5 words toddlers don’t understand
Match your expectations to your toddler’s stage – and don’t try saying any of these!


Even though he may say it to you 19 times a day, your toddler probably doesn’t feel that the word ‘No’ applies to him. In fact, he is likely to test you, to see if your ‘No’ is more like a ‘Maybe’. You’ll recognise the sideways glance, sliding towards you as his hand reaches inexorably towards the valuable, breakable ornament your mother-in-law has just given you.

You’ll need to get down to his level, look him in the eye, and accompany the ‘No!’ with moving him swiftly away from the heirloom towards something of equal interest (the dog bowl, the computer...)


The chocolate is there in the kitchen cupboard, her hand is on it and in steps a party-pooper parent saying, ‘we can have some of that later, darling.’

‘Later?’ thinks your toddler. ‘What is this later whereof you speak? Chocolate here NOW!’

The concept of time takes years to really sink in, so you need to be patient with a toddler’s luck of understanding of the concept of ‘later’.

Rest assured that by time your child is 14, she will have developed a deep love affair with the world ‘later’, accompanied by an airy wave of the hand indicating a vague time in the extremely distant future.

Mine (and yours)

The best soft toy in a friend’s toybox has become a permanent fixture in your son’s hand. But now it’s time to say goodbye and give the toy back.


‘No darling, that’s Kyle’s dolphin, not yours.’


And so on. Eventually you ply the cuddly toy from his clawed fist, and drag him kicking and screaming to the car, while you make rash promises about getting him his own one just the same, as soon as you are next at Disneyworld.

Kyle, meanwhile is in a flood of tears at the prospect of losing his precious toy – which he had not looked at for six months.


Your child is running with madcap glee towards the busy road. Surely if you shout ‘Stop!’ with a stern look on your face, she will slow down enough for you to rugby tackle her to the ground and administer a short lecture on the dangers of traffic? Nope.

Anecdotal evidence (me and my pals) shows that when you shout ‘Stop!’ at a toddler, they will speed up as if the hounds of hell are after them (that’s you).


These are among the items that parents think are ‘dirty’ and toddlers would rather describe as ‘fascinating’:

Dog bowls
Dog poo (any poo)
Dog’s bums
Cigarette stompies
Used condoms at the park
Other children’s regurgitated rusks

Which words does your toddler seem to choose not to understand?

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