This gets long so I’ve just bolded the important stuff, then whoever braves reading this can hopefully skim to the part they need. Followers/Admins, feel free to add your own thoughts…!
The most complicated thing about a toddler is knowing how to deal with them. Toddlers are impulsive and demanding - they don’t understand the world around them or other people enough to weigh in things like 1) the situation, 2) everyone else’s moods and 3) how reasonable their request is when they start throwing a fit. Basically, they’re unable to empathise in the same way an adult can.
So here is a sort of cheat-sheet to help you work out what a toddler is capable of doing and saying. Please note that all children differ.
By two, babies have enough of a vocabulary to actually communicate with the adults around them. They’re capable of phrases rather than sentences. Things like:
'Juice?' - ‘I’m thirsty’, ‘Where is my juice cup?’ or ‘I want my juice cup’. (Replace with pretty much any physical object/person the child has learnt to address, ie ‘Sweeties?’, ‘Toys?’, ‘Daddy?’)
'Bye bye!' - ‘Goodbye’, ‘I understand that this television programme/song/game is finished now’ or ‘I’m done with your shit and I’m not going to obey your orders. Chase me.’
Shortened words. Banana becomes ‘nah-nah’ and most foods/other objects are shortened/poorly replicated versions of the actual word.
Very simple sentences to convey a meaning, such as, ‘It hurts!’, ‘That was mammy (I heard from across the room/on the phone/I saw pass by the window)’. Usually just something they’ve learnt to repeat from those around them, so they don’t always use it in context.
'Yack!'/'Yuck!' - ‘My nappy is dirty’, ‘I don’t like the taste of that food you’ve just forced into my mouth’ or ‘My hands are covered in sticky things and it’s your job to clean them’.
'No.' - ‘I’m not going to eat that’, ‘I’m not going to play that game’, ‘I’m not going to watch this television programme’, ‘I want to see daddy, yes, but I’m going to say ‘no’ anyway because I like that word better’ or ‘I don’t want to do what you’re asking of me’.
'Bababuhbbuhagfugjjhug'. Random gibberish that toddler says in between coherent words/phrases. In my opinion, they’re trying to simulate a conversation but know they can get away with putting in the absolute bare minimum of effort.
Repetition. All children at this age try to repeat the things you say and do. Most of the time they achieve gibberish, but if you repeat a word often enough, they’ll memorise it.
Generally speaking, toddlers have very mundane conversations where they repeat just about everything in their limited vocabulary to get the whole range of rehearsed reactions you have available.
- Toddlers cry a lot because they lack any ability to express the range of emotions they’re experiencing.
- They thrive under routine, as it makes them feel safe and secure. Disruptions to the routine means a cranky, unsettled and irritable two year old.
- Toddlers have limitless amounts of energy. They don’t stop throwing themselves around, even if they haven’t slept for twelve hours. It’s up to you to enforce bedtime, otherwise your toddler will stay awake until his body goes into automatic shut down.
- They’re rough-handed and have to be taught to be gentle. This is why pets scatter when they see a toddler crashing into the room. They know it’s tail-pulling and back-slapping time.
That said, toddlers do have their own personalities and quirks which is why this guide really can’t beat actually being around a toddler or two. Here’s a brief summary of the differences I’ve observed between my two oldest nephews (I’ll call ‘em A and B) to give you a little reference sheet of how to develop these individual differences:
Playtime: A is very quiet. Used to playing on his own, so you have to really dedicate yourself to getting him up on his feet or engaged in a game (but once you do, he doesn’t sit back down again or accept that the game has an end). On the other hand, B never sits down ever, not even during his allotted television time. Pretty sure he’d stand up in his high chair if able. Always in the mood for games and says/does funny things to make everyone laugh.
Discipline: B is strong-willed and doesn’t understand the concept of, ‘Don’t touch that’ or ‘Don’t do that’. If you shout at him, he puts his head down, looks very sad and then cries into his hands until you distract him with a new game or tickles. A is similar, but goes in a huff for a very long time and possibly won’t speak to/look at you for the rest of the day. Will continually retry his evil plan and scream/cry louder every time he’s thwarted.
Outside: Neither A nor B like holding hands with designated adult whilst outside. Also set on ‘auto-run’ for the entire time with no way of turning it off. Both incapable of sitting still for car rides and like to test the child lock feature at frequent intervals throughout the journey.
Potty training: Both A and B reluctant to use potties. Need encouragement, so praised extensively after any achievement. B a lot lazier than A when it comes to flagging up a warning. A sometimes so determined not to use potty, that he says nothing at all until you notice his pants are soaked through.
Conversation: A’s favourite words: ‘Car’, ‘Bick’ (bike), ‘Noisy bick’, ‘No’, ‘Grandad’. B’s favourite words: ‘Spidey’, ‘An Man’ (Iron Man), ‘Uck’ (Hulk), ‘Mammy’, ‘Daddy’, ‘Imims’ (Minions). Both ask for ‘Mammy’ when crying.
Mealtime: B eats anything and everything. Appears to have no workable taste buds as even enjoys the fizziest sweets out of the offered selection. A is fussy with food, prefers chips, sweets, chips and chips. Dislikes anything gooey or odd in texture. Expects reward after attempting the main meal.
Bath time: A hates the water, hates it on his head especially. Attempting to wash hair leads to many tears. Prefers to play quietly with toys in tub with occasional splashing. Do not get in the bath with A, as he cries. It’s HIS bath time, damn it! B on the other hand is like a mermaid baby and frequently dumps his face into the water and rears his head laughing like an adorable kraken. Lots of splashing. Enjoys baths with others.
Bedtime: A believes sleep is for the weak and will do everything in his power to stay awake. Cries when you give up on story time after he flips the page back to the beginning for the umpteenth time. B accepts bedtime with no fuss, but will crawl (and not walk) to the bed to buy time. Gets in bed without problem, and listens to bedtime story whilst gazing into the distance. Forces sleep upon himself to end the banality. Both A and B wake up obscenely early, no matter how late they went to sleep.
It’s basically all the same but they have a larger vocabulary and a weaker tolerance for your bullshit. Three-four-year-old kids are more open to challenging you, especially on the things you thought you knew. This is where they surprise you with almost intelligent observations and suggestions. For example, A was four when we had this exchange:
Me: Look, A, that new school they’re building is so huge…!
A: It’s got lots of windows!
Grandma: Yes, it does! And lots of doors and - I don’t know what those are.
Me: They look like big vents.
A: I think they’re for the kitchens when they’re cooking food and it gets too hot.
Me & Grandma: Ohhh…!
However, they’re not so great at thinking outside of the box. It’s usually by the age of five that children start adding, ‘Well, maybe it’s because…’ onto the end of any statement you make, and the suggestion is usually something innocent/imaginative like:
Me: I’m so annoyed! Somebody hasn’t put these books back.
A: Maybe they just forgot.
Me: No, I think they were just too lazy.
A: Yeah! Or maybe they had something else to do and went to do that instead. Or what if they heard something outside and went to see? Wouldn’t that be funny? What do you think they heard?
Children don’t lose their hyperactivity either, or their silliness. They’re easily amused and entertained. Their speech is also imperfect. Well, everybody’s is, but they have less of an understanding of grammar and sentence order, so you get funny things like:
A: (when being read to) Don’t forget to read the blob on the back!
A: Have you seen all those mices on the TV? There’s loads! (laughs for about ten minutes)
A: Well, I runned the other way so my friend didn’t see me.
A: (when singing along to Zedd, ‘Clarity’) If uhh roooohhh’s inananiny weh yoo MY CLARITY.
A: If the picture’s taked and I shut my eyes can I do it again? Because that time I think I shut my eyes.
And that’s about all I can think of adding at the moment. I hope this is somewhat helpful…!