It’s during the toddler years that children begin to grow their independence, learn about their surroundings, and understand how the world works. And there’s a lot to learn! Guiding toddler exploration is essential for children to develop in a safe environment. However, there are common household hazards that can make exploration dangerous. Removing hazards from the play area, leads to a fun exploration experience that will also bring you and your child closer together.
Benefits of Toddler Exploration
You may notice once your child starts moving on their own, they’re on the hunt for adventure. Now something can catch their attention and they’re able to go see for themselves what that thing is. This begins to grow their independence as well as their curiosity. Exploring their surroundings and learning how the world works is a cornerstone of toddler development. Allowing them to go on their little adventures, with supervision, is important for their physical, emotional, and social development. Before they have only been able to see their toys. Now they can grab them, move them, hear the noises they make, what they feel like all on their own.
While learning about their surroundings develops their understanding, getting up and moving during their exploration is how toddlers will grow their physical development. Motor skills can become more refined when climbing stairs or throwing something over and over until they are satisfied they’ve done it right. This will be the bulk of their physical activity at this time, which is another reason exploration should be encouraged.
Guiding Toddler Exploration
The biggest part of toddler exploration is supervision. No matter what you’re child is set to do, parents and guardians should supervise to ensure they are not exploring dangerous items or in a potentially hazardous environment. When settling in for playtime, look at where you are. Survey the area to ensure that area is safe for your toddler to fully experience. If you notice your child doing something they shouldn’t, like throwing rocks at the window or putting something they shouldn’t in their mouth, gently correct their behavior to help them learn what’s safe and what’s not. When it comes to the environment look for and remove any items that present potential dangers to your toddler.
Potential household dangers include
- Furniture that could tip over
- Toys or items with small parts
- Window blinds with long cords
- Plastic bags, garbage bags, dry cleaning bags, etc.
- Hazardous liquids like cleaning supplies or medications
Ways to help toddlers explore
Take them to a park. Show them different types of flowers, grasses, and trees. Let them feel their surroundings like tree bark and rocks.
Go to the beach. The beach is a fun place to explore. Playing with sand and feeling the water is a great sensory experience.
Play with a mirror. Toddlers will begin to recognize themselves in mirrors. Plays games using the mirror to show them where their ears and eyes are.
Get a toy box. Toy boxes are great for toddlers to look at all the toys that are available to them and decide what they want to experience. This caters to their growing independence and encourages safe play.
Play ball outside. Go outside and give your child a ball to throw, kick, smack, and catch.
Provide touch-based toys. Older toddlers greatly enjoy toys like Play-Doh, child-safe putty, finger paints, and other toys that are meant to be touched.
Go at their pace. There may be times that exploration is not top of mind. Like on your way to the park or other destination for example. Toddlers will be experiencing their surroundings and may want to stop and look at or touch things they discover along the way. As long as it’s safe, let them have these moments to satisfy their curiosity.
The toddler years can be an exciting time full of adventure. Guiding them along, introducing them to the world, and letting them learn about their surroundings is good for their emotional, social, and physical health. Plus it’s a great bonding experience too. As long as they’re being supervised and in a safe environment, their little adventures can be a fun and developmentally beneficial time.
Sources: Nemours, Safe Home