The toddler years are the time of tremendous brain and physical development, making these foundation years the base for all future stages. It is a time for supervised character development within a secure and protected environment.
The brain achieves 90% of adult brain weight by the end of year 5. Studies have shown that stress and nutrition effect brain development and that a healthy environment is very important for its growth. According to a longitudinal study performed in China, vocabulary strength at ages 3-5 was shown to have direct relationship to IQs of children in grade 3 or higher.
The toddler’s inquisitiveness in this stage knows no limits and everything seems to be important. It quenches this thirst by asking constant questions (“why?”, “how?”), thus rapidly increasing its vocabulary and knowledge of the world. It explores, experiments and learns from mistakes. Overprotected toddlers, who are not allowed to make mistakes and overcome challenges themselves, often start to doubt their abilities and are less prepared for future life challenges.
Also motor skills develop and physical activity increases at a rapid pace. A toddler moves from shaky first steps at the beginning of this Blob, to quick walking, running, jumping, hopping and cycling within a few years. The energy reserves of kids in this age sometimes seem to be infinite. Also, fine motoric skills develop. The child learns to use the thumb and demonstrates this successfully in the use of a pencil and scissor. It learns to dress itself and helps with household tasks.
Toddlers also develop an increased desire for independence and learn the usage of the word “I”. Thinking is still very ego-centric and they have difficulties understanding the view-point of others. This ability is trained in make-believe play and stories (Barbie, fairies, transformers,…). They develop complex imaginative play involving inanimate objects capable of actions and life-like qualities.
Social skills and interaction develop. In this pre-school age, toddlers learn to play cooperatively with others, they develop relationships and learn the feeling of belonging to a group. They learn to communicate, to joke and to sing. They learn to express their feelings and show concern, some times being very cooperative, but at other times being very demanding. They still have difficulties dealing with their emotions, thus resulting in frequent meltdowns of temper tantrums and shows of frustration.
Nowadays technology is taking an ever important role even in the toddler Blob, making many ponder over ‘how young is too young?’. Toddlers are confident with using laptops, smartphones or tablets even before the start school. Many toddlers today learn to read on tablets and eReaders. They mimic parent’s technology behavior and use technology for several hours every day. Very often parents use smart phones and tablets to pacify their crying toddler or to divert its attention, thus involuntarily, inhibiting the development of vital skills such as self-regulation. The limited face-to-face time that many toddlers have today is related to lower development of social skills and empathy. On the other hand, the usage of such technology seems to come naturally to the little ones, and with controlled usage, it can help develop many skills which are a required to be able to develop in to digital citizens, fit to survive in this age of technology.
The left (logical) side of the brain is not yet fully developed and toddlers can not mentally
manipulate information that well. At this stage the right (feeling) brain is strongest and research has shown that toddlers (and infants) who do not feel secure or loved may have to struggle with trust issues even in their adult lives. This secure environment, where they can develop a trust in the world and in their own abilities, is mostly provided by family, close family friends and within a secure day care center. Within this closed environment, they need close supervision, but also the freedom to develop, so that their egoism can develop into self-confidence and the emotions can be channeled towards the achievement of goals in the following stages.
Click here for Blob 2: Child
Understand why the 7-year life stages are outdated in this Blog
Resources and References
Attachment and Adult Relationships : How the Attachment Bond Shapes Adult Relationships
Tracing children’s vocabulary development from preschool through the school-age years: An 8-year longitudinal study