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P9250107

A female toddler

Toddler is a common term for a child between the ages of one and three years old, although some may consider a toddler as to be between two and five. During this period, the child learns a great deal about social roles and develops motor skills; to toddle is to walk unsteadily. The term cruising is used for toddlers who can not toddle but must hold onto something while walking.

The toddler developmental timeline shows what an average toddler can do at what age. Times vary greatly from child to child. It is not uncommon for some toddlers to master certain skills (such as walking) well before other skills (like talking). Even close siblings can vary greatly in the time taken to achieve each key milestone.

This is the age when they are known as, "the terrible two's", because of the temper tantrums they are famous for. This stage can begin as early as nine months old depending on the child and environment. The toddler is discovering that they are a separate being from their mother or caregiver and are testing their boundaries in learning the way the world around them works. This time between the ages of two and five when they are reaching for independence repeats itself during adolescence. Thus it is very important for the caregiver to be consistent with boundaries and discipline for the child’s safety and the caregiver's sanity through puberty.

Most children are toilet trained while they are toddlers. In most Western countries, toilet training starts as early as 18 months for some while others are not ready to begin toilet training until they are three.

When toddlers can walk they are still often transported in a buggy, or stroller when they are tired, or to increase speed.

Age Physical Mental Emotional
12–15 Months
  • Stand alone well.
  • Drink from a cup (poorly).
  • Turn pages in a book (a few at a time).
  • play ball by rolling or tossing it.
  • Uses four to six letter words such as "ball", "cracker", or "cookie"
  • Can follow a simple command with an associated gesture, such as: bringing a cup to you when you point at it and say "Please bring me the cup".
  • Object Permanence: Realizes things still exist when they are out of sight, such as a toy block placed into a closed box.
  • Use gestures or words to convey desires, such as: Pointing at a book, raising arms to be picked up, or saying "cup".
  • Mimic actions such as covering eyes while playing Peekaboo.
15–18 Months
  • Walk well alone.
  • May be able to bend down and stand up without help.
  • Hold a crayon well enough to scribble.
  • Lift cup up to mouth for drinking.
  • Climb onto furniture.
  • Uses 10–20 words.
  • May be able to follow a command without a gesture.
  • Stack two blocks.
18–24 Months
  • Feed self with a spoon.
  • Run.
  • Climb into a small chair.
  • Walk up steps.
  • Speaks 20–50 words; understands many more
  • Stack six blocks
  • Understands non-physical relationships such as turning on lights or pushing buttons.
  • Sorting toys.
  • Searching for hidden objects.
  • Problem solving through experimentation.
  • Can play turn-taking games.
24–36 Months
  • Advanced mobility and climbing skills.
  • Increased dexterity with small objects, puzzles.
  • Able to dress oneself.
  • Speaking in sentences.
  • Easily learns new words, places and people's names.
  • Anticipates routines.
  • Plays with toys in imaginative ways.
  • Attempts to sing in-time with songs.
  • Knows boys from girls.
  • Shows preferences, such as clothes and entertainment.

Engagement in “fantasy-land”

Why do toddlers participate in behaviors such as telling “lies”, having imaginary friends, fears? Is engagement in fantasy a normal part of early childhood? Make-believe for children is a normal part of growing up, especially in the toddler years.

What does “fantasy-land” behavior do?

  • Allows the child to experimentally try out different ways of doing things.
  • Helps children learn how to play creative games.
  • Stimulates creativity and imagination.
  • Acts as a way for children to safely test-out different feelings and actions.
  • Enables children to be “in charge” and in control during a time in their life when someone else is in control.
  • Helps children deal with stress—such as having an imaginary friend go through the same experience with them.
  • Allows children to explore and expand their use of imagination and creativity.
  • Make-believe play can prepare a young child for school.

Cautions about “fantasy-land” behavior:

  • It is beneficial for children to socialize with others their own age. Parents should be aware if the child has no interest in making friends or seems to not be able to make friends.
  • Parents should be aware if their child’s real world takes a back seat to their imaginary one.
  • Parents should be concerned if their child’s envisioned fears reach a concerning or phobic stage that is interfering in their daily life.

What the experts say:

  • American Psychological Association: Children who play in imaginative ways make significant gains in readiness skills and can be used to prepare them for school.
  • American Academy of Pediatrics: Make-believe play can be a creative way for children to try out behaviors and emotions, have conversations, and sample different activities.

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