Toddlerhood…the beginning of greater independence, defiant behavior, and your child’s awareness of themselves and their surroundings. As the world begins to open up, children 12 to 36 months of age experience an increase in their desire to explore new objects and people. Toddlers will imitate the behavior of others, especially adults and older children. They are beginning to master new skills such as learning to express themselves and recognizing the name of familiar people and objects, forming simple phrases and sentences and the ability to follow simple directions. During this stage, distinct developmental milestones are achieved in areas such as motor, language, cognitive, emotional and social skills, with each child unique and developing at their own pace.
12 to 18 months
One-year-olds are becoming increasingly self-aware and just learning to recognize and manage their feelings. They experience a wide range of emotions (e.g., jealousy, pride, affection, frustration, fear, anger, sadness, shame) and have tantrums when they are tired or frustrated. They tend to express and act on impulses.
Around age one, toddlers become progressively more interested in the world around him. Toddlers really start to enjoy the company of other children, both their age and older. At this stage and through age two, your child and his playmates will engage in “parallel play”; they enjoy playing along side one another, but don’t interact with each other a great deal.
Through play and communication, your toddler is discovering other people and how fun it is to try to prompt reactions from others. Usually around 18 months of age many toddlers experience separation anxiety. As a result, your toddler may be unusually clingy and timid at times. By 24 months, separation anxiety subsides and children are more comfortable spending time with other caregivers.
Young toddlers show pleasure when familiar adults are nearby. They have developed close attachments with their parents and other frequent caregivers (e.g., grandparents and day care providers) and use these relationships as a secure base in which to explore their environment. As a basis for establishing relationships, they enjoy exploring objects with adults and engaging in interactive games such as “peek-a-boo”.
When a conflict occurs with another child or adult, young toddlers often act out physically or emotionally. They may respond by hitting, biting, kicking, screaming, or crying. It is usually related to their inability to communicate what they need. Their aggressive behavior generally diminishes as the toddler learns to express feelings through words.
Sometime during the second year, around 18 months of age, toddlers become more aware that they are individuals, and express a desire for independence. This is demonstrated by the now common, “No!” to adult suggestions or insisting on doing things on their own, and frequently saying, “I do it!” Seconds later they may cling to an adult or ask for help, willing to give up a bit of their independence, even for just a minute.
19 to 24 months
Young toddlers are extremely observant of other’s emotional reactions. While exploring their environment, they may check their parent’s facial expressions as a way to test their limits. For instance, as the child considers petting the family pet, she first examines her parent’s face for visual cues of warning or encouragement.
While still participating in parallel play, around the time your child turns 2, they may start to actively reach out to other children. However, it is often difficult for them to share their belongings. Some children this age will also reach out to adults and are quite outgoing. Yet, some toddlers are uneasy around adults and may feel intimidated by unfamiliar people.
25 to 30 months
Your toddler’s imagination is drastically increasing. As a result of playing make-believe, along with fears about imaginary monsters, more common things such as the dark is often difficult for them to cope.
Two year olds increase their understanding and use of language related to emotions. They are beginning to label feelings that they recognize in themselves and show awareness for others feelings and expands their understanding of what other’s feelings mean. Through their developing friendships, they begin to show empathy and affection for their playmates. They may try to give basic help such as patting or hugging a child who is sad. They show preferences for certain adults and children and extend a trusting relationship to adults and children they interact with frequently.
Two and a half year olds continue to find the regulation of emotions difficult. Frustration may still trigger emotional meltdowns and tantrums. They look to adults for comfort when conflict happens. Comfort objects such as blankets or teddy bears help two-year-olds cope with new situations or strong emotions, however, most two years olds still need an adult by their side to develop strategies for dealing with conflict appropriately.
30 to 36 months
At this age, imaginary friends are normal and helps prepare your child for making real friends. Toddlers are learning how to form deep attachments with someone else besides their parents. Not only is your child fine-tuning his relationship with imaginary friends, your toddler is also perfecting his relationships with real friends.
Older toddlers become more in tune with others, especially their parent. They sense their parent’s emotions and point out that Mommys mad. Children this age are still developing empathy; the foundation for interacting with others and building friendships. They haven’t yet fully developed the cognitive skills necessary to be able to put themself in another persons shoes.
Your toddler will experience huge intellectual, social, and emotional changes that will help him to explore his new world, and make sense of it. During this stage there is a wide range of what is considered “normal”. Toddlers do not develop at the same rate. Each child is unique and may develop at a different pace. If you are concerned about possible delays, talk to your childs health care provider.
In a respectful, supportive and non-judgmental manner, she helps clients use their strengths and unique qualities to find solutions to their problems, enhance their relationships, build confidence, and improve their quality of life.
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