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What to Teach Your Toddlers at Home

digital literacy for kids

How Can I Get My Toddler to Focus?

How Can I Get My Toddler to Listen?

How Do I Discipline My Toddler?

How Do I Toilet Train My Toddler?

How Do I Get My Toddler to Sleep Alone?

Final Thoughts: Embracing Toddlerhood

Did you recently celebrate your child’s first birthday? Congratulations—you have a walking, talking toddler before you!

Now that the baby days are over, what life skills should you teach your toddler at home?

At the toddler stage (between the ages of one and three), you can expect your child to gain independence, develop a personality, and fill your heart with joy—while occasionally driving you up the wall! Apart from keeping up with your active toddler, you should also prepare your little one to deal with everyday situations.

In this parenting guide, you’ll learn practical ways to teach age-appropriate life skills to your toddler:

How Can I Get My Toddler to Focus?

teach toddler focus

Wonder why your toddler loses interest in a toy or activity after a few minutes? 

To a curious toddler, everything is new and fascinating. Like an eager scientist, your toddler is constantly trying to learn more about the world. A toddler stuffing a toy in her mouth is exploring taste and texture, while a toddler at the playground is developing his sense of balance and spatial awareness.

With so much to discover—and so little time—it is perfectly normal for your toddler to move quickly between objects and activities. According to child development experts, this is how long you can expect your toddler to stay focused:

  • 1 year old: 2 to 3 minutes
  • 2 years old: 4 to 6 minutes
  • 3 years old: 6 to 8 minutes

This is why the best activities for toddlers are short and simple. Let them take the lead, and don’t force them to stay on task if they have lost interest. 

To improve your toddler’s concentration, you can: 

  • Choose interactive toys. Your toddler will spend more time on toys that stimulate curiosity, such as push-button toys that move or play music. 
  • Read aloud to your toddler. Begin with short board books, and progress to longer stories when you sense that your toddler is ready.
  • Play seek-and-find games. Try games that involve searching for something, such as “I Spy.”
  • Introduce sensory play. Make your own playdough, create your own sandbox, or fill a bin with food items such as uncooked pasta. (Be sure to avoid choking hazards, and always supervise play.)

FUN FACT: Did you know that your toddler is twice as brainy as you? A two-year-old’s brain has twice as many synapses (links between brain cells) as an adult. Hence, a toddler’s brain is always busy absorbing information at top speed!

How Can I Get My Toddler to Listen?

toddler listening skills

It may surprise you, but many babies can already listen to one-step instructions at 10 months of age!

Why is it important for toddlers to listen, as well as take instructions? For one, instructions provide a way to keep your toddler safe. For instance, you might want your toddler to stop and wait for you, rather than dash onto the road. 

You can also give instructions to teach your toddler good habits and behaviours, such as putting away their toys after playtime or washing their hands after play. 

If your toddler doesn’t seem to be listening to you, don’t assume that he or she is developing a rebellious streak. Instead, make these simple changes to help your toddler listen better:

  • Go back to basics. Use simple words that your toddler can understand, and keep your sentences short.
  • Say it once. Don’t nag, and give your toddler time to respond to you. 
  • Don’t give complex instructions. Keep in mind that most toddlers can only process two-part instructions. (Example: first take this book, and then put it on the shelf.) If your toddler has trouble understanding two-part instructions, break the instruction into single parts. 
  • Make eye contact. When giving instruction, get down to your toddler’s level and ensure that there is eye contact before you begin talking. If necessary, tap on your toddler’s shoulder to have him or her look at you while you are speaking.
  • Use positive terms. Tell your toddler what to do, instead of what not to do. An example is “Please walk” instead of “Don’t run.” 
  • Use visuals. To help your toddler better understand what is being said, you can point or use actions and other visual cues.
  • Check your toddler’s understanding. You can do this by asking your toddler to repeat your instructions. 
  • Model the right behaviour. Demonstrate what you’d like your toddler to do by showing how it should be done. 

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How Do I Discipline My Toddler?

toddler discipline

Your baby could do no wrong, but your toddler—now that’s a different story! 

Are toddlers old enough to be disciplined by their parents? Yes they are, and it is good to get an early start, because consistency is important for letting toddlers know which behaviours are acceptable, and which aren’t. 

Sometimes, correcting your toddler’s behaviour could result in tantrums, but don’t be disheartened. Remember: a tantrum is your toddler’s way of expressing frustration, as toddlers don’t yet have the words to tell you how they feel. (Read our tips for managing toddler tantrums here.)

Below are some common toddler misbehaviours that you might face, with suggestions for how you can handle these situations:

Biting. Like tantrums, biting is sometimes a way for toddlers to express frustration. If your toddler bites you, say “Ouch!” or “That hurts!” to let your toddler know that biting is wrong. If your toddler bites another child, you can say “No biting” or “We don’t bite,” before attending to the child who has been bitten—this lets your toddler know that biting is not a way to gain attention.

Hitting and kicking. The best way to teach your toddler that physical aggression is unacceptable is to never hit your toddler. If your toddler hits you or a playmate, saying “Ouch!” and “We don’t hit” will convey the message that this is unacceptable. When your toddler is calm, you can read children’s books about anger, and practise healthy ways to release emotions, such as taking deep breaths or clapping one’s hands.

Not sharing. Toddlers haven’t developed the ability to care about someone else’s needs, so don’t force a toddler to share before they are ready. For a younger toddler on a playdate, distraction can work very well to let everyone have a turn at a desired toy. For older toddlers, you can set a timer to let them know that their “turn” is up.

Interrupting. It may seem that your toddler can never let you talk to someone else in peace—this is because your toddler feels threatened when your attention has shifted elsewhere. If you are about to take a phone call or receive a visitor, let your toddler know in advance, and give her an activity to do during this time. Alternatively, tell your toddler to place a hand on your arm when she has something pressing to say, so that you can attend to her during a pause in your conversation with someone else.

In general, to deal with a toddler’s misbehaviour, you can use any of the following approaches:

  • Ignore your toddler’s bad behaviour. 
  • Talk to your toddler at eye level, and explain why the behaviour is not right. 
  • Redirect your toddler’s behaviour with clear instructions. For instance, if your toddler is still playing after you have told him to put a toy away, you can say, “It’s time for dinner, please keep your toy.”
  • Set consequences for misbehaviour, such as taking a toy away for the rest of the day.
  • Call a timeout, where your toddler spends a few minutes in a safe space for some quiet time after misbehaving.

As a parent, you are your child’s biggest role model, so let your toddler see you practising positive behaviours, such as speaking respectfully to others. You can also highlight positive behaviours in storybooks or videos, so that your toddler has a clear idea of what to strive for. Better still, try to catch your toddler behaving well, and give plenty of praise.

How Do I Toilet Train My Toddler?

toddler toilet training

Unsure if you should start toilet training your toddler? The best time for toilet training depends mostly on your child’s readiness. 

Many parents begin potty training shortly after their child’s second birthday. However, it is fine to wait if your child isn’t ready. You should also delay potty training if your family is experiencing a major change, such as moving to a new home.

Below are some signs that your toddler is ready for potty training. Your toddler should:

  • Have a dry nappy for up to two hours
  • Have regular or on-schedule bowel movements
  • Be able to communicate a desire to pee or poo (through words or gestures)
  • Be able to sit and rise up from a toilet or potty
  • Be able to follow simple instructions

As a parent, you will need to be ready for potty training too! Here are some helpful questions for you:

  • Can you be consistent about potty training? For example, if you decide to bring your toddler to the toilet every two hours, you must be able to keep it up and make it a part of your routine. 
  • Can you be patient with your toddler if nothing happens after a trip to the bathroom?
  • Can you be kind if your toddler has an accident?
  • Can you praise your toddler’s efforts, even if there is no “success?”
  • Are you prepared for inconveniences during the potty training phase? This may mean bringing your child for a toilet break at regular intervals, even when you are out. 
  • Can you grant your child some independence? For instance, trusting your toddler’s judgement on whether a toilet break is necessary? 

Before you begin potty training, you may want to acquire these training aids:

  • A potty chair
  • A potty training seat, which nests into a regular toilet seat to make it more comfortable for a toddler
  • A practice urinal for boys
  • A step stool to help your toddler reach the toilet seat
  • Training pants and underwear

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To prepare your toddler for toilet training, you can:

  • Teach your toddler to use words such as “wee,” “pee,” “poo,” or “I need to go.”
  • Let your toddler watch a family member, such as a parent or sibling, using the toilet.
  • Let your toddler start using training pants to understand the feeling of wetness.
  • Give your toddler foods that encourage regular and smooth bowel movements.

When you and your toddler are ready, pick a day when you won’t be heading out, to do the following: 

  1. Let your toddler go diaper-free during the day.
  2. Dress your toddler in clothes that are easy to remove.
  3. Encourage your toddler to go to the toilet when he or she shows signs of needing to use the bathroom, such as passing gas. But if your toddler doesn’t want to go, don’t force it.
  4. If your toddler sits on a potty for three to five minutes and nothing happens, let your toddler get up and leave.
  5. Praise your toddler by saying, “Good job for sitting on the potty!”
  6. Be ready to clean up with little fuss or emotion if your toddler has an accident.

After a bathroom visit, do continue to clean your toddlers, at least until they are old enough to do this on their own. For girls, in particular, wipe them from front to back to prevent infections.

When you feel confident enough to head out with your toddler, bring along a change of clothes and wipes, and make sure that a toilet or potty is always within easy reach. 

If your toddler says he or she needs to go, don’t wait. But if your toddler is caught up in an activity, do check at regular intervals if a bathroom break is needed.

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How Do I Get My Toddler To Sleep Alone?

toddler bedroom bedtime

Wondering if you should continue to share a bed with your toddler, also known as “co-sleeping?” Or perhaps it is time to shift your toddler to his own room? This really depends on what works best for your family. 

Some families love co-sleeping, as they can bond with their children and offer security and comfort in the night, especially if they are busy during the day. Co-sleeping parents may also face less resistance to bedtime, as their children may find it easier to fall asleep.

However, there are disadvantages to co-sleeping that you may want to consider:

  • A toddler who co-sleeps may develop sleep dependencies, such as needing an adult’s presence to fall asleep.
  • Sharing a bed with your toddler may lead to poorer sleep for the adults, especially if your toddler tends to move around while sleeping.
  • For couples, a co-sleeping arrangement makes intimacy challenging—if this is not resolved early, it could strain your relationship.

If you intend for your child to sleep alone eventually, experts recommend getting an early start. Here’s how:

  • Get your toddler excited about a “big kid’s room.” Let your toddler help with decorating his bedroom, and involve your toddler in choosing his bed or bedding.
  • Make your toddler’s bedroom feel safe. Toddlers may prefer to sleep with the door open, or with a nightlight. 
  • Create a bedtime ritual. Keep to regular bedtimes, and include a routine that your toddler will look forward to, such as a bedtime story. 
  • Use rewards. Give your toddler plenty of praise, as well as fun tokens (such as stickers) for going to bed independently.
  • Be consistent. If your toddler wanders into your room during the night, lead your toddler back to his bed—you will send mixed signals to your toddler if you let him fall asleep in your bed.
  • Avoid digital devices. Device use before bedtime can make it harder for a toddler to fall asleep independently. (Read about healthy digital habits for kids here.)

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Final Thoughts: Embracing Toddlerhood

Many parents are apprehensive about the toddler years, especially if they have heard stories about the “terrible twos and threes.” 

While there may be challenges as you adjust to the demands of raising a toddler, take heart that these will be some of the most enjoyable years in your parenting journey. 

Although you are your toddler’s best teacher, there will also be much to learn from your child. For one, your toddler will remind you of what it’s like to be innocent, curious, and bursting with enthusiasm!

By putting in place the right learning environment, and joining your toddler in play, you too can begin to see the world in a fresh light—one where every new day is an opportunity for adventure.

For more insights on early childhood, follow us on our Facebook and Instagram page. 

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