When a baby starts to walk, he unofficially becomes a toddler. When most people speak of toddlerhood, they are referring to children between 1 and 3 years of age. Toddlers often make major changes, especially in regards to locomotion, thinking and talking. One-year-olds master walking and mobility, while 2-year-olds work on expanding their vocabulary.
Toddlers learn to master their bodies and progress from walking to climbing and running. They learn names of body parts and are constantly refining their fine- and gross-motor skills. They become more independent and imitative. Children reach milestones based on their own timetables, but there are averages of when to expect new developments.
Around 13 to 14 months, babies may start to walk if they haven’t already. They can say two or three words (“dada,” “dog”) and have better memories and a budding sense of humor. Around 18 months, baby can sort shapes, recognize colors, feed herself with a spoon, scribble and become frustrated (resulting in those infamous tantrums). By 23 to 24 months, baby has progressed to saying two- to four-word sentences and can run with ease. Much happens in this short period of time.
Slow physical growth, compared with the rapid weight gain in babies, is one mark of toddler development. According to Children’s Hospital Boston, baby’s physical growth slows down after the first birthday. One-year-olds typically gain 8 oz. and grow about ¼ to ½ inch each month. Two- and 3-year-olds gain an average of 4 to 6 lbs. a year. Two-year-olds grow ¼ to ½ inch each month, and 3-year-olds grow about 2 to 3 inches per year.
Object permanence is a cognitive skill that develops during toddlerhood. Toddlers begin realizing that an object exists even when they can’t see it. By 21 to 22 months, toddlers can find an object hidden under blankets. Hand-eye coordination improves, and by 14 months toddlers can stack blocks. By 23 to 24 months, toddlers can stack four or more blocks. Between 2 and 3 years, children are engulfed in fantasy play and make-believe. They can sit with one toy and play pretend.
To encourage toddlers to achieve their potential, give them plenty of attention. Read to them every day and talk to them while making eye contact. Once your child starts saying short phrases such as “ma up,” expand on them by asking, “Do you want Mommy to pick you up?” This encourages babies to make more complete sentences. Encourage decision making by asking things like, “Do you want an apple or a pear?” Give them plenty of toys—the simpler, the better. Toddlers also are becoming aware of themselves as individuals.
Toddlers begin to run, jump and climb—a refinement of their gross-motor skills. Even though toddlers can climb up steps around 12 months, they’re able to climb steps with one leg at a time around 20 months. A mobile child is healthy and developmentally correct, but she can find herself in danger if you don’t create a safe environment. Use baby gates to prevent her from reaching steps and make sure potentially hazardous items are out of climbing reach.