Toddlers who are encouraged to explore the world around them and express their thoughts and feelings are generally better adjusted. They experience less stress and anxiety and are more likely to develop a sense of individuality. They also develop more emotional awareness and have stronger problem-solving skills. Positive parenting is an excellent way to facilitate your toddler’s ability to express themselves and explore.
Positive parenting is an approach that considers children’s individual needs. It helps you to treat your toddler with empathy and respect as they navigate their early childhood life. There are a variety of positive parenting techniques that encourage toddlers’ development.
7 Tips for Encouraging Self-Expression and Exploration in Your Toddler
1. Provide Opportunities for Your Toddler to Learn Through Play
Not only do toys entertain, but they facilitate creativity and problem-solving skills. As your little one begins to make sense of the world, much of what they learn will be through play. Child and family development specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, Louise Davis says, “play is essential to healthy development, and it helps children to meet their emotional needs while learning life skills. Give your toddler lots of time to play and engross themselves in their new discoveries.”
2. Encourage your Child to Talk About Things They See and Do
Your toddler has thoughts and feelings about the things they discover and accomplish. Talk to them about how they feel. The Family Resource Center of North Mississippi recommends asking open-ended questions that require more than just a yes or no answer. Instead of asking them if they liked the story, you just read, say “tell me what you think about that story.” These questions allow them to put their thoughts in their own words.
3. Give Your Toddler Your Full Attention
When your child comes to you with something to say, or you ask them a question, make sure you listen carefully. Let them know that you value their response. Even if you don’t quite agree with their view or you don’t think it makes sense, listen until they’re finished and show that you’re interested. If they’re excited, join in their excitement. Doing this gives them the confidence to continue expressing themselves to you.
4. Create Opportunities for Your Toddler to Interact with Other Children
Toddlers learn from being around their peers and older children. If you only have one child, opportunities to play with other children may not occur naturally. Consider setting up play dates, so they learn to share build friendships and develop compassion. When it’s time to choose a pre-school, use the Mississippi Department of Education checklist to help you decide.
5. Allow Your Child to Explore Your Home
Naturally, hazardous items will be off-limits. However, your child’s self-esteem and curiosity will grow as they gain mastery over the things around them. Allow for structured interactions with household items. Consider placing plastic pots, cups, and plates on a low shelf, so they have an opportunity to mimic what they see you doing in the kitchen in a safe way. They will learn how to place small items into big ones and how to tidy up.
6. Encourage Your Toddler to Put Themselves in Another Person’s Shoes.
Self-expression involves the ability to identify one’s emotions and the emotions of other people. Come up with a scenario and then ask your child about the feelings which would be involved. Ask them to consider how their sibling would feel if they took their toy without asking or urge them to think about how you would feel if they did something mean. This type of exercise helps to boost language development and creativity.
7. Help Your Child to Develop Independence and Persistence
When your child is working on a task, only help them when it’s necessary. Stay close by but don’t take over. Instead, let them know you are available if they need help. In the meantime, encourage them to keep going until they are successful.
Encouraging Self-Expression and Exploration in Your Toddler
When you implement these suggestions, your toddler will gain self-confidence. They will be more comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings with others, and they will be more likely to enjoy exploring their environment. To increase your self-awareness, learn to identify your emotional triggers.