It’s a common question: when should you start thinking of your baby as a toddler?
When you’re deep into the day-to-day experience of raising a young child, time is lightning fast. You see your baby everyday. Being so in the moment makes it harder to take a step back.
When you do, it’s easier to realize just how many milestones have passed since that transformational first week at home. As American author Gretchen Rubin once wrote about parenthood, “The days are long, but the years are short."
So when should you start the mental head shift?
Your Child's First Birthday: The Day Toddler Life Officially BeginsY
As the name implies, the toddler development stage is defined by “toddling” or unsteady walking. While all children take their first steps at their own speed, it’s common for children entering the toddler stage to make more effort to move under their own power.
You can expect them to become steadier on their feet and more interested in exploring their own ideas as they move through this stage.
The U.S. Center for Disease Control defines two phases of the toddler period, each of roughly 12 months.
- The first stage begins when your child turns one. What should you expect? According to the CDC: “Their desire to explore new objects and people also is increasing. During this stage, toddlers will show greater independence; begin to show defiant behavior; recognize themselves in pictures or a mirror; and imitate the behavior of others, especially adults and older children.”
- The second spans ages two to three. Again, from the CDC: “Toddlers will experience huge thinking, learning, social, and emotional changes that will help them to explore their new world, and make sense of it. During this stage, toddlers should be able to follow two- or three-step directions, sort objects by shape and color, imitate the actions of adults and playmates, and express a wide range of emotions.”
See the CDC’s toddler pages for more information about safety tips and positive ways to help your child develop a healthy mind and body.
Popular culture is full of nightmare stories about the “terrible twos,” reflecting the growing adventurousness and, yes, willfulness your child will demonstrate through this period.
Strong, consistent boundaries will help you and your child to navigate this exciting growth stage together. You will also likely find you now enjoy more variety in your daily activities than you did during the infant stage, and more opportunity to experience the world together.
Looking back down the first year mountain: Here's what you've accomplished
By the time your baby becomes a toddler, you will have helped them to explore their:
- Bodies—This journey began with learning to focus their eyes to look at your face, and progressed to the beginning of motor control over their fingers and toes. It’s the beginning of a lifelong journey in using their body to explore the world. As Australian director Baz Luhrmann once observed about the human body, “It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.”
- Language—Babbling sounds and forming simple words in context (“mama” or “dada”) are common at this stage. Reading, talking and responding to your child will continue their development and growth in this key area.
- Food—With solid foods introduced sometime between four and six months, your child is developing the beginnings of their interest in food. What have been the hits? The misses? The sudden rejections? Jot them down in a LifeTales story to remember the ups and downs of vegetables.
- Family—Your child has begun lifelong relationships with you, your partner, and other key family members, such as siblings, grandparents, and other special caregivers. The feelings of safety, security and trust will help to define their sense of being and personhood.
Capturing the moments that matter most to you
Living in the smartphone age means that it’s never been easier to capture the parts of childhood that speak to you. Starting a Child Journal is a great way to capture the stories inside your photos and video, and tell your child what they were like at each stage of their life.
What are the sweetest or most challenging moments of your child’s toddler stage? Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to feature your toddler memories or hear from you about other topics we should explore.