A child is a toddler between the ages of one to three years old. Most parents refer to these years as the “terrible twos” and “trying threes” and for a good reason. This is the time a child develops “ego.” They start to notice things around and react to them. They are genuinely curious. Their brain develops with each passing day and there is a flood of thoughts inside their brains. Often, these years leave parents exhausted, sleepless and a nervous wreck. However, the thing to remember is that this is a phase and the child will gradually settle down in a few months’ time.
What are the things toddlers do?
The milestones kids hit from one to three years of age are classified as follows.
- Physical development (movement)
- Cognitive development (learning, thinking and problem-solving)
- Language and speech development
At one year of age
- Movement/physical development: A one-year-old child will walk without assistance, walk up the steps one foot at a time and run on flat surfaces. They pull toys while walking, drink from a cup, eat with a spoon while spilling food and point to show things to others.
- Cognitive milestone: The child recognizes people, points to get the attention of others and shows interest in a doll or stuffed animal. They can point to one body part, scribble and follow a one-step verbal command such as sit down and come here. They can shake their head yes/no, recognize faces, show affection to familiar people and are afraid of strangers. They also have separation anxiety at this age. They will cling to caregivers, explore alone but with a parent close by and play simple pretend such as feeding a doll.
At two years of age
- Movement/physical development: A baby can run around the house like a miniature hurricane and leave their parents exhausted. They stand on a tiptoe, kick a ball, jump small hurdles and clap or give high fives.
- Cognitive abilities: The baby will find things even when hidden under two or three covers. They can recognize and sort shapes and colors. They can interpret a two- to three-word sentence. They will complete sentences and sing rhymes from familiar books. They will also play simple make-believe games such as hide and seek and build a tower of four or more blocks. They develop preference for handedness (right-handed or left-handed). They may oblige their parents and follow two-step instructions such as “Pick up your shoes and put them in your closet.” They will also name items in a picture book such as a cat, bird or dog.
- Language/communication milestones: The child points to things or pictures when they are named. They can name body parts. They will make sentences with a maximum of four words. They will repeat words overheard in a conversation and point to things in a book.
At three years of age
- Movement/physical development milestones: A three-year-old child can climb the stairs without assistance, run around the house, pedal a tricycle, carry around stuff such as toys and plates and place them in places where their parents can never find them.
- Cognitive (learning, thinking and problem-solving): The child can work toys with buttons, levers and moving parts. They can play make-believe with dolls, animals and people. They do puzzles with three or four pieces and copy a circle with a pencil or crayon, turn book pages one at a time, build towers of more than six blocks, screw and unscrew jar lids or turn a door handle.
- Language milestones: The child follows instructions with two or three steps, can name most familiar things and understands words such as “in,” “on” and “under”. They can introduce themselves with their first name, age and gender. They can name their friends, say words such as “I,” “me,” “we” and “you” and some plurals (cars, dogs and cats).
- Social development: The child can play games, take turns at playing, show affection for friends without prompting and show concern for a crying friend. They understand the idea of “mine” and “his” or “hers” and show a wide range of emotions. They may get upset with major changes in routine and dress and undress themselves.
What unusual behaviors can be exhibited by toddlers?
Toddlers may not hit all milestones on time. A lag period of two to three months is acceptable. Often, premature babies may take more time to hit milestones than term babies. Parents can talk to pediatricians about the “corrected growth chart” in case of preemies. Toddlers may exhibit certain “worrisome” behaviors between the ages of one and three years old. The most common one is temper tantrums. The child may yell, cry hoarse, bang their head and hold their breath if they think things are not going their way. Explaining to the child what are right and wrong behaviors and “time outs” may help them overcome temper tantrums. Other unusual behavior is exploring their private parts. Do not yell at the child or shame them. Explain to them the concept of privacy and teach them about “good touch” and “bad touch.” Some kids go hyperactive and refuse to eat or sleep on time. Enrolling them in sports such as running, aerobics or water sports may help siphon their extra energy. Rigorous physical activities, however, must be avoided near bedtime. The American Pediatric Association recommends screening children for behavioral disorders such as autistic disorders at nine months, 18 months and three years of life. The following are red flag signs in the development of a toddler.
- Absence of eye contact
- Reluctance to play with other kids
- Fixation to routines
- Absence of speech by one year of age
- Consistent delay in achieving milestones
- Regression of milestones
If parents feel that something is not right with their kid, they should trust their gut and set up an appointment with the pediatrician. Make sure the child’s vaccinations are up to date.
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CDC: "Important Milestones: Your Child By Three Years." https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/milestones/milestones-3yr.html
CDC: "Important Milestones: Your Child By 18 Months." https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/milestones/milestones-18mo.html