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10 Ways To Help Your Toddler Develop (Without Even Trying)

It’s always brilliant to make an effort to encourage your toddler’s development – but turns out you can also boost it with the everyday things you barely think about. From how you talk to your child to what you bring to the dinner table, make the most of every opportunity.
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Keep laughing

Whether it’s your sister’s OMG work anecdote or a (rare) good joke from the boy, hearing you laugh is great for your toddler’s confidence. ‘Young children are very adept in picking up on atmospheres and non-verbal cues,’ explains Joanne Mallon, author of Toddlers: An Instruction Manual. ‘So if a home is full of laughter, it’ll help him feel more confident and secure, both inside and outside the house.’
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Happy talk

All that chatting to him helps develop his language skills, so talk away. ‘It’s important not to over-explain, though, and make an effort to use language and concepts that he’ll understand,’ says Joanne. ‘And don’t forget to listen and leave space for him to talk back to you.’
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Make eye contact…

… when you talk to him, and also crouch down to his level – it boosts that connection and his understanding of what you're saying.
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Be active

It doesn’t have to be legging it on a treadmill in front of him – think a walk to the shops, stroll in the park… ‘Some sort of activity each day is great for your physical and mental health, plus it’s much easier to encourage older children to be active if you’ve started them young,’ says Joanne.
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Eat smart

Encourage him to eat different foods by leading by example and keeping your own plate varied. ‘So just as you regularly give your child things he hasn’t had before, make sure you try new things too, especially when you’re eating together as a family,’ says Joanne.
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Introduce mealtime behaviour

OK, so chances are your toddler won’t sit entirely happily while everyone finishes dinner, but you can still start to put etiquette in place. And agree on this with your partner so you’re both doing the same. ‘When my children were younger I would let them have a small toy at the table to encourage them to stay longer,’ suggests Joanne.
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Get social

Your toddler’s social skills come gradually so this is about giving him plenty of opportunities to spend time with people. ‘Even if you’re not particularly sociable, it’s still good for your child to make the effort to get out and mix,’ explains Joanne.
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Make games everywhere

Playtime doesn’t have to be structured – even a supermarket trip can be fun when you give him food drawings and ask him to look out for them. ‘Toddlers like small world play, as it helps them make sense of the world around them,’ says Joanne. ‘So this can involve little figures, or dolls and teddy bears – anything that substitutes for real life people.’ Time for teddy to have a ride in the trolley.
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Find a mini duster

So, how realistic does this scenario sound – your toddler sitting happily while you race round the house sorting laundry et al? Exactly. ‘If there’s something you have to get done, it will almost always be easier to include your child,’ says Joanne. It’s about having your attention and he’ll love helping you. A tip? Ask him to be your ‘helper’ instead of to ‘help’ you – University of California research shows using the noun over the verb is more likely to get him on side.
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Put a CD on

Studies suggest music and singing is great for your toddler’s development, including his speech. So take any opportunity to put on some tunes or even an audio book.
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