How is it that your wee Babe who was just teetering around, drinking from a bottle, and babbling incoherently is a full-blown, walking, talking toddler seemingly in the blink of an eye? Where did the time go?
One of the biggest issues parents face with the transition from baby to toddler is knowing what is developmentally normal, says Dr. Jeremy Friedman, Associate Paediatrician-in-Chief, Professor, Department of Paediatrics, and Head of the Division of Paediatric Medicine at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.
There are a number of key milestones and changes your young toddler will undergo as he grows into a preschooler. Here’s a deeper look into a few of them.
1. Your Baby Wants More Independence
Your child will no longer depend on you for everything. He’ll be able to play more on his own, and develop a greater sense of self. “No, mommy. That block doesn’t go there. It goes here.” He will have his own convictions, and stick to them. And though the child’s attempts to assert himself can be frustrating sometimes, it shows strength of character.
2. Cue the Temper Tantrums!
Whatever the age, at some point before it’s time to head to kindergarten, your toddler will likely begin to develop strong moods, and act out to determine what tactics work and what don’t. It’s all a learning experience.
Dr. Friedman says parents need to view temper tantrums as a part of your child’s normal development. “It’s unpleasant,” he says, “but normal, and just a phase.” Interestingly, he says tantrums are a result of the child striving for that independence. Though he suggests parents avoid reinforcing the behaviour by giving in, but rather provide reassurance and guidance.
Childcare expert and author Penelope Leach agrees that while parents should not give in, they should also avoid backing toddlers into a corner. Leave an escape route. For example, you might give in to your child refusing to eat his peas, but suggest he eat some banana instead.
3. Mimicking Your Actions
I like to call it “The Shadow.” Pick up the broom, and he wants to help sweep. Fold laundry, and he studiously hands items to you. This is a time when your toddler will want to be involved. So do your best to make him part of the process.
4. Deep-Thought Processing Begins
As toddlers age, they get more inquisitive and analytical. It’s no longer “I hear a noise,” it’s “what’s making all that noise?” Instead of banging toys on the table, they create a story with them, often mimicking things that you do.
Toddlers may eventually be more interested in complex toys like puzzles, building blocks, and crafts. It’s the age of exploration!
Dr. Friedman warns parents not to expect kids to perform at a level beyond their developmental skills. Doing so could cause frustration, and lead to more tantrums. “The best type of activity is an interactive one when the parent gets down on the floor with their toddler and plays/interacts with them in a fun way, free play,” he says.
5. Changes in Sleeping Habits & Moving to a Big Bed
At some point, your toddler will climb out of his crib, or show signs that he’s ready to sleep in a full-sized bed. And this requires starting the sleep process all over again. Because your child is no longer confined to the four sides of the crib, he can (and will!) hop out of bed any time he likes.
Unless baby number-two is on the way, there’s no reason to rush the move. It can happen, says Dr. Friedman, any time between 18 months and 3 years. But he suggests that if your toddler is soon to become big bro or sis, it’s best to start this transition before the wee sibling arrives so the child doesn’t feel like he’s being displaced.
6. It’s Potty Time
Kids can start potty training as early as 18 months. Dr. Friedman says most toddlers learn between 2 and 4 years. Knowing when to start is based on emotional and physical readiness, not necessarily age. Dr. Friedman agrees, saying the adjustment should never be guided by age or peer pressure. Every child and parent differs in terms of readiness. Be prepared for a lot of trial and error, and, inevitably, a mess here and there (and everywhere!).
It’s important to keep in mind that there’s a wide range of behaviours that are considered normal when it comes to your child’s development from babe into full-blown toddlerhood, says Dr. Friedman.
The key is consistency among all caregivers. Oh, and patience. Lots of it.