Toddler Development

Watching your toddler grow

It's just amazing — the little baby that you held in your arms yesterday is now a walking, talking, excited and learning toddler. The first two years are extremely important developmental stages for a child. They learn and grow physically and cognitively, and toddler behavior can be puzzling at times. They start becoming more social and learning how they fit into the world, which is growing bigger all the time. Here's what to expect as your baby turns into a toddler.

Early Childhood Development — How Your Toddler Fits In

From 13 months to 15 months, your toddler will start walking and saying recognizable words. Challenge him or her by having your toddler walk to you or tell you the name of a recognizable person (e.g., "Who's that? That's Mama!"). Children at this age will also start eating less and may experience a sleep regression as their body tries to figure out its growth and abilities. Toddlers at this age are concerned with the here and now — what happens when they drop a cup on the floor or throw food at the wall? What is your reaction? This stage can be frustrating, but your toddler will eventually give up on these games as they learn, and commit to memory, what happens. Toddler nutrition may also provide some irritation as your baby learns exactly what you will and will not tolerate at mealtime.

From 16 to 18 months, your toddler will begin to express interest in helping you around the house and doing grownup things. He or she will also begin to communicate more, and his or her vocabulary will begin to expand. Some children at this age will even start stringing two-word sentences together (e.g., "Hungry now," or "Me sleep"). Toddlers at this age thrive on routine, so ensure that your day has a rhythm. You can also start exposing your child to other children and activities appropriate for his or her age. Children between the ages of 16 and 18 months will be able to pick up, hold and wield a crayon, and bang on a xylophone or piano. They may also enjoy "reading" books with you.

Ushering in the terrible twos, 18 to 21 months heralds the "mine" stage of toddler development. Your sweet, helpful baby will begin to throw tantrums and want to manage things for him or herself. That's normal, and it shows that your toddler feels secure enough to want to learn more about the world and what he or she can do. You may want to consider toilet-training and watch for signs of readiness (for example, your child recognizes when his or her diaper is wet or soiled, goes longer between diaper changes and starts to stay dry overnight). Sleep patterns may also change. Toddler sleep can be challenging — your baby will now recognize that he or she can control when and where he or she falls asleep, which may lead to power struggles at bedtime. Despite your toddler's newfound independence, however, he or she may begin to experience toddler separation anxiety, meaning that your presence is still required for comfort.

At 22 to 24 months and beyond, you may find your toddler experiencing a boom in language development. Full sentences may start coming out of your child's mouth, and his or her little ears are picking up everything they hear, which means that you'll need to watch your own language! Many children begin to potty train by this time, as well. All of these skills ready toddlers for the preschooler years, when you'll get to learn more about your child's thoughts and feelings as he or she continues to form an individual identity.

For more detail on your child's month-by-month development, see our Ages & Stages section.

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