We as parents think that when we speak our adult talk that there is no way a toddler has any idea what we are talking about, right? Parents would be surprised by how much a toddler understands about what’s going on around her. Our children fill up a lot of space in our lives, so it would be almost impossible to never have an adult conversation around our children. Sometimes, it just happens.
When our toddlers aren’t talking much yet, we assume that they are not picking up on the things that adults are doing. That would be a wrong assumption, but don’t feel bad, we’ve all been there. Toddlers understand more than we think that they do, and it’s important to keep that in mind when we are talking and even interacting with other people around them. "There is often a huge difference between receptive language and expressive language at this age," explains Jean Berko Gleason, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Boston University and author of The Development of Language. "Toddlers can clearly understand complex conversation long before most parents think they can." Check out these 20 things toddlers understand more than mom thinks.
20 They Pay More Attention When They Hear Their Names
You may assume that just because she’s little, she doesn’t understand what you’re saying but that’s not true at all. As young as 4 ½ months, children start to recognize the sound of their names. That means when they hear their name in a conversation, they are likely to tune in to what you are saying says Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Temple University in Philadelphia and coauthor of How Babies Talk: The Magic and Mystery of Language in the First Three Years of Life. So, if you are going to talk to your child, maybe don’t mention their name.
19 They Understand How Their Body Works
When children are infants, they don’t realize that their limbs are their own. But by two things have changed says Tovah Klein, Ph.D., psychology professor and director of the Toddler Development Center at Barnard College in New York. "But toddlers have figured it out: This is me, this is my body -- and they love their body," she explains. When they hurt themselves, they take it as an insult to their self. That’s why a two-year-old will have a meltdown over a tiny boo-boo. "It's as if their whole being has been punctured," says Klein. Band-Aids do little to help. "They're a tangible way of saying, 'I know that you have been wronged, your body has been wronged, here's something that will make it better.'"
18 They Understand So Much That They Have A Hard Time Storing It All
Kids understand what you are talking about but sometimes their feelings get so strong that they literally can’t think straight. It’s like they are saying, “I’m feeling big ... feelings, and I don’t have the words to tell you how it feels. When the bad feelings [are too much for] me, I can’t think straight.” They feel negativity just like adults do but they don’t always understand it, and that makes them feel powerless. As adults, we learn how to think things through before we react but two-year-olds don’t and that’s why we see temper tantrums.
17 They Are Masters At Social Cues
After the first year of their life, a child starts to learn social cues. We bet you thought they didn’t understand such things at that age. Children are actually masters at social cues at this age, so keep things in check. If our voices get louder, children understand what that means. They know that when your breathing becomes rapid and your movements are jerkier that it means your angry. When you are happy, they pick up on cues such as your voice is gentle and soft and you breathe more slowly.
16 They Totally Understand What You’re Saying
When a child is just about to turn two, she has already developed the ability to put words together. Experts call this ability a “language explosion.” They can learn an average of nine words a day but not only that but children can literally understand how word order affects meaning. Because of this, kids can start to figure out what it is your saying long before you realize that they can understand what you are saying. This is the time when parents need to realize that they shouldn’t have serious conversations in front of their children.
15 They Can Learn Words Without Understanding
Your toddler likely knows her name as well as the family pet, so if you are talking to someone about a situation involving the two, she is going to think she did something wrong because she’s hearing those names. They can understand words without having a full grasp of what you are talking about. "All attention is good to some extent," says Dr. Schor. "Toddlers whose parents are talking about them lovingly tend to enjoy that focus." "It makes a lot more sense to include a child in your conversation, which will strengthen her linguistic and interactional abilities than to make her just a passive observer," she noted.
14 They're Greedy Little Things That Know Bigger Is Better
Imagine you are putting equal amounts of ice cream in two different sized bowls. Your son starts crying and demands to have just as much ice cream as in the other bowl. He’s assuming there is more in the other bowl because of the size of the bowl. Toddlers don’t understand that different sized bowls can hold the same amount of ice cream. This cognitive ability won’t show up until your toddler is closer to six or seven. Until then, he’s going to assume a bigger glass means that there is more juice in it.
13 They Understand That Mess Is Fun
Sometimes messes can be fun for all of us but more often than not it’s more fun for your children. It seems to be more acceptable these days for kids to make messes than it was in a previous generation. Certainly, adults wouldn’t get a way with tracking mud throw out the house or drawing a mural on the wall with crayons. But kids get away with stuff like this all the time. Children really understand the desire to have fun more than adults do as we grow out of it after a while.
12 They Know How To Be Goofy
When you’re a toddler, you are really don’t care what you say or do. You will dress in ridiculous outfits, walk around with a mop on your head and generally just not care about anything. You can probably look back on your own childhood and laugh about the silly outfits you wore. Kids understand that being silly and goofy is awesome and they don’t worry about what others think. It really isn’t until middle school that kids start to look at themselves through other people’s eyes. It’s one of the most fun parts of having a toddler.
11 They Understand Anger But Can’t Control Emotion
Children know anger from a young age. They feel it themselves and they also know when you are angry. But they may know when they are angry but it’s difficult for them to control their emotion. It’s helpful if a parent understands this and can help them along. “Children can become shut down with [feeling badly], or lash out in anger, stuck in the experience of the negative emotion. Negative emotions are confusing at this age (as they can be at most ages), and our toddlers need our help to handle them…” (How Toddlers Thrive).
10 They Know What Parents Think
If you are talking about your child as if they aren’t there, your child will eventually learn the things that you think about them. If you label your son as “shy” to your friends, he will become shy just because of the label. Celia Graham learned about the power of labeling with her son Joshua, now 5. "When Josh was a toddler, he went through a phase where he wouldn't say hello or even respond when people asked him questions, so I explained it by saying, 'He's shy,'" she recalls. She didn't think he understood, "but as he got older, he started to say the same thing about himself. I felt as if I had stigmatized him."
9 They Think They Are The Center Of The Universe
One thing that toddlers understand by the age of two is that they are the center of the universe and no one is going to tell them otherwise. Toddlers are naturally egocentric says Tovah Klein, PhD, psychology professor and director of the Toddler Development Center at Barnard College in New York. They feel that way until about age 3. "It really is all about them," says Klein. "Toddlerhood is the celebration of me." They will also develop a better sense of empathy which allows them to think about others and not just themselves.
8 They Know People Are Different And They Accept Everyone
What your toddler understands at two is that everyone is the same and he accepts everyone around him. They don’t care if you’re short, tall, funny looking or even if your skin is purple, children see beyond all that and get to what’s important. That usually means play and they will hang out with anyone until you give them a reason not to. When we get older, that changes and most people won’t hang around with 5% of the people that they know. Children don’t feel that way and we see them embrace people naturally.
7 They Understand Someone’s True Nature
Although children will play with anyone, they are also very perceptive to things that adults may not pick up on right away. They can figure out someone’s true nature pretty fast and those are the people they won’t want to hang out with. They are quick to pick up on fake people or people who have ill intentions. If your child is acting weird around someone, don’t force them on that person because chances are, they know something that you don’t know. Kids usually know when their mom is dating a bad guy before she does.
6 They Learn Through Mimicking
Part of learning and understanding as a toddler comes from mimicking says Pamela High, MD, director of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Hasbro Children's Hospital. "At this age, there's a whole lot of watching and copying, which is why toddlers want what others have," she explains. "It's through imitation that they learn language and social skills and how to manipulate their world." The nest time that there is a meltdown because your child wants someone’s else’s toy, classify that as your child trying to learn. If you are able to understand why your child does these things, there is less chance of you becoming irritated.
5 They Understand The Imaginary
Have you ever had your toddler think that she would go down the drain with the water when she was having a bath? There’s a reason for this. Toddlers know what is called “magical thinking” which means they can’t tell the difference between what is real and what is imaginary. When your child is a toddler, he will think that the moon follows him around or that the car is really his friend or that trees wave at him. It’s also why they have a hard time taking no for an answer. "Toddlers think that if they wish or imagine something, it will happen," Klein states.
4 They Know What Honesty Is
Sometimes we comment to our friends that we can’t believe some of the things coming out of our toddler’s mouths. It’s because toddlers will speak their mind. They don’t know how to be dishonest at this point so they just tell it like it is. As adults we sometimes pretend to be nice to people because it’s the polite thing to do. But kids don’t have time for those kinds of games and they will just speak their minds regardless of the situation. It can make for an embarrassing situation especially when they tell grandma they don’t like their birthday present.
3 They Understand How To Manipulate
One thing that toddlers learn early on is that their cuteness is your kryptonite. How can you say no to that cute little face? Trust us, they learn this very early on and they are not afraid to use it against you. Children learn that with cuteness comes infinite power. They will use this power to get the things that they want. Theirs is no point in trying to pretend that you don’t have a weakness for their chubby cheeks because they won’t believe it. You can try to deny it, but it won’t work.
2 They Know When Parents Are Frustrated
If you are frustrated with something your child did and you are telling a family member about it, your child can sense your frustration even if she can’t understand everything you are saying. She knows you are talking about her. It pays to be careful of what you say in front of your child. "If you wouldn't want to have something said in front of you, don't say it in front of your child," Dr. Hirsh-Pasek advises. Remember the wise words of Dr. Seuss in Horton Hears a Who! "A person's a person, no matter how small."
1 They Understand Their Own Needs
As adults, we learn to suppress our own needs. Even if we are hungry, we will put off eating if we are too busy. Adults can exercise control in this way whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing. Kids don’t have that ability, not at 2. When they have a need, they want it dealt with immediately. If a toddler has to go to the bathroom, they have to do it right away. It’s the same when they feel hungry or thirsty, they want it right away. They don’t wait until it’s more convenient to eat or go to the bathroom.