Toddlers can use their thinking and physical skills to solve complex problems by creating and acting on a plan to reach a goal. For example, if they see a toy out of reach, they might climb on a child-safe stool to get it. Or, they might take your hand, walk you to the shelf, and point to what they want.
Your toddler is learning to solve problems when s/he:
✔ Tries to flush the toilet
✔ Explores drawers and cabinets
✔ Stacks and knocks down blocks
✔ Pushes buttons on the television remote control or home computer
✔ Pokes, drops, pushes, pulls and squeezes objects to see what will happen!
Being goal oriented also means that toddlers are much less distractible than they may have been earlier. While at 9 months they may have happily turned away from the stereo if shown an interesting rattle, now most toddlers will glance at the rattle and then turn right back to the stereo. Time to do another round of child-proofing!
Your toddler can also solve problems by using memory to apply ideas to new situations:
✔ Pull the cover off a toy hidden from view
✔ Go find the kitchen stool when she wants to reach the countertop
✔ Blow on her food when you say that her dinner is “hot”
✔ Try to get her own jacket on
✔ Use early turn taking skills and simple language (with the help of adults) to solve problems with their peers.
What you can do:
Provide the support your child needs to solve a problem but don’t do it for him. If he’s trying to make a sandcastle but the sand won’t stick, show him how to add water but don’t make the castle for him. The more he does, the more he learns. This builds thinking skills and self-confidence.
Child-proof your house—again! Get down on your child’s level and explore in all the ways he is able to now. This will help make sure you identify and move all the things he can get to. Doing this helps ensure your child is safe and also reduces the need for lots of No’s.
They also help your toddler feel helpful which builds their self-esteem and self-confidence!