Happy Families: The Importance of Family in Toddler Lives
Happy families: The importance of family in toddlers lives
Do you remember in those early months how your baby’s eyes would follow you lovingly around the room? And now, as they copy the actions of family members when learning a new skill, they look to those around them for support and praise? While all families are different, each family member plays a key role in the development of a toddler. By watching and participating in your family, your toddler will begin learning about the world around them, and their place in it.
With family being so important to a toddler’s development, you may feel it’s a big weight on your shoulders to get it right, but try not to worry. Every parent makes mistakes, and so does every child. The best families learn from mistakes, work together and keep trying.
Your toddler learns a lot through family, including:
• Love and respect - Receiving care and affection as well as seeing the interactions between other family members teaches your toddler about relationships and what is acceptable when interacting with others. Even the simple habit of saying please and thank you helps your toddler to foster this concept.
• Self-confidence - Knowing they have the family’s support can provide your toddler the confidence they need to try new things, and make them feel relaxed while facing a stressful situation. This confidence and sense of security will help with their independence, ready to face the world and the challenges that come with it.
• Responsibility - Families support each other through the good times and the bad. Whether it is helping out with household tasks or cheering on a family member playing sport, your toddler will learn that each family member has a unique role to play.
• Personal identity – The interactions your toddler has with family members will grow their skills and influence their behaviour. Family also provides a safe environment to voice their thoughts and feelings, helping them to uncover their sense of self.
Top family everyday activities
With our lives getting busier, sometimes it can be tricky to squeeze in some quality family time. However activities that promote happy and healthy toddlers are everywhere, and can be incorporated into everyday life:
• Be present – In the age of multi-tasking, it can be easy to sneak in a quick email or put on a load of washing while your toddler is engaged in an activity. While sometimes this is ok, it is important to spend some quality time together free from distractions.
• Eat as a family – This can be a bit tricky in the early stages when your toddler will need to eat earlier and more frequently than you; however it is good to build these habits early if you can. Your toddler could help with the meal in other ways too, such as setting the table, helping to prepare the meal, serving up (if you don’t mind a little mess!), or cleaning up. Having this time is a great way to ‘check-in’ with the family and reflect on the day. Studies also show families who eat meals together have a healthier relationship with food later on.
• Learn about family history – Build a family tree for your toddler to hang on their wall. While it can be a little hard to grasp initially, having their faces there helps your toddler see where they belong in the family and shows the support they have around them.
• Take part in family chore – Many hands make light work. Set aside a little time as a family to get some household tasks done. Your toddler can start by helping you, and then slowly start taking ownership of their chore, such as handing the pegs to mum or dad when they are hanging out the washing, opening/closing curtains, or setting the table. Once you are all finished, make sure you applaud each other’s work.
• Get active – Outside games are great for families, as there is something to suit all ages. Whether it is kicking a soccer ball, going on a family bike ride, or exploring the local park, being outside together promotes a healthy attitude towards physical activity and a good break from screen time.
• Keep in touch – It can be hard for your toddler to build or maintain relationships with family members they don’t see very often. Having a few photos of the family around the house and pointing them out to your toddler occasionally, mentioning the family member in conversation, writing letters, or even having a quick skype call keeps these relationships alive.