How can grandparents not adore toddlers, with their round tummies, short legs and cherubic faces? Although infant grandchildren are a wonder, grandchildren from the ages of 1 to 3 offer a myriad of new and thrilling grandparenting experiences. This is also, however, the age when grandparents are most likely to worry about developmental milestones. It’s important to remember that children develop at their own speeds. There are important milestones to look for, but generally if a toddler is becoming more mobile and more aware, there is little to worry about.
One common misconception is that children should walk by one year of age. Actually, the average age for walking is around 13 months, and many babies don’t walk until 15-16 months. It’s more important to look for other milestones, such as being able to sit up and creep or crawl. If baby is cruising, or walking by holding on to objects, then it is likely that he or she is just a little fearful, and walking alone will come in good time.
Another topic that grandparents sometimes worry about is language development. By one year of age, children should be showing signs of understanding speech, such as shaking their heads when they hear the word, “no.” Most children will also be saying simple words, such as “Dada,” “Mama” and “uh-oh.” There is a type of child, however, that simply observes the world without commenting for a very long time, and then suddenly begins talking quite fluently. The key to this type of child is observing whether he or she reacts to more and more complex verbal instructions. If so, there are probably no language difficulties but simply a natural reticence, which may disappear in time. My grandchild who was very quiet for the first two years of her life is now quite the chatterbox! Another situation occurs when parents or siblings are so tuned into the toddler’s needs that every need is met without the toddler having to verbalize. This situation will also resolve itself as the toddler needs to express more complex ideas. Of course, if there is any doubt, it is always a good idea to have a child’s hearing checked.
Toddlers also begin to defy authority. Before the age of one, most children cry mostly because they are tired, hungry or uncomfortable. They don’t purposely cause their parents grief. Toddlers sometimes seem to, just to assert their growing independence. The stage known as the terrible twos can actually begin any time after the first birthday. “No” may become a favorite word, and temper tantrums may erupt in the most innocuous circumstances. Parents and grandparents need to recognize that this is a developmental stage. Frequent eruptions can be a sign of a strong-willed child, but being strong-willed is not such a bad thing in today’s world. Grandparents should try not to over-react to tantrums, and they should not compare a strong-willed child unfavorably to a more acquiescent one. Besides establishing a relationship with their grandchildren, grandparents must also stay on good terms with their parents. It helps to know what not to say to the parents of infants and toddlers.
Toddlers can be very capricious with their favors. They may cling to parents and reject other family members, sometimes as a manifestation of separation anxiety. Occasionally one will cling to a grandparent and reject a parent; imagine how the parent must feel! Sometimes they will reject one parent or one sibling in favor of another, or favor one grandparent over another. Needless to say, it is upsetting to grandparents to be shunned, but they should take comfort in knowing that toddlers usually get over their biases fairly quickly. Grandchildren may always have their favorites, but they are unlikely to turn a permanent cold shoulder to loving grandparents. In the meantime, grandparents can help by not being pushy, especially at the beginning of a visit. Some children need a few minutes of transition time. Grandparents may even find that if they hang back, their toddler grandchildren will begin to seek them out and woo their attention!
During the toddler years, children also begin to have definite ideas about food, so grandparents may worry about their eating habits. The truth is that toddlers need only about one-fourth of an adult serving, which means that, for example, one to two tablespoons of vegetables can be a serving. Also, toddlers often eat one hearty meal a day and then pick at their other meals. As long as they are not filling up on milk, juice or sweets, toddlers can be trusted to eat enough. They should not be drinking more than 16 to 24 ounces of milk and 4 to 6 ounces of juice, or their solid diets will suffer. Grandparents can promote the eating of fruits and vegetables in several fun ways.
Enjoy Your Toddler Grandchildren
Toddlers are such fun to grandparent because you don’t have to have much of a plan. Encourage toddlers’ movement milestones by applauding their efforts. Comfort them when they fall, but try not to seem alarmed. Talk to your toddler grandchild and play simple games, such as naming body parts. If you do this and also read books, you are doing the most important things you can do to encourage language development. One additional strategy is to ask questions that do not have yes or no questions, so that your grandchild does have to speak rather than just nodding or shaking the head. Mostly, grandparents of toddlers need to relax. You'll be laughing a lot during visits, and resting a lot between them!
More Ages and Stages: