This is the age of the fast and furious! Your baby can walk, run, climb stairs, and carry and pull toys – often times faster than you can! His little hands are busy too. He is learning to feed himself, dress himself, scribble, and build block towers. All these big and small muscle skills are connected to his cognitive, language, and emotional/social development as well. He is gaining independence from you and at the same time learning to play with other children. He is learning new words, becoming very interested in stories, and experimenting with new ideas by pretending to be a cowboy, playing teacher, etc. It is his way of internalizing what he is learning and “trying on” his new and exciting knowledge. He is also talking in 2-4 word sentences, becoming curious about his world, and possibly driving you crazy with the perpetual “why” questions.
Is My Toddler on Track?
No two toddlers will develop at the same pace, but there are some norms you can use as a guide. Physical, cognitive, language, and social-emotional developmental milestones will give you a range of behaviors your baby should master and what to look forward to in the next growth stage. If you are concerned about any area of development, there are a number of activities you can do with baby to encourage growth. If you are worried that your baby is falling behind, consult with your doctor to decide if your baby needs more specialized help.
A few excellent sources for Developmental Milestones:
Center for Disease Control – Learn the Signs/Act Early and Milestone Moments
Zero to Three – Your Child’s Development
Healthy Children.Org – Ages and Stages
- Toddler will learn to walk alone, run, climb stairs, and carry or pull toys.
- Toddler will begin to scribble, feed self, and build block towers.
- Your toddler likes to play with other children, imitate people, and play make-believe.
- He is becoming more independent; he occasionally may become defiant.
- Your toddler will speak in 2-4 word sentences (“I want toy”), name body parts, and learn new words every day.
Ideas for Learning and Growth
Nurturing: It’s safe to say that every household with a toddler has had a food fight at one time or another. Your baby won’t eat enough; your baby wants to eat every five minutes; your baby won’t eat what’s in front of him and then cries because he’s hungry! What’s a parent to do?
- First remember that a toddler’s stomach is very small, and once it’s full, he won’t want to stuff anymore in there! Let him react to his hunger cues, but be sure that the food offered is the best nutritional choice.
- Second, toddlers are growing fast and using a lot of energy – energy that needs to be replaced more often than three times a day. Toddlers are grazers: they want to eat little meals many times a day.
- Third, toddlers can be picky. They know what they like and that may be all they want to eat. You may have to offer a food up to 20 times before the toddler will eat it. Don’t worry about this too much as long as the food he does like is nutritious.
Social: Bring your toddler to the park or play groups so he can play with other children. He may not look like he is actually playing with others – at this age he is more likely to play alongside of other children – but he will love the experience and learn how to socialize.
Cognitive: Indulge your toddler’s imagination by taking part in his imaginary games. Let him use your old clothes, shoes, and hats to play dress up. Be prepared to take on the role of his favorite story-time character, even if you end up be the superhero’s arch enemy.
This is the time that your toddler is developing important pre-reading and pre-math skills, such as matching and sorting. Make a game out of matching socks by color or stacking blocks or bowls by size. Make a movement game using ideas of “front and back “ or “top and bottom.”
Language: Read to your child every day! At this point, he will have favorite books that he will want to read over and over. Play “show me” by asking the child to point to different things in the storybook, like “Where is the King’s crown?” or “Show me the train engine. Now the caboose.” With a familiar story, leave out a few words and let him fill them in or substitute a word and let him correct you – the sillier the better: “My name is Cat In the Pants!” “No, it’s not – Cat in the Hat!” Don’t be surprised if he takes up a book and reads it all by himself. He probably remembers enough of the words to make sense of the story and is matching the story to the pictures. This pretend reading is a solid step to real reading and the love of books.
What to Watch For
The CDC suggests you consult with your doctor if at two years of age your baby:
- Doesn’t use 2-word phrases (for example, “drink milk”).
- Doesn’t know what to do with common things, like a brush, phone, fork, or spoon.
- Doesn’t copy actions and words.
- Doesn’t follow simple instructions.
- Doesn’t walk steadily.
- Loses skills he once had.
This may be a sign of delayed development, something that could be resolved with the right interventions. The important thing is to act early! The earlier you act, the easier it will be to get baby on track developmentally.
Muskegon Area Services: A list of community groups, agencies, and schools that can help you and your baby.
Web Sources: Carefully researched websites that will give you a wealth of information on child development and parenting.