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…!
- Previous answer on writing young teens/children.
- Writing Child Characters
- What You Should Know About Babies
- FYCD Child Characters tag
The thing you need to understand about children is that no matter how much horror they see, no matter how many reality checks they get, they’re still immature and lack the reasoning capacity of an adult.
Selfishness doesn’t necessarily mean all children are horrible, it’s just their inherent nature. You have to teach a child to share and sometimes even up until the beginning of their teenage years, a child is unable to properly empathise and understand the feelings of others.
Of course every child is different and may grasp sharing earlier than another child. Also, the age range you’ve provided is an important factor.
Older children, after being selfish and receiving a negative response to it, will reason that it was their behaviour that got them the poor treatment, that it’s kinder to share your things so the other person doesn’t feel left out. Yet a younger child will learn not to repeat the behaviour because it made them feel upset and ashamed when they were scolded.
A child’s reasoning of what’s ‘fair’ tends to revolve around how they were treated in comparison to somebody else, regardless of the circumstances (e.g. new baby getting new things).
Children want to feel loved and protected. Even if they’re in an abusive environment they’ll accept and endure it either because: 1) they still believe, despite everything, that the one hurting them loves them, 2) they think that the behaviour towards them is ‘normal’ and/or 3) they’re frightened to tell anybody in case they get blamed for it.
It’s their trusting nature and their lack of experience that makes them this way. Even a child in a harsh environment will not be able to avoid/anticipate every pitfall. They’re quick to believe what they’re told and they usually believe their expectations will be correct.
If you tell a child that a spooky ride at the fairground is going to be something really exciting and funny, he’ll go in there and expect it to be like that. Until he comes out at the other end, hysterical because it was in fact the exact opposite.
An older child, who has better judgement, will take one look and decide then and there whether she thinks the ride is going to be an exciting or scary experience, as it’s likely she’s been in a similar situation before.
The key word to associate with children is immaturity. Even up to the age of twelve, kids can be immature (although twelve year olds won’t appreciate hearing this). They can sometimes surprise you with their open-mindedness and intelligence, but their childishness will show perhaps in the way they word themselves or in the way they respond to certain situations.
Younger children are also very silly. They do strange things and say strange things because they’re imaginative and like to amuse themselves. A child brought up in a harsh environment may be more withdrawn and cautious, but he’ll still be a child will do/say childlike things.
Listening to children converse is one of the best ways to learn how they differ from adults. Also, reading books where young children are main characters is another good place to start.
- Best books where the main character is a child (this misses out Golding’s Lord of the Flies andC.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia which I’m surprised about…)
- Writing Child Characters
- Writing A Young Character
- Differences Between Children and Adults
- Victorian Britain (this website is designed for children of a primary school age, but has videos and such. Also may be useful to understand how simplistic things have to be for children to understand them)
I hope this helps…! I’m not by any means a specialist in child psychology so, followers, feel free to correct or expand upon my answer.
Tips for respecting children’s spaces, competence, and general existence from a preschool teacher:
- Listen to them
- Ask them, “Do you want to say hi to your auntie/grandma/cousin/dad/whatevs” (Hint: they will be honest and this can result in a simple hello or a hug or a silly “No!” depending how comfortable they feel)
- If they don’t want to hug you realize it’s not that they don’t love you it’s that they don’t know you/don’t feel like hugging.
- Just like every other person who doesn’t want a hug
- In the event that you need to move a child EXPLAIN TO THEM WHY and WHAT YOU ARE DOING don’t just move them like PROPS they are CHILDREN and NOT props
- For instance, “I’m going to move your chair over so we have room at the table for everyone!”
- Or “Sorry there was a person running by I didn’t want you to get smushed so I had to pick you up!”
- Remind them that they are people not objects using your actions
- Asking children to do something they don’t want to do but NEED to do often doesn’t work, instead give them a choice, “Do you want to eat bok choy or yams?”
- NOT “Do you want to eat your vegetables?”
- “Do you want to brush your teeth in the bathroom or the kitchen”
- This exercises their ever-growing free will and is especially useful during TERRIFIC TWOS okay TERRIFIC not TERRIBLE they’re TERRIFIC
- Children will copy you, MODEL FOR THEM
- Being over enthusiastic IS beneficial for them understanding emotional and social competence
- “I hung this picture uneven, that makes me sad, hmmm! Oh goodie, I found my mistake! Now I can fix it, I’ll feel much happier when I’ve fixed it!”
- You think it sounds ridic yeah well hearing you do that children around you just learned to not get so discouraged by their mistakes and that it’s okay to try to fix them
- ADULTS CAN APOLOGIZE TO CHILDREN
- You make a mistake that hurt a child, APOLOGIZE and show them how to do it properly and genuinely
- Realize children are fully competent and are capable of making meanings from YOUR implications about race, culture, gender, ability, sexuality, EVERYTHING
- Many three year olds know what the N-word is, what gay means, can identify which children are visably disabled, and YOUR REACTIONS of their answers of questions about their culture
- Children like to talk about themselves so do not ever dismiss what they say about themselves as illegitimate just because it sounds silly or unlikely sometimes it’s true
- Stop talking about how you hate children, just leave them alone if you don’t understand them you don’t have to be complete jerks to PEOPLE you’ve never met
- I will post more and if people have question PLS ASK ME I WOULD LOVE TO ANSWER WHAT I KNOW
LOOK AT THE CHILDREN
#3 killed me.
The Monster Engine by Dave DeVries
Half children’s book, half demonstration, half workshop, half art series, ALL MONSTER!! Dave DeVries meets with children from across the nation, gathering their illustrations full of awkward lines and unfamiliar anatomy and paints them, adding an extra dimension to these irregular-shaped imaginings.
When I was in preschool there was this really weird system of time-out where they’d put you in this giant plastic bucket sort of like this one:
And the rule was you couldn’t leave the bucket for ten minutes.
In case you didn’t know, I was what the teachers referred to as a “difficult child” which is code for “walking entity of sass” so I was in the time-out bucket quite a bit.
Once they put me in the bucket for thirty minutes— and I thought that was incredibly unfair so I grabbed the handles and shifted my body repeatedly until the bucket and I were out of the classroom, in the hallway, and through the front door. They found me in the parking lot scooting to freedom in the time-out bucket. The teachers were furious and I said, “Hey, I never left the bucket”
So they called my mum and told her what I did and she just said, “Well, he never left the bucket.”
Turning Children’s Drawings to Toys by Child’s Own Studio
Remember all that crazy shit you drew as a kid? True story: when I was but a wee lad I was fond of drawing bones with wings on them. There was a whole family of them. Why? Who the hell knows, kids are weird! But how awesome would have been if a cool company like this existed: where they take children’s drawings and convert them to real world toys. Maybe one day my Flying Bones with faces can get the same treatment. Check out tons more at their flickr
I am SO doing this when Kee gets old enough to draw legible shapes.