Experimentation and Repetition
With her improved mobility and nimble fingers, your 2-year-old is out to test her cause-and-effect theories more thoroughly. To solve the mystery of the light switch, she might try pulling a stool over to the wall, climbing onto it, and making the room go from light to dark and back again. She will be driven to try lots of other great cause-and-effect experiments too: Does a tower of blocks always fall down when she pushes it? Does her little cousin? Does Dad always use his Big Voice if she pulls the dog's tail? Because repetition is so crucial to learning, your child will perform the same cause-and-effect experiments again and again.
In his attempt to grasp the underlying logic of events in his life, your child will thrive on routine. He'll ask you to sing the same songs over and over, especially if they involve movement of some kind, both to grasp the vocabulary and to see if the same thing happens in the song every time. And his behavior will improve if you establish consistent daily patterns, since repetition of routines can help ease transitions and provide stability for kids this age. Two-year-olds with a schedule anticipate what will happen next, feel less anxious about unknowns, and are more in control of their own impulses. For instance, if your child knows he has to pick up his toys before he can have a snack in the morning, you'll have less work to do and he'll feel more independent.
Troublemaking Comes Naturally
Meanwhile, in his ongoing attempts to be master and commander of his universe, your child will not only make messes but he'll also land himself in trouble. He might climb onto a chair, then onto a counter, and then onto the top of the refrigerator to reach the cookies he saw you hide there. Or he may realize that, yes, he can play with his older sister's forbidden toys -- as long as he sneaks into her room during school hours, when she isn't there to stop him.
But, Hausmann reminds us, your child isn't being deliberately defiant. "This is a time in every child's life when he is driven to plan things independently and try to solve problems on his own. Children this age have a wide range of strategies for learning new things. Offer them a safe, nurturing environment and they will be motivated to develop their cognitive skills at a pace that will leave you breathless."