raisingkidswithlove

You don't have to be perfect to be the perfect parent!

Let’s talk toddler!


Kaitlyn was a typical toddler, she definitely had an opinion!

You wake up one day, and it is a whole new ball game.  You now have a toddler.  Toddlers are so much fun, but can also be a challenge.  We are not used to our child having an opinion, and a toddler has one and often expresses it very loudly!  Toddlers can be having a tantrum one minute and laughing the next!

Your toddler’s biggest developmental task is to start to develop independence.  Your child will begin to separate from you at times, and be very clingy at other times.  Every day and sometimes every minute, is a new adventure when you have a 1 to 3 year old!

Recently the CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics updated the growth and developmental milestones for toddlers.  They moved the milestone back to when 75% of the children should reach it.  In the past, the milestones were set when 50% of the children were reaching it.  This change will hopefully remove the “wait and see” attitude and encourage parents and health care providers to refer when a milestone is not reached. There is an excellent app for your phone and easy to read milestone lists for each age group on the CDC website.

We know that toddlers are a bundle of energy.  Everything is an adventure!  Kitchen cupboards, knobs and buttons, computers, and even the drain in the tub is interesting.  Toddlers are busy discovering and really don’t have time for naps and potty training, although both are important for toddlers!  Toddlers are free little spirits and have very little self-control, which often results in your precious child throwing himself on the floor in a fit of frustration and anger.   To better understand your toddler, there are a few principles of toddler psychology…..

  1. A toddler is developing creativity, independence, curiosity, and imagination.  The whole world is open and exciting!  Your child is not misbehaving when he smashes peas, climbs on the table, or puts his finger in a place it should not be, he is exploring.  Exploration is developmentally appropriate for your toddler!
  2. A toddler has very little self-control and tolerance to frustration.  Sometimes it is so frustrating that a puzzle piece will not fit, or he can’t climb on the counter, or you break up his cracker that he wanted whole!  Because a toddler has very few words and a limited repertoire to handle frustration, the “logical” thing for him to do is melt down, kick, cry, and let his opinion be heard by all!
  3. Toddlers want attention.  Attention is attention to a toddler, whether it is negative attention or positive attention.  As parents, we need to limit our words of explanation to a toddler.  A 2-year-old doesn’t really care if he will fall off the table, he just wants to climb on it.  You will never convince him otherwise…there will be no moment of epiphany when he understands your safety talk!  We must not reinforce behavior by giving extended attention to unwanted behavior.  Give lots of positive words to positive behavior….very few words to negative behavior.
  4. Toddlers need predictability and routine.  Your child will behave much better when there is a routine in place at home.  The amount of frustration and the number of tantrums will decrease when you establish routines and rituals.
  5. Toddlers need some sense of control.  Give your child true choices.  “Do you want the bananas or the apple sauce?”   “Do you want to wear this shirt or this one?”  “Do you want to read your story before your bath or after?”  Do not give choices when there are no true choice.  Only ask a yes or no question if you are happy with the answer being “No!”
  6. Toddler temper tantrums are a result of frustration, being overly tired, being hungry and learning that they work!

 Most 1 year olds can:

Social/Emotional Milestones
  • Plays games with you, like pat-a-cake
Language/Communication Milestones
  • Waves “bye-bye”
  • Calls a parent “mama” or “dada” or another special name
  • Understands “no” (pauses briefly or stops when you say it)
Cognitive Milestones (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
  • Puts something in a container, like a block in a cup
  • Looks for things he sees you hide, like a toy under a blanket
Movement/Physical Development Milestones
  • Pulls up to stand
  • Walks, holding on to furniture
  • Drinks from a cup without a lid, as you hold it
  • Picks things up between thumb and pointer finger, like small bits of food
  • 1 year olds should have tripled his/her birth weight
  • Take 1 to 2 naps a day and sleep 11 to 12 hours at night.  Be sure to have a good bedtime routine.

Most 15 month olds can:

Social/Emotional Milestones
  • Copies other children while playing, like taking toys out of a container when another child does
  • Shows you an object she likes
  • Claps when excited
  • Hugs stuffed doll or other toy
  • Shows you affection (hugs, cuddles, or kisses you)
Language/Communication Milestones
  • Tries to say one or two words besides “mama” or “dada,” like “ba” for ball or “da” for dog
  • Looks at a familiar object when you name it
  • Follows directions given with both a gesture and words. For example, he gives you a toy when you hold out your hand and say, “Give me the toy.”
  • Points to ask for something or to get help
Cognitive Milestones (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
  • Tries to use things the right way, like a phone, cup, or book
  • Stacks at least two small objects, like blocks
Movement/Physical Development Milestones
  • Takes a few steps on his own
  • Uses fingers to feed herself/himself some food
  • 15 month olds will often take 1 nap a day and sleep 11 to 12 hours at night.
  • Not separate easily.  Separation anxiety peaks between 18 and 24 months.
  • Know the difference between how Mom and Dad parent and play.  Many will prefer one parent over the other at times.  Toddlers cannot intentionally do things to hurt your feelings at this age.  Connecting with one parent over the other may be because your toddler is learning male and female roles, may need more nurturing from mom or more physical play from dad.  Roll with it!

Most 18 month olds can:

Social/Emotional Milestones
  • Moves away from you, but looks to make sure you are close by
  • Points to show you something interesting
  • Puts hands out for you to wash them
  • Looks at a few pages in a book with you
  • Helps you dress him by pushing arm through sleeve or lifting up foot
Language/Communication Milestones
  • Tries to say three or more words besides “mama” or “dada”
  • Follows one-step directions without any gestures, like giving you the toy when you say, “Give it to me.”
Cognitive Milestones (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
  • Copies you doing chores, like sweeping with a broom
  • Plays with toys in a simple way, like pushing a toy car
Movement/Physical Development Milestones
  • Walks without holding on to anyone or anything
  • Scribbles
  • Drinks from a cup without a lid and may spill sometimes
  • Feeds herself with her fingers
  • Tries to use a spoon
  • Climbs on and off a couch or chair without help
  • Toddlers at this age will start to develop separation anxiety. Always tell your child when you are leaving, never sneak out. Tell them you will return and they are safe.

Most 24 month olds can:

  • Social/Emotional Milestones
    • Notices when others are hurt or upset, like pausing or looking sad when someone is crying
    • Looks at your face to see how to react in a new situation
    Language/Communication Milestones
    • Points to things in a book when you ask, like “Where is the bear?”
    • Says at least two words together, like “More milk.”
    • Points to at least two body parts when you ask him to show you
    • Uses more gestures than just waving and pointing, like blowing a kiss or nodding yes
    Cognitive Milestones (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
    • Holds something in one hand while using the other hand; for example, holding a container and taking the lid off
    • Tries to use switches, knobs, or buttons on a toy
    • Plays with more than one toy at the same time, like putting toy food on a toy plate
    Movement/Physical Development Milestones
    • Kicks a ball
    • Runs
    • Walks (not climbs) up a few stairs with or without help
    • Eats with a spoon

Most 2 1/2 year olds can:

Social/Emotional Milestones
  • Plays next to other children and sometimes plays with them
  • Shows you what she can do by saying, “Look at me!”
  • Follows simple routines when told, like helping to pick up toys when you say, “It’s clean-up time.”
Language/Communication Milestones
  • Says about 50 words
  • Says two or more words together, with one action word, like “Doggie run”
  • Names things in a book when you point and ask, “What is this?”
  • Says words like “I,” “me,” or “we”
Cognitive Milestones (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
  • Uses things to pretend, like feeding a block to a doll as if it were food
  • Shows simple problem-solving skills, like standing on a small stool to reach something
  • Follows two-step instructions like “Put the toy down and close the door.”
  • Shows he knows at least one color, like pointing to a red crayon when you ask, “Which one is red?”
Movement/Physical Development Milestones
  • Uses hands to twist things, like turning doorknobs or unscrewing lids
  • Takes some clothes off by himself, like loose pants or an open jacket
  • Jumps off the ground with both feet
  • Turns book pages, one at a time, when you read to her/him

Most 3 year olds can:

Social/Emotional Milestones
  • Calms down within 10 minutes after you leave her, like at a childcare drop off
  • Notices other children and joins them to play
Language/Communication Milestones
  • Talks with you in conversation using at least two back-and-forth exchanges
  • Asks “who,” “what,” “where,” or “why” questions, like “Where is mommy/daddy?”
  • Says what action is happening in a picture or book when asked, like “running,” “eating,” or “playing”
  • Says first name, when asked
  • Talks well enough for others to understand, most of the time
Cognitive Milestones (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
  • Draws a circle, when you show him how
  • Avoids touching hot objects, like a stove, when you warn her
Movement/Physical Development Milestones
  • Strings items together, like large beads or macaroni
  • Puts on some clothes by himself, like loose pants or a jacket
  • Uses a fork

 Parenting activities for toddlers include:

  • Toddler “field trips”.  Bring your toddler to museums, parks, library story times, the post office, the grocery store, fire stations, apple orchards, and play groups.
  • Play matching games, sorting games, shape and color games and puzzles.
  • Read, read, read!  Try to read 30 minutes a day broken into short time slots.
  • Encourage crayons, finger paints, and clay to develop fine muscle control for writing.  Writing on an easel or blackboard is easier for young children because larger muscles are used.
  • Encourage water play, sand or dry rice play, filling and dumping.
  • Play with puppets.
  • Allow your child to feed himself, encourage use of utensils.
  • Help to expand your toddler’s language by talking to him.  Help him finish words and sentences.  If he says “cup”, you can respond, “You want your blue cup with milk.”
  • Play pretend with your toddler.  Play kitchens, dolls, stuffed animals, trains, cars, dress up….
  • Play follow the leader with your toddler.
  • Encourage rhymes and songs.
  • Play musical instruments with your toddler.
  • Respond to wanted behaviors with positive words and ignore unwanted behaviors.  Use time outs for behaviors like hitting, biting, and shoving.

At your child’s 18 month and 24 month well child visit, your healthcare provider should be screening for signs of autism.  Red flags that a parent might see are:

  • Your child repeats words but does not try to participate in conversations.
  • Your child does not respond to his name when you say it.
  • Your child does not make eye contact with you or others.
  • Your child avoids social contact or physical touch.
  • Your child has not developed speech or is losing words rather than building a vocabulary.
  • Your child does not play with toys like his peers and does not use imaginative play.
  • Your child seems to be under sensitive or overly sensitive to stimulations such as sound, touch, and texture.

Remember, if your child is reaching developmental milestones, no worries!  Many times children will not be able to do something that is expected because they have never been encouraged or have never had the opportunity.  Be sure to provide the opportunity for your toddler to reach milestones, even if it takes longer to allow your child to complete a task, or it is messy!!  If your child is not reaching developmental milestones, contact your doctor, and refer to your state’s early intervention program.  The earlier the intervention, the better the outcome.

Important links that will help you: 

  • “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” Campaign  
    This campaign educates parents about childhood development, including early warning signs of autism and other developmental disorders, and it encourages developmental screening and intervention. It will give you tips on how to determine if your child needs screening.
  • Overview of Early Intervention
    Learn more about early intervention services from the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities.  Find out about your state’s early intervention program and how to access it.
  • Bright FuturesExternal Web Site Icon
    Bright Futures materials for families are available for parenting tips for children from birth to 21 years of age. This is provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
  • Developmental Surveillance and Screening GuidelinesExternal Web Site Icon
    This American Academy of Pediatrics website provides guidelines on surveillance and screening for developmental delays in children.
  • National Association for the Education of Young ChildrenExternal Web Site Icon (NAEYC)
    NAEYC provides accreditation for early childhood programs and  preschools that meet certain standards. You can search for an accredited program or preschool near you.  NAEYC also provides resources, tools, and information for parents.

Toddlers can be exhausting, but exhilarating!  Looking through your toddler’s eyes, you will learn to enjoy the small wonders of the world again.  Tie up your running shoes, you have a busy toddler!   

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.

Cindy

5 Comments

  1. This is an excellent set of developmental milestones. I love how thorough it is too. I personally like knowing what is to come, that way I can better prepare for whatever it is and watch for signs. Plus it’s a good way to find out where your child may or may not struggle.

    Like

  2. Thanks for the comment! You are right…it is nice to know what developmental milestones are ahead with your child, and realize that some of the behavior is truely developmental. Have fun with your child in every stage!

    Like

  3. Great post and information – we are at 13 months, so lots more to come I see, hehe, thanks for this, great read and will make notes.

    Like

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