One year olds are a study in opposites – generally easy going, friendly and sociable, they are also quite busy and increasingly demanding. Always wanting to try things on their own, they are easily frustrated when they cannot accomplish a task and quickly look for help. Language skills blossom between One and Two, with most children developing a vocabulary of at least 50 words by the end of this year, half of which are generally understood by strangers. One year olds walk, start to run, negotiate stairs fairly well, climb and kick balls. They get lots of joy out of stacking blocks and then knocking them down, turning light switches on and off, and opening and shutting cabinet doors. Because they are so busy at this stage, you’ll notice that your toddler’s baby fat gives way to leaner muscles as legs and arms lengthen a bit. Between 12 and 24-months, not only will your toddler transition from breast milk or formula to whole milk and from a bottle to a sippy cup, but his/her diet will become increasingly picky, as well. Although this new pickiness is distressing for parents of babies with previously expansive palates, it’s important not to worry too much. Just keep offering healthy food choices at every meal and trust that your child will eat when he/she is hungry. Please see our tips on feeding picky eaters for more information!
As delightful as most young toddlers are, they are not always easy to live with. They prefer “no” over “yes,” would rather throw things than pick them up, and they consider themselves the center of attention at all times. Because of this, they find sharing very challenging, and there is often much competition for and possessiveness of toys. Altercations with peers or siblings for desired items can be physical, resulting in hitting, kicking, or even biting. Further, toddlers’ assertion of independence often results in temper tantrums when they don’t get their way. Setting your child up for success by childproofing the environment, having realistic expectations, keeping a reasonable daily routine, and anticipating when your child is tired, hungry, or not feeling well will go a long way toward minimizing unwanted behavior. Many parents find “time out” very helpful at this stage. As long as your child is in a safe environment, it is ok to ignore the tantrum. Please discuss with us any specific concerns you might have about your child’s behavior at this stage!
Don’t let “The Terrible Twos” frighten you! For many children, the often-tumultuous months between 18 and 24 months give way to a period of relative calm, at least for a short time. Two year olds are refreshingly self-assured, steady, and capable little beings. They have more command over their language skills, they settle in comfortably on your lap rather than trying to squirm down and run, they watch household chores intently and try to “help” as much as they can. They are explorers! No nook or cranny is safe, and special attention must be given to securing any dangerous chemicals or medicines.
At some point between turning Two and turning Three, though, the classic “terrible” behavior will inevitably happen. The peaceful and amiable toddler you once knew grows into a very particular and exacting one, where rules and “sameness” are very important or tantrums ensue. The problem is that children at this stage “want it both ways” and have trouble making up their minds when faced with a decision. They can seem quite bossy and whiny, and sometimes fall out over very minor issues.
Despite the special challenges of this age, the time between Two and Three is particularly exciting. It’s a time of amazing physical, emotional, and intellectual growth and the year will fly by. Most children at this age start to become interested in, or even master, potty training, they want to brush their own teeth, and they become more proficient at feeding themselves with utensils. Capitalize on the sweet times when your toddler wants to cuddle and kiss you, because you know that in a split-second, they will be off running again.
Many parents are so thankful to make it through the Twos that they describe their Three year olds as magical, and it’s not hard to see why. Three year olds have budding and meaningful social skills, start to forge early friendships, and are less competitive and more cooperative. Instead of “I,” it’s now “we.” They are generally happy, and they love surprising, and being surprised by, their parents.
While Three year olds certainly can be assertive and dramatic, they are also more able to express themselves verbally. Not only does this help them mature out of the ever-present temper tantrums of age Two, but it also helps them not have to express themselves physically all the time. About 75% of what they say is intelligible to strangers, and unless they are asking “why?” all the time, it’s a joy to carry on a conversation with a child at this stage because their imagination is so vivid. Along those lines, imaginary friends are common at this age, as is pretending to be something other than themselves, like a dog, horse, or elephant.
Three year olds are agile and very adept with their gross motor skills. Similarly, their fine motor skills are developing quickly and they enjoy using “big kid” scissors and markers, stacking towers of blocks, and making shapes out of play-doh. Most three year olds are fine-tuning potty training at this point, and if they haven’t already, they will soon be ready for a toddler bed.
One of the nicest things about Three year olds is their ability to perceive the feelings of someone other than themselves. They can sense when a parent is happy or sad, and they generally adapt their behavior to suit the mood. Three year olds feed off of their environments, so it is especially important at this age to shower them with positive reinforcement and to channel their growing curiosity with stimulating and age-appropriate toys and games.
Three is fun! Enjoy every moment with your older toddler, because soon they will be ready for even more independence, and the developmental struggles you’ve endured to this point will seem like a distant memory once that first day of preschool arrives!