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growing up: toddler

Giving Effective Directions

Your guide to the ages and stages of development

Now that your child has reached toddlerhood, he can begin to follow basic directions. By age 2, many toddlers can respond to a one-layer command, such as: "Bring me your glass," or "Put the paper in the wastebasket." As they approach 3, kids begin to understand two- or three-layer commands, like "Put the bowls on the table, and put a spoon by each one," and, "Go get your new book and your pillow, then let's go sit on the couch and read together."

As your child begins to grasp these more complex requests, be patient. Remember that your toddler is just learning how to follow directions and won't always be able to follow through. Make sure your expectations are realistic and don't be concerned if she sometimes fails to complete a task. To help keep frustration at a minimum for both of you, try these strategies for giving directions to your toddler:

Talk to your child in simple terms. Speak clearly so she understands what you're asking. Ask her to repeat the request back to you if she can.

Start with one-layer commands and build on these as he responds appropriately.

Make sure you have your child's attention before you ask her to do something. Eye contact is crucial.

Make him feel proud when he follows your direction by telling him and others of this accomplishment.

Toddlers like to feel useful, so let your child know how much she's helping you when she's following your directions.

Practice following instructions with games like "Follow the Leader" or "Simon Says."

As your toddler grows in confidence and independence, you'll find that he gets even better at following directions. Encourage him whenever you can and celebrate even the smallest accomplishments.

?Debra Fulghum Bruce
Writer and mother of three

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