Two Words to Teach to Your Toddler This Month, Part 1: Appreciate

Our kids will only be as socially responsible and emotionally aware as we teach them to be. Modeling vocabulary, like the words introduced in this 2 part monthly column, will help you take an active role in your child’s social, emotional, and language development.


Merriam-Webster dictionary:

  • To give thanks or feel grateful for
  • To ask in a polite request
  • To understand with heightened awareness
  • To understand the worth or significance of something
  • To be fully aware of

Why teach it to a toddler?

Appreciate is the elegant older sibling to the good old “thank you” that most kids recite routinely. Children who learn the meaning behind appreciate, may actually feel emotional gratitude towards others instead of continuously being cued to use polite language. As a tool in forming meaningful social relationships with friends and family, kids should learn to appreciate the worth, contributions, and qualities of others. For self-centric toddlers, grasping the idea of appreciate will take some time and effort, as little learners are centered on figuring out their world first, much less what is going on around them. So, how do I get a two year old to be fully aware of a situation or understand something with heightened awareness?

Follow your little leader- teachable moments

First, figure out what speaks to them. What are your child’s interests? Is there a favorite nap time story that you can recall or toy that your tot can’t live without? Figure out what is important to them and introduce appreciate.

  • “I see you appreciate hearing the story about the two dogs before you take a nap. Appreciate means you really are happy and thankful to hear the story. How do you like the dogs, what do you appreciate about them? I bet the dogs appreciated when their owner took them out for a walk.”
  • “You must appreciate that red ball I usually see you playing with. It seems fun, does it make you feel good to play with it? I appreciate it when you play with the ball outside where there is nothing to break.”

Incorporate appreciate to teach children to look at the bigger picture of things. I often think of the privileges that our girl has, like how much time she gets to spend with her daddy, like how she has a playroom filled with toys, and like how she gets to grow up in a home with two parents who love each other.  And then I think about the children in the domestic violence shelter where I counseled during college. Too many children grow up with bottled emotions, unable to express. Years of seeing mom and dad in an abusive downward spiral, and feeling emotionally neglected, feeling scared, these children hardly experienced the joys of a fruitful childhood, if at all. When our daughter starts to fuss as Daddy takes over duties (she’s a bit of a momma’s girl), I remind her to appreciate her daddy’s help, since not every kid is as fortunate as her. I spare her the nitty gritty, but I have to let her know how good she has it. I encourage her to appreciate her daddy’s attention, love, and care.

Eventually, she turns the fussing around, and I appreciate that our girl is learning how to work through her emotions.

What’s your take?

Please share what you appreciated about this post or how you are teaching your toddler to appreciate. Tune in later this month for part 2 of Two Words to Teach to Your Toddler This Month when I introduce “green” vocabulary guaranteed to boost your families’ feeling of social responsibility.