Frequently Asked Questions
How can I help my toddler develop independence?
When your toddler is learning to be independent, you will notice an increase in his or her willpower and self‑control. You may feel frustrated when your toddler wants to do things her or his way and not yours. However, you can also see it as a sign of healthy development.
To help your toddler learn to be independent:
- Encourage your toddler to do things by her‑ or himself even if your toddler fails or it takes extra time.
- Give your toddler simple choices, such as choosing which cup to drink from.
- Encourage new activities that your toddler has a good chance of doing well at.
- Let your toddler be successful and help build his or her confidence.
- Give your toddler time to repeat each skill she or he learns so that your toddler feels successful. For example, give your toddler two blocks and let her or him stack them successfully before you giving a third block to add to the stack.
- Avoid shame and ridicule.
Is it normal for my toddler to touch his or her genitals?
Although children as young as seven months will explore their genitals, it is more common in toddlers 24 to 36 months old. This kind of investigation is just natural curiosity. It is as normal for your toddler to touch his or her genitals as to explore toes and fingers. Once they make this discovery, most children realize quickly that this touching feels good. The way you react to your toddler’s masturbation may affect her or his attitude toward sexuality. Your toddler may feel confused or guilty if he or she feels punished or ashamed about masturbation. The best approach is to ignore the activity.
Some parents feel uncomfortable if their toddler touches his or her genitals in public. If your toddler is touching his or her genitals in public and is old enough to understand, provide your toddler with limits. Tell your toddler what he or she can do in public and at home: “Some things are private. You can do that at home in your room— how about playing with this toy for now?”
Should my toddler watch TV or play computer games?
It may be helpful to ask yourself if TV or computer games help your toddler grow and develop. Child development experts suggest that toddlers do not gain much from watching TV because only two senses are used: sight and hearing. Even TV shows created for young children often move too fast and are too much for your toddler to follow. Too much colour, movement, and sound all at once does not support your toddler’s health and development. We know that childhood obesity is linked to watching TV. Researchers are also looking at how the large screen TVs and “surround sound” affect children.
Choosing not to watch TV or play computer games gives you and your toddler quality time to do things that can help her or him be more creative, improve problem solving skills, and get more physical activity. Limiting or cutting out TV watching also lowers how much your toddler will see advertising for unhealthy food choices, violent images, and male and female roles that are stereotyped. Research shows that children who watch a lot of TV are more aggressive—in both words and actions.
The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends that preschoolers be limited to one hour or less of TV watching per day. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no TV for children under the age of 24 months (two years) and no more than one to two hours of quality TV and videos a day for older children.
If you choose to let your toddler watch TV, here are some tips:
- Limit your toddler’s viewing to programs on children’s channels or channels without commercials.
- Rent, borrow (from the library or friends), or buy children’s videos. Ask other parents or caregivers to give you names of suitable videos for toddlers.
- If you allow your toddler to watch or play with other media, set a limit on total screen time (that is, the time your toddler watches TV or videos, plays video and computer games, and watches or uses a computer). Use a timer: when the timer goes off, the screen time is over—do not allow your mind to be changed.
- Discuss your decisions about TV watching with those who care for your toddler, like grandparents or child‑care providers.
- Monitor violence on TV or video games that others may be watching or playing while your toddler is nearby. This includes television and radio news reports, which can be very violent and frightening.