Every single toddler is unique and will develop in their own time. Measuring their progress against a chart or comparing them with other children isn’t particularly useful. This beautiful age is where they will develop in many areas of their life at varying rates. Don’t be surprised if there are some backwards steps along the way.
The most important developmental areas you can support them with, are:
The ‘terrible twos’ are not a myth. Toddlers have many, many feelings and they often express them in the form of tantrums. This is totally normal for someone who doesn’t know how to cope with frustration or guilt. They are learning about empathy and how their behaviour can impact other people around them.
Toddlers will start to pick up on words that they hear the most and have a go at saying them. Common ones are ‘mum’ and ‘dad’, ‘yes’ and ‘no’ and anything relating to the most important thing in their world – themselves. Don’t be surprised if you hear a lot of “mine” and ‘me’ in the mix. More complete sentences will follow as they string together items and concepts, like additions to the words “give me”, “I want” or “come here”.
Coordinating movement will be a big growth area for your toddler. Putting things into their mouths is a big one, as well as standing up unaided and taking some independent steps with fewer falls. Gradually, they will start to add more complex actions, such as throwing and kicking – these require shifting the focus from merely standing, to balancing and performing an action. It can take a while to master.
If we could hear what our children were thinking, parenting would be so much easier. What we do know is that toddlers are coming to grips with some pretty big concepts – night and day, big and small, good and bad, fun and boring. They are also learning to solve problems and deal with situations, like waiting for things they really want and doing things they are asked to do.
A lot of learning is done through playing and by watching. Your little one will be improving their motor skills, comprehension, confidence, and communication, as they play. They will also be copying what they see and hear, so now is a great time to watch your language if you don’t want to hear the odd swear word coming back to haunt you.
If you are starting to hear the word “no” a lot, don’t be disheartened. Your toddler is gaining a sense of independence and they want to do things for themselves. Hand them their own drink, let them use the spoon, allow a long while for them to put on their own shoes – it’s all part of them learning everyday skills and it’s wonderful for their self esteem.
Toddlers go through a lot of ‘firsts’. The big ones are steps and words, of course, but there are plenty of other big moments along the way. Some of them will be a breeze and others might feel like a bit of a nightmare.
Here are some tips for getting through those toddler firsts:
First steps – Your bub will probably start to pull themselves up on furniture and take their first steps so they can get to you. Stretch out your arms and encourage them. Move quickly past any tumbles and don’t worry if your little one isn’t rushing around right away.
First words – Names (especially variations of ‘mum’ and ‘dad’) will probably be the first words to come out. The names of items will come next – bottle, blanket, bear, etc. If you speak slowly and clearly, you’ll notice your toddler listening and repeating. Songs are also an excellent way to boost vocabulary and understanding.
First bed – Some little ones just love their cot. Working with their increasing sense of independence is the key here. By referring to their bed as a “big kids” bed, the idea of making the change becomes a triumph for them. Make sure it’s safe and let them be the boss. What colour are the sheets? Which toys can go on their bed?
First bike – This is a rite of passage for most kids. Choosing a safe bike or scooter that your kids will love to ride is a big deal. Start with a tricycle if you can, or an adjustable push bike that you can change to a two-wheeler, in time. Be positive and patient as they push off and watch the look of joy spread across their face as they master it.
For more information see Physical development or Toddler Games.