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Care Stages: How Does My Toddler Grow?

Christine Koh
March 25, 2009

Ages 1 to 3

Caring for toddlers can be both wildly gratifying and joyful, then unbelievably frustrating. During this period, toddlers form strong emotional attachments yet also seek independence -- a dichotomy that can lead to confusion and meltdowns.

Here are the major developments that parents and caregivers will face during the toddler years.

  • Feeding
  • Bottle and/or breast weaning typically occurs at this time. The mess factor elevates as toddlers transition to sippy then open cups and continue to experiment with solid food. Vigilance is required to ensure that food is presented in small chunks to prevent choking. Picky eating typically rears its head during this time.

  • Sleeping
  • Sleep becomes more predictable as toddlers typically take one to two naps during the day and sleep through the night.

  • Communication
  • Language production and comprehension explodes; it is both joyful and also requires patience to decipher toddler talk. Speaking slowly, using repetition, reading books together, and encouraging verbal expression of emotion will help develop language skills.

  • Emotion
  • To curb behavior problems, parents and caregivers will need to be consistent with discipline strategies for common issues such as whining, meltdowns, and aggressive behavior (biting, hitting). Even though biting may be a common behavior, refer to our Child Care Challenges Guide: Biting for ways you can help manage this behavior in children.

  • Cognition and socialization
  • Toddlers are inherently curious. Parents and caregivers can fuel physical, cognitive, and social needs by engaging in plenty of play to encourage physical coordination (playing at the park and with manipulative toys), sensory awareness (art, music), and helping behaviors (watering plants, "folding" laundry). Older toddlers will enter the world of friendships, sharing, and independent skills, by doing such things as getting dressed, brushing their teeth, washing their hands, blowing their nose, and using utensils.

  • Locomotion
  • During this period toddlers find their walking and then running legs. Vigilance is required to keep children safe, particularly in high traffic areas, and also on stairs, which little ones love to climb but still need supervision on.

  • Potty
  • Potty training typically starts during these years. Keep an eye out for readiness signals, such as having dry diapers for 3 to 4 hour stretches, showing an interest in the potty, verbally or physically indicating they are about to go in their diaper, and the ability to follow one-step instructions, such as "pick up the ball."

Patience and consistency are required during the roller coaster ride that is toddler development. Try to find a caregiver who is extremely patient, can follow your lead on how to handle behavioral issues and potty training, and will be creative and engaged in fostering your child's physical, cognitive, and social development.

Christine Koh is a music and brain scientist turned parent and writer about parenting issues for Care.com. She is also the editor of BostonMamas.com.

* This article is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be providing medical advice and is not a substitute for such advice. The reader should always consult a health care provider concerning any medical condition or treatment plan.?? Neither Care.com nor the author assumes any responsibility or liability with respect to use of any information contained herein.

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