In the latest in his series of articles, Chris Williams, language development expert and founder of Chatta, explores ideas and activities parents and childminders can use to support children’s development in communication and language development. Here, he considers activities and ideas for children aged 2 to 3

2 to 3 Years: A time for tantrums

Often categorised as ‘The Terrible Two’s’, the period between two and three years old is the time when children are conflicted between independence and a constant need for attention from the caregiver.

It is in this stage where we may see a child become unwilling to have satisfaction of their needs deferred, resulting in anger or temper. It’s all a necessary part of the developmental learning curve. Appropriate response and distraction can help to ease the more trying elements of this stage, and most children resolve this conflict and progress happily into their fourth year of life.

A social being

At the beginning of this stage children are rapidly acquiring and practising new vocabulary. We see the beginnings of sentences form, along with a constant need to have questions answered to their satisfaction. Our patient response to these questions is essential, because it’s through this persistent quizzing that children make sense of their world.

Books and reading

As children progress through this stage we may notice a requirement for a favourite story over and over again. I can still, in fact, recite many of the books that I read night after night to my children at this stage. For months on end we immersed ourselves in “Some Dogs Do” by Jez Alborough. The familiarity of the story providing a ‘warm’ and ‘cushioning’ feeling for my stroppy two year old.

It is natural for a child’s attention span to vary at this age, so just focus on developing a love of books and stories. Good quality story time with snuggles and cuddles helps develop a passion for reading and books and it’s a great way to end a day or settle a child for a nap.

Some great stories to read at this stage include:

- So Much by Trish Cooke

- Calm down Boris by Sam Lloyd

- We’re going on a Bear Hunt by Michaell Rosen

- Funnybones by Allan Ahlberg

Apps and Technology

It is also at this age that we may notice children begin to develop a proficiency with technology. Children learn from what they see and we live in a digital age where much of our communication is conducted with the use of technology. We must still be mindful though that hand-held screen time increases the risk of speech delay. There is no digital resource that can replace quality interactions with adults.

However, this does not mean that there is no place for technology during this stage of development. It is an intrinsic motivator, and when used correctly with a two-year old child it can aid communication, recall and expression.

In the last article, we talked about the use of pictures in technology. This continues to be of prime importance. Take pictures of everything, then pocket the device. Enjoy the pictures later for recall. Ask questions and encourage children to re-tell what is happening, perhaps explaining this to another family member.

Go Outdoors

Get outside with your 2-year old - in general, it is normally the adult that is perturbed by weather! Children at this age love exploring the elements, so venture out, wrap up and explore. The experiences are free of charge and provide a priceless bank of future memories and reflective experiences.

Things to try:

● Make lunch for fairies or gnomes in a local wooded area.

● Take bark rubbings from trees. 

● Go puddle jumping, i guarantee you’ll enjoy it too! 

● Make some mud pies.

● Collect objects and make a nature collage. 

Physical Play

Children aged between 2 and 3 are continuing to practise and develop their physical skills and becoming increasingly confident in running, jumping and kicking. Get active daily, and I guarantee you won’t regret this decision when it comes to bedtime.

- Play football

- Climb at the local park

- Bake and cook to develop fine motor skills

- Draw and paint

- Stomp around in sand

Children will begin to develop a preferred hand at this stage, so try to engage them in activities involving pushing and pulling to develop muscles (carts are great for this!).

Taking Turns

The natural developmental progression at this age means that turn taking is a challenge! Children in this stage are egocentric; they can only consider their own needs. They are developing the ability to play with other children rather than just around them. As adults, if we reinforce turn taking at every opportunity we can help children internalise that this is necessary for harmonious play and interactions.

Try these turn takers:

● Setting the dinner table - Alternating turns with each place setting

● Sharing a bowl of fruit - Your turn/my turn

● Playing with a chunky jigsaw and taking turns to place the pieces

● I spy - Start with colours or descriptions of objects

● Throw and catch with a large ball

Development Summary

Between the ages 2 and 3 children should be able to:

● Use a growing number of recognisable words and understand many more.

● Form simple sentences which develop more fluently as children reach age 3.

● Develop a love of stories and have a favourite, which they may constantly demand.

● Talk to themselves during play and play activity, often a self narrative of the game. Be 
sure to tune in and write down some of this as this can be wonderful for 
later reflection!

● Ask a broad range of questions and be keen for an immediate answer.

● Help an adult with home activities, children usually enjoy the responsibility of this.

Listen up!

Listening remains an important skill that children need to develop. In a stage where speech and language progression is so rapid, it can be difficult to encourage and support children to stop and listen!

What can you do?

• Minimise distractions. To get children to really tune in, minimise any level of distraction. Turn off the TV to read a book, make sure it’s quiet when you are spending time talking about the day. Distractions make for a much poorer quality listening experience.

• Be aware of your voice tone. Switch your voice up and down and change your tones so children have to tune in more carefully to hear what you’re saying. Speak in whispers.

• Hum a song. Hum a familiar nursery rhyme and ask children to guess what it is, they’ll have to really listen to be able to identify your song!

• What’s in my box? Place bells in a box and carefully pass them around. Ask children to listen carefully and guess what’s inside. Vary the objects including items such as stones, beads and dried pasta.

Autumn 2017

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