The milestones that your child meets in the first year or two of life are more obvious than the changes in the toddler and preschool years. This doesn’t mean that the changes aren’t happening nor does it mean that these changes are any less exciting than ones that happened earlier in life. Watching your baby grow into a child is an amazing experience. Seeing the changes that your child goes through and the speed that your child is going through these changes is equally as amazing. While some people tend to call these the terrible-twos there are so many other things going on in your child’s life to focus on. This is the time your child matures from a toddler to a preschooler.
During this year your toddler will mature enough to be toilet trained. This is an individualized process that can happen at any point from 18 to 36 months old. Each child will be different and you will be able to tell when your child is ready. Although some need coaxing, you will know when you are pushing things and when your child is ready to take this responsibility.
The personality and individuality that your child develops during this stage will stay with your child for the rest of your child’s life. You can help children excel in life by giving them a solid beginning with self confidence and a positive self image during this time in their life. Things that your child learns about how to treat others and how relationships work will help to flavor future relationships. This time in your child’s life is truly the building blocks for your child’s future.
Each month your child grows up a little more and is able to do a few more things independently. The milestones can be reached by some children early and others take a little more time to get to them. If you notice a milestone that is listed for last month that your child hasn’t mastered give it time. If the other areas are being met then your child is probably working on a different set of goals and will catch up soon. If your child is several months late with more than one milestone in the same area of growth you can discuss it with your pediatrician.
During this month your child is officially a two year old. You can purchase clothes that aren’t listed in month sizes anymore. You child is starting to resemble a little person instead of a baby now too. Around this point in your child’s life the baby fat will start to go away and your child will start to slim down and get taller with a longer torso. The body proportions are going to resemble an adult instead of a baby now. With all of the changes your child will also have an increase in energy. Naps aren’t going to be as long and may not happen soon so take advantage of them while you can. Your child is growing quickly and can now:
- can stack blocks or other toys to make a tower or sky-scraper
- Heal to toe movement when walking is matured and your child can walk with much more precision than before
- Personal pronouns are used (child uses words like " I, me, and you" regularly)
As your child grows independence is important and at times your child will rebel if you try to rush by putting on the child’s clothing or helping with simple tasks like tooth brushing. The accomplishments that your child has made aren’t to be looked at as no big deal, these are things that were difficult for your child to learn and now that the skill has been mastered your child proudly shows off abilities, even if we are in a hurry. Your child can now:
- Wash and dry hands without help
- Speech has become clear to most anyone who talks to your child.
- Drawing and art skills can be worked on and drawing a nearly straight line is among the list of abilities.
At this stage your child can manipulate small objects and your child enjoys stacking and perhaps building things with the stackable items that are found are fun. The fun extends to breaking these down. The impulse control that your child possesses will show in the reactions that your child displays. While this is the official time for the terrible-twos the negative behavior that your child displays should not be the behavior that gets your child the attention that (s)he craves.
Your child’s personality is developing any areas of and impulse control. Independence is expressed in simple day-to-day activities. Although children at this age are likely to still join in a good screaming session when not given their own way, impulse control is becoming a stronger trait. While attempting to make sense out of every day surroundings your child will ask, “Why?” so many times that you will forget that your child is in fact human and not parrot. Answering your child’s questions will increase their thirst for knowledge. If being asked “why” every time you turn around is annoying, get ready to be annoyed.
- Gross motor skills are improved and your child has the ability to hop up and down with both of his/her feet
- Opens doors independently
- Understand opposites such as "little” or “big" and “up” or “down”
As Independence continues you may need to push a little more to get your child to control negative behavior tissues. For most children this is just a quick face that is gone through and once your child understands the rules and the limits to how far they can push you they generally no longer have negative behavior tissues. As your child continues to grow intellectually your input and praise is going to help to shape this child’s personality. Continued positive reinforcement and positive parenting helps your child’s emotional growth and stability. During this month your child masters:
- Starts to understand the ABC’s
- Balance, at this point your child starts to display agility and can balance on one foot.
- Dancing with you or their other parent is often done when music is playing, at times will attempt dancing without music.
During this time in life your child’s concentration and attention span is growing, although it is still fairly short. This means your child can easily become absorbed in the activity at hand and not remember simple things, like forgetting to take a potty break in children that have been toilet trained. This hyper focus can also make it difficult to get your child to stop playing when it’s time for dinner or time to leave school to go home. You may need to set some limits and give your child “time warnings” or “verbal schedules” by making comments such as, “In 5 minutes it will be time to…” These types of comments give the child the ability to wrap up what they’re doing and prepare themselves for the next activity of the day. With all of the things that your child is learning to do your child can:
- Can name body parts and point out body parts when asked (e.g.; “Where is your nose?”)
- Brush own teeth, although it’s a good idea to give some assistants at least once daily with this Activity.
- Wash and dry own hands.
- Artistic abilities improve as the ability to draw straight lines and circles is perfected.
Watching your toddler grow is tiring, you may need to take short breaks away from your toddler and allow your toddler to learn to stay with others on occasion. This helps your child get ready for school and life. Your toddler is learning independence yet is always happy to have you return.
Interest in group activities is also becoming apparent. Your toddler may have some problems with sharing toys and with taking turns. Oftentimes an only child or children that have a large span in ages between the toddler and the next child have a harder time with sharing them those that are round children very age on a regular basis. Generally this is because people tend to give things to the baby. This becomes a problem when your toddler starts believing that everything should be given directly to them. These problems go away with time and are best met head on with strict rules so that your child understands what the appropriate behavior is.
Physical milestones are being reached as well. Just a year ago your toddler was struggling with learning to run. Know your toddler can not only run but also has the ability to jump up and down and the ability to stand on one foot and balance for several seconds. Your toddler can also”
- Balance her weight on one foot without falling
- Beginning to put on close on
- Knows best friend’s name
- Knows the names of siblings
- Beginning creative and artistic endeavors that now include clean up
Your toddler has gotten to a point that you can have a conversation that goes both ways instead of a constant 'you tell /they listen' format. To increase your child’s vocabulary you can read books to your child and talk to your child more frequently. Asking your toddler questions about the world around him can trigger some interesting stories. Your toddler may have some problems with truth and reality which can cause problems with lying. This isn’t necessarily deliberate lying, generally at this age your toddler just states the way they wish things were rather than the way that things really are.
Your child now understands the basic rules and knows how far they can push them. Your child also tends to alter the way they talk and react to others by who the person is. This means your toddler will talk to you differently than they will to your partner and different yet from the way your toddler speaks and reacts with other children. This is all part of toddlers learning where exactly they fit in. At this point your child can also:
- State her own name when asked
- Create stories that are less scary and quite often more fantastic than reality
- Work on more difficult portions of getting dressed include putting on socks and pants
- Questions the world around him
- May question where babies come from if younger siblings are and the picture
Your child’s imagination continues to grow as your child learns more about the world. There are many things going on in the world around your child; now your child has a large enough vocabulary to explain most of them. Your child knows which one of you will allow the mostly way when it comes to house rules.
Having a daily routine will help your child to be able to relax and to know how to act as well as knowing where they fit in within the family and other social circles. Changing routines can be very upsetting; even minor changes can cause emotional outbursts.
Your child most likely will enjoy singing. One of the easiest ways to teach things that your child needs to memorize such as the alphabet is to make it a song. Your child will also learn how to spell and use letters in song later in life. At this point in life your child can:
- Sing the ABC’s
- Use sentences with 4 or more words
- Vocabulary includes descriptive words and your child uses these frequently
- When drawing use is not only straight lines, now has the ability to make a cross (this signals an early stage moving towards the ability to write)
Your child is started to notice emotions and reactions of the people that the toddler is in daily contact with. Changes in moods and behavior are noticed and at times questioned by your toddler. As your toddler goes through stages of learning to control his own emotions he also learns that you have the same emotions by watching you. This helps your toddler to feel as though he fits in with others around him.
Mimicking things that you do and things that others do can become frustrating at times. This is your toddler’s way of learning and growing and trying to find a place to fit in. Now is a good time to encourage your toddler’s individuality.
Your toddler is imaginative and has most likely came up with at least one imaginary friend at this stage. This is normal and isn’t a sign of hallucinations or any other mental problems. Creativity and the need to have someone to play with who is always available and always agreeable drive your child to play with this imaginary friend. It is possible for this friend to be a part of your child’s life until grade school (or around age 6).
During this stage in life your child can:
- Have a simple conversation with others
- Draw a stick man
- Learning that sharing is a part of friendship
- Can name and point out body parts on self and others
- Tries to repair things around the house and wants to help you to repair things
As your toddler matures the time that your child can remained focused increases. While your toddler probably isn’t going to sit through a full two hour movie he will be able to sit through story time and be able to focus on the activities that you are doing without having to take time out to do something else every five minutes.
Your child’s curiosity may start to wander to anatomy. It is normal for children to touch their own genitals and to even show their genitals to other children. You need to simply let them know this is not acceptable and that anything in their underwear is not something to share. The gut reaction your child is going to have is this is something they shouldn’t be doing anyhow so reinforcing this with your words without making a production of it is the best way to put a stop to this behavior before you have an issue.
Physically your child is progressing so quickly that it is hard to remember how little your child could do a year ago. Now your child is running, jumping, balancing on one foot and walking as if he has been doing this for years. Your child can also:
- Speak clearly
- Keep pants dry throughout the day and often at night
- Show a wide range of emotions
- Draw self portrait and usually gets most of the larger parts into the drawing
- Has a better range of fine motor skills and can wiggle both thumbs
As your toddler gets closer to being a preschooler you can see so many changes that you cannot believe this is the same baby that you brought home just a few short years ago. Your toddler is able to communicate nearly all needs with you clearly. Using multiple word sentences to describe things your toddler can tell you how to use objects and how different objects are related.
Gross motor skills have improved to a point that your toddler now races, runs, jumps and even attempts to skip. Games like tag that require gross motor skills to be mastered are now enjoyed. Your toddler can also:
- Follow two to three part directions
- Describe how two objects are used together
- Skips, hops, jumps and runs in play with others (especially when happy)
- Focuses long enough to play two part games
- Ride a tricycle
- Dress self
At this point your child is a preschooler. No longer does your child toddle around wobbling, stumbling and falling. Your child can have meaningful conversations with you and is able to teach you a few things in the process. Your preschooler no longer requires multiple naps and is phasing out the one nap that is taken. With a personality that is unique your child is able to play games with others. Taking turns, sharing, and following instructions are all skills that have been acquired.
Self dressing and grooming skills are mastered and your preschooler needs little help with brushing teeth and hair. Oftentimes your preschooler will become strong willed and want to choose the clothing that she wears. This can be a struggle if you have clothing for all weather available. To keep this from being stressful you can put out of season clothing away so they aren’t part of the choices your child has available.
Independence is not only something your child wants to achieve. As you go through your daily routine your child will insist on doing things for herself. She doesn’t want to be babied. Meal time is another time for your preschooler to push for independence as she chooses what and how much she wants to eat. As long as she is getting nutrition, she is growing properly and she hasn’t excluded whole food groups you can let her make these decisions. She may even want to serve herself.
Encouraging individuality and reinforcing boundaries helps your preschooler to feel safe as she grows. Having a routine that she knows she can count on and having a place that she knows she fits into gives her the self confidence to become the person she is destined to be.
You have made it to your preschooler’s third birthday. It doesn’t seem like three years. What seems like a lifetime’s worth of accomplishments have been achieved and this is the beginning.