Graduating to Toddlerhood: Important Milestones

Toddlerhood officially begins at one year old—at least that is where all the childcare experts and baby books set it—but it is not as if some magical switch is flipped on your child’s first birthday. Toddlerhood is associated with a set of behaviors and developmental milestones that all children reach at different times. Many babies display important elements of toddlerhood long before the first birthday, while others take a little longer for certain things. This is nothing to worry about, as all children are unique. Let us look at some of the most important aspects of toddlerhood. Once your child exhibits all these things, then you can say without a doubt that he or she is a fully fledged toddler. Better walking There is a good chance that your child took her first steps before her first birthday, but there is an equally good chance that she did not. In either case, the early stages of toddlerhood are characterized by a rapid development in the child’s ability to get around. For most children, it takes many months after those first steps until it is possible to walk well without tumbling often. So during these months, you will have the nerve-racking experience of seeing your child stumble and trip again and again. Fortunately, children become quite good at breaking their falls with their arms and coming out unscathed, but there will definitely be a more painful tumble every now and then. Soon enough, however, this stage will pass and your child will be a true walker. Better hand coordination During the last few months of your child’s first year, you probably saw him get better at using his hands, but he was probably still quite clumsy, and he likely had trouble operating his two hands separately. These skills will develop during the early toddler months, and your child will soon be able to perform more complex activity with his hands. There are many great things about this. For one thing, your child will be able to interact with the world in a whole new set of ways, which will contribute to his development. Plus, he will also be able to help feed himself, and soon he may even be able to give you a hand with dressing and grooming. More words If your child said any words during the first year, the speech was probably limited to “mama” or “dada” or two or three other words. During the first half of the second year, however, your child’s language ability will likely flower in an astonishing way. By eighteen or nineteen months, you may hear up to twenty different words, and perhaps even some sentencelike combinations of two to four words. Outside of exposing your child to the sounds of language, you do not have to do much to help his or her language development. It comes naturally. What you can do, however, is talk to your child often and let him or her know that you are listening. Exploration Toddlers are natural explorers. They want to get to know the world around them, and they are driven to do so with a passion that can be a wonder to watch as much as it can also be frustrating for parents. When your infant was waking through the night, spitting up, and crying for seemingly no reason, people probably told you things would get easier. That is true in many ways, but in many respects, taking care of a toddler is even more difficult because it requires continuous vigilance. The best way to deal with the exploration impulse is to babyproof your home as much as possible and to block your child from areas of the home that might be unsafe. Be careful not to overrestrict your child’s movements, though, because exploration is indeed a necessary part of the development process. So the bigger your child’s safe area, the better. By Jamell Williams