Your child is now two, and has become even more assertive. But his defiance really results from the tug-of-war between his desire for independence and his continuing need for help. What he’s doing — again and again — is testing his limits.
Along with independence come expanded language skills. He can now speak in short sentences and has become more purposeful, telling you what he needs or wants. He is also beginning to understand abstract concepts. He can ask for more milk, and enquire about whether he can go to bed later. But he still doesn’t understand what next month or next year means.
He can form images in his mind, and organise his toys by size, or colour, or shape. His memory is improving and he may be able to tell you at the end of the day what he had for lunch.
Toddlers are energetic little people, so look for toys and activities that give yours a way to channel his energy. Also look for toys that challenge his developing mind.
Ride-on toys: Your child will still love wheeled toys he can push himself along on, such as tricycles (pedalling is still probably more than he can handle). Look for ride-on toys that are well balanced. Luggage compartments that allow your child to pack and unpack for his trips are a nice feature.
Balls: Balls continue to be a favourite, but even more so now that your toddler can target his throws. A few tots this age even make the occasional catch. Set up a waste paper bin as a “goal” and see who can throw the ball in from a short distance. Or make two “goals” in the garden and introduce your child to a simple version of football.
Art supplies: Let your child be creative. Set up an area in your home where it’s okay for him to be messy. You can prompt his artistry by asking your toddler to draw certain things: the sky, or grass, or even what the sound of rain looks like. When you’re feeling brave — or maybe the word is energetic — bring out poster paints and some broad brushes, stand well back and see what he produces.
Percussive instruments: This is the age when music inspires dancing, clapping, spinning, hopping, even shouting — so why not add to the fun by handing over a tambourine, or drum, or rhythm sticks? Experiment with different genres of music and invite your child to beat out an accompaniment.
Dressing-up clothes: Pretend play starts to take off about now. Designate a drawer or a box for dressing-up clothes and stuff it with an assortment of shirts, skirts, hats, shoes, and whatever might inspire some imaginative romps. If nothing else, it’s a great excuse to practise putting stuff on and taking it off — an exercise two-year-olds seem to love.
Child-sized household equipment: Toys for dramatic play need to be realistic. So buy a set of toy dishes, pots and pans, and play food. Set up a small table and chairs where your child can host tea and dinner parties. Acquire a small broom, or even a little vacuum cleaner, to make cleaning up fun, too.
Construction toys: Your child may become interested in construction now. Consider giant blocks or toys with pieces that can be linked or snapped together. Your child may be able to create wonderfully wonky buses, trains, farms, houses and more.
Imaginative: Your child’s new dexterity has opened up many new play possibilities. He can more easily organise cups so that one nestles inside another, assemble four- or five-piece puzzles, use a set of play keys to open doors in a play house, and dress and undress a doll dressed with laces, snaps, and buckles.
By the time your child reaches his third birthday, he’ll be ready for more challenging toys. After all, if he can put on his own T-shirt, wash and dry his own hands, and brush his own teeth, he can certainly manage blocks and even simple memory or board games. Most three-year-olds can also draw a vertical line and now’s the perfect time to set up an “art” gallery on the fridge.
At this age your child is a confident walker, runner, and jumper, and may be able to balance on one foot for a second or more. That means it’s time to let him play with scaled-down sports equipment. He may want to include other children in his games, and he’ll really begin to notice and focus on them, which allows him to play more structured games.
As he gets older, your toddler will become increasingly imaginative. He’s no longer concerned just with his physical effect on the world and will start developing his own story lines, characters, plots, and adventures. Giving him clothes and props for pretend play — something as simple as a cardboard box can be a spaceship, a castle, and so on — will help encourage this area of his development.
Puzzles: Toddlers are developing their problem-solving skills and hand-eye co-ordination at this age, and nothing tests their new abilities better than basic jigsaw puzzles. Look for ones with large pieces and a simple, easily recognisable picture.
Beginning board or memory games: Your toddler’s brain development will benefit from learning how to play a simple board game such as Snakes and Ladders or a card game like Snap.
Child-sized dishes, pots, and pans: Children this age love to pretend and play imaginary games, and one of the things they like best is to imitate Mummy and Daddy. A play kitchen gives them license to mix up all kinds of imaginary concoctions. Throw in a few empty sample-size food containers (tiny mustard jars, mini jam pots, etc) and your child could become the next Jamie Oliver!
Construction sets: Most toddlers this age are masters at stacking several blocks, but that doesn’t mean the game loses its appeal. They especially enjoy blocks that lock together because they can use their budding imagination — and hand-eye coordination — to build higher, more complex towers. Natural wood or coloured blocks are also perennial favourites.
Art supplies: Your child will be ready and willing to experiment with art of all kinds. Perhaps you could invest in an art kit — look for one with a variety of supplies — or assemble one yourself by gathering your own materials a little at a time and storing them in a plastic lunchbox. Children this age love crayons, Play-doh, plasticine, collage basics like magazines and old cards, glitter, and sticky coloured shapes. Just make sure everything is washable and non-toxic.
Outdoor equipment: As your child really starts to grow into his physical skills, he’ll love toys that let him test his new abilities. Swings and sports equipment, such as balls and bats, footballs and play golf sets are perfect toys for this age group.
Books & Puppets: Your toddler’s language skills and vocabulary are getting more sophisticated, so it’s more important than ever to surround him with age-appropriate books. Children this age are starting to follow narratives and can understand more complicated words and stories. Puppets are frequently used in schools to help develop language skills and this can be easily supplemented at home.