Toddler Development: Direction is Important! | Celebree School

Learning to follow directions is a fundamental point of development for toddlers. Here, the childhood development professionals at Celebree explain how proper direction can positively impact your toddler.

Directions help children learn what behavior is helpful and hurtful, and provides them with structure and a deeper understanding of the world around them. However,  directions suited for an adult, or even an older child, are not necessarily suitable directions for a toddler, as children at this age process information at a significantly slower rate than adults. This means that toddlers need short, single-task directions, relayed to them in a calm voice and assertive tone.

Provide toddlers with directions that are suited to their level of development. For example, “Please put on the red pants” will only work with a toddler who knows their colors. Oftentimes, adults believe that toddlers are willfully disregarding directions, when in-fact the directions are not developmentally suited to them. Toddlers can have a difficult time understanding the concept of “no” or “don’t.” These are abstract terms, where a word like “stop” is far more concrete. Using language that your children will understand and wording directions positively will lead to greater success, and less frustration on both sides. A child who is running in the house may not respond to “no,” or “don’t run,” but will more readily respond to “I need you to walk” or “Show me walking feet, like this”.  Modeling the directions you have given, and providing an example of what helpful behavior looks like will give your toddler a visual cue of how to act, both now and in the future.

The benefits of providing age appropriate directions to your toddler are enormous. At this age, toddlers are still trying to learn their limitations, and providing developmentally appropriate directions will help to set the appropriate boundaries. In a situation of dangerous or hurtful behavior, effective direction will help keep your toddler and others around them safe and happy. Age appropriate Good directions will also help set expectations for your children, which provides stability and much-needed structure to their everyday lives. Giving clear, proper directions leaves no room for confusion, relieving possible stress and frustration.

Remember to stay calm. If a child is exhibiting hurtful behaviors after you have given directions to them, it is important to stay calm and assess the situation. Was anything you said unclear or confusing? Was the child able to hear? Did you provide too many directions at once, or perhaps too complicated of a task? Empathize with your child: they are still learning their limitations, and consequently may push the boundaries. Acknowledge how they are feeling with phrases such as, “I know it can be really hard to not get what you want,” or “Sometimes it’s tough to do things you don’t want to do.” Give them reasonable choices—promotes independence and autonomy while still providing structure, and can also distract from hurtful behavior.

For additional information on the best ways to teach your toddler how to follow directions, or to speak with one of the Celebree childhood development professionals about your toddler’s development, contact Celebree Learning Centers today.