the next time it is offered.
Research shows that persistence is key. It takes about 15 exposures to a food before a child can learn to accept the taste and like it. Never force your child to eat a food, or scold them for not trying it, but do your best to make eating fun and remind them that the foods they put in their body will help them grow big and strong.
Try cutting the food into different sizes, offering a "sauce" to dip it into (like a bit of ketchup), or turn mealtime into a game and count the pieces that disappear into your toddler's belly.
5. "Let's figure out this puzzle together.
"Toddlers practice skills over and over through play. Toys that give them a chance to figure things out on their own help build creative and logical thinking skills. Such activities also help kids work on fine motor skills, spatial relations skills (how things fit and work together), and hand-eye coordination.
Open-ended toys for creative play are also great since that can be used in many different ways. These kinds of toys include puzzles with large pieces, shape sorters, nesting blocks or cups, art materials (play clay, paint, thick crayons), and wood blocks.
6. "Let's go outside and work in our garden.
"Research has shown that children who spend time outdoors are more physically active, more creative in their play, less physically aggressive, and show better concentration. Exposure to nature also plants the seeds early for becoming more eco-sensitive later in life.
Try a big net for catching bugs or minnows, toys for outdoor play (such as balls), a sandbox and sand toys (shovels, dump trucks), and gardening tools (like a child-size rake and watering can).
7. "Let's ask Grandma for tickets to the zoo for your birthday"
When it comes to birthdays and holidays, everyone loves to shower your little one with gifts. But remember that not every gift has to come in a package.
Research has shown that life experiences make people happier, and your toddler will be no exception. Encourage friends and family to celebrate by bringing your toddler somewhere special and new.
Suggest a day at the zoo, a farm, or a garden; a backyard tea party; a visit to a different playground; or a performance for young children (of music, dance, or puppets, for example). Be sure to take photos, too, so you and your toddler can revisit the experience for years to come.