Language—The Big Leap
During the previous year, gross-motor accomplishments—sitting, crawling, standing, and walking—were the obvious developmental milestones. This year, your child's language development will astound you. There are two different language skills at play—receptive (language she can demonstrate she understands) and expressive (language she can actually speak herself).
By now, your little one can understand just about everything you say to her. She can follow commands and understand your questions (though she may at times pretend to not hear you). Expressive language skills, though, vary according to the individual child. It is very hard not to compare with other kids her age—but try once again to respect her individual path of development. With most kids, all of a sudden in this year, there is an explosion of language. You may hear her practicing to say some of her favorite words—words that are based on her individual interests—when she is by herself. And soon she'll start putting two words and simple sentences together.
What you can do to support language development is continue the routine of daily reading. Have your child select the books that she wants to be read. Talk about what is happening on each page. This sort of loving interaction cannot be replaced by any educational videos or flashcards. Most of all she wants to share her discoveries, including learning words, with you. Even five or 10 minutes a day of lap-time reading will be an enormous support to her language refinement and overall brain development.
What's Happening Cognitively?
The best way to understand what is ticking in your toddler's mind is by watching her play. You may have noticed that her play has become more complex. She also may be able to stick with one activity that interests her for a longer period of time. Her thought process has shifted from learning about the world through physical and sensory manipulation to mental concepts, thoughts, and ideas.
Her job this year is centered on independence. She probably displays behaviors characteristic of this age that may at times push your buttons but demonstrate her exercising of new mental skills. Some of these behaviors include:
- Rituals and Repeating Actions or Words: This is important for her to master a new skill. Even when it seems quite obvious that she has learned the skill, she'll still enjoy and take great pride in repeating a particular action for you to watch.
- Testing Limits: It may seem that your independent child will do anything not to hold your hand when walking down a busy sidewalk, but she really wants to know that she is safe. Her feelings of security come from established limits and rules that cannot be broken—even with her continually challenging behavior.
- Me Do It! Your child needs to challenge to establish herself as separate from you. Her achievements give her great confidence and set the stage for positive self-esteem.
- Exploration and then Clinginess: Her goal is to become a separate individual, but every now and then she needs to refuel in the warm arms of a loving caregiver. Also, she may revisit feelings of separation anxiety as her abilities to remember you and hold a picture of you in her mind sharpen.