The Toddler: What To Expect and How To Train A Toddler

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The toddler age begins after you celebrate the first one year, until 36 months. These years are a great time of cognitive, emotional and social development. In the initial months of the toddler stage, the child will be mastering the skill of walking. In fact, the word toddler is derived from “to toddle,” which means to walk unsteadily.

The developmental milestones can be broken down into a number of interrelated areas including

What to Expect about Children Development

1.Physical Development

Physical development involves growth and increase in size and height. On average, the toddler grows and develops more slowly than the first year of life. Between the first and second birthday, they grow about 4 inches in height and gain about 2.5kgs. Between the second and third birthday, expect to see a weight gain of at least 2kgs and 3 inches increase in height.

2. Motor Development

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Motor development refers to the control of muscles. Gross motor development involves control of large groups of muscles for standing, walking, running, jumping, climbing, and sitting. On the other hand, fine motor development is mainly about the baby gaining ability to control small muscle groups for fine-tuned movements such as feeding, drawing and manipulating small objects.

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Expect the following changes in motor development

  • 14 months
    • Can walk well alone with a wide-based gait
    • Can drink from a cup and attempts to use a spoon
    • Enjoys throwing and picking objects
    • Can build with blocks
  • 18 months
    • Walks sideways and backward
    • Runs well but easily falls
    • Climbs stairs and furniture
    • Can scribble vigorously
    • Attempts to write a straight line
    • Can drink well from a cup but spills with a spoon
  • Two years (the troublesome twos)
    • Walks steadily
    • Can walk up and down the stairs with both feet while holding a rail
    • Can build towers of 4 or more blocks
    • Gained control of the spoon
    • Toilet training can begin
  • Three years
    • Climbs well
    • Runs easily without falling
    • Pedals a bike
    • Walks up and down the stairs
    • Builds towers of more than four blocks
    • Flips through a book
    • Can screw and unscrew lids

3. Vision Development

The vision of the baby continues to develop throughout to the preschool years. In the toddler years, they can see both near and far and interpret what they have seen. At the age of three, the child should have an eye exam to assess vision development.

4. Language And Social Development

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Language development refers to the ability of the child to listen, understand, interpret information and to communicate effectively. Social development is closely related to communication. As the baby continues to interact with others, social anxiety starts fading away. The child explores the world in more adventurous ways through playing with other children and taking part in fantasy play.

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Milestones in language and social development include

  • 15 months
    • Can use 10 to 15 words
    • Says no
    • Can indicate when the diaper is wet or soiled
  • 18 months
    • The temper tantrums begin
    • Thumb sucking is at peak
    • Has a favorite toy, clothes, and people
    • Points to show something interesting
    • Likes to hand things to others when playing
  • Two years
    • Obeys simple commands
    • Vocabulary is enhanced (says sentences with two to four words)
    • Helps to undress and dress
    • Shows signs of autonomy
    • Remains clingy to their possessions
    • Copies others
    • Shows defiant behavior
  • 2 and ½ years
    • Begins to view themselves as a separate individual
  • 3 years
    • Shows concern for a crying friend
    • Separates easily from the caregiver
    • Takes turn in team games
    • Can dress and undress themselves
    • Can name most familiar things
    • Says their first name
    • Speaks two to three sentences fluently
    • Can name most familiar things

The Warning Signs- Act Early if The Child:

how to train the toddler

18 months

  • Cannot walk
  • Does not learn new words
  • Does not have at least six words
  • Does not notice or care when the caregiver arrives or returns
  • Loses skills that were once gained

2 years

  • Does not use two-word phrases
  • Has mastered the use of standard things like a cup or spoon
  • Does not copy words and actions
  • Does not follow simple instruction
  • Does not walk steadily
  • Loses skills that were once gained

3 years

  • Has trouble climbing the stairs
  • Falls down often
  • Does speak in sentences
  • Consistently drools
  • Has unclear speech
  • Does not take simple instructions
  • Does not play
  • Does not make eye contact
  • Does not want to play with other children
  • Loses skills that were once mastered

Major Learning Events in The Toddler Stage

1. Toilet Training

Most children are ready for toilet training as from 18 months, while others may delay for later years. When your child is ready, they will show signs of physical and psychological readiness. They include:

  • Can walk and sit for short periods
  • Interested in watching others go to the toilet
  • Shows discomfort when the diaper is wet or soiled
  • Has learned words like pee or poo
  • Has regular bowel movements
  • Can pull pants up and down
  • Can tell when passing stool or urine

Note that all these signs do not have to be present. Once you notice that the child is ready, you may go ahead to get the right equipment and start the training.

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2. Teething and dental care

Beginning dental care as early as when the first tooth bud erupts is critical to keep the teeth healthy for a lifetime. In infanthood, you took the responsibility of taking care of the teeth. In the toddler stage, you will need to start training your child on proper dental care, though you will have to keep on supervising.

Be sure to make it fun, and not make it appear like a punishment. Be patient with the training since it can extend all the way to preschool. Start by showing dental video pictures and videos, then demonstrate by yourself and finally let the child do it. The toddler will do better with supervision and most of the times you will have to complete the task correctly.

3. Emotions and self-image

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One major task in the toddler stage is for the child to learn to be independent. They will, therefore, want to assert themselves, have their ideas on what should happen, and they will appear to be a bit defiant many times. That is why most parents refer to this stage as the “terrible twos.” It is important to note that you have to assert boundaries and at the same time, help the toddler build self-esteem and confidence.

Building their self-esteem sets them up for success in life. Boosting confidence and esteem involves making the child feel that they are capable, effective and accepted. To help the toddler gain that self-independence, begin by providing a warm affectionate and safe home environment. This does not mean a physical building but a haven for the child to express and control their emotions. Demonstrate that you care about the child and everything revolving around them.

Assign simple responsibilities (age appropriate) for the child to gain some self-value every time they accomplish something. Give praises for achievements and efforts made as well, but do not overdo it. Also, sometimes you can allow the child to make choices of options preselected by you. For instance, give the child several options for dinner and let them choose their preference.

Sometimes in the toddler’s search for self-identity, your little one may act up. It is critical for you to instill discipline and remind the child the right way to behave. You do not have to feel like you are breaking the toddler’s spirit if you do it correctly. The incredible results of will only be visible to you later.

Here are some tips to have in mind when considering to discipline a toddler.

  • Set the boundaries by determining what the limits are (what can be condoned and what cannot)
  • Identify the triggers to lousy behavior and remove the tangible temptations
  • Be consistent on the reprimands and consequences
  • Be serious, stern and firm, but do not be overly emotional
  • Reason with the child and explain why a particular behavior is not acceptable
  • Stay positive no matter the number of times that you have to keep correcting your child

4. Sleep training

With toddlers, sleep training is more about enforcing boundaries and discipline to adapt to healthy sleeping habits. You will need gentle techniques to make the child sleep without the screaming tantrums. For instance, if you use the cry it out method, the toddler will always be getting out of bed screaming.

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Most toddlers deal with separation anxiety and thus starting with gentle withdrawal will give the toddler reassurance. When beginning the training, accompany the child to bed and stay with them until they fall asleep or visit them repeatedly throughout the night. You can then slowly wean off your presence in the next couple of nights. Make the self-sleeping settling process easier by reading bedtime stories, relaxing music, night light and comfort tools like a favorite doll (do not let the child fall asleep with a feeding bottle).

On sleep time scheduling, you will be aiming to make the baby sleep throughout the night without night feeding. The toddler will also need about 2 to 3 hours of naps during the day, during the initial months. The naps may sound counterproductive, but they are very essential. The child gets to rest well, in preparation for the night- the more tired the child is, the more the number of times that they will keep on waking up at night. The naps should not be too late in the evening because that means you will have to stay awake long before the toddler falls asleep again.

The best time to begin the transition to a complete nighttime sleeping schedule is between 15 and 18 months. Starting earlier when the toddler is not ready can have disastrous results of a more irritable child.

5. Toddler Feeding  

At the toddler stage, toddlers begin to imitate the eating behavior of adults and elder children. They have already mastered the motor skills of cup and spoon, and so, you can move from the bottle or sippy cup. They can also recognize foods by appearance, smell, and taste. Some may even name the foods and state what they want.

By the time the toddler celebrates the second birthday, you should be feeding whole milk (toddlers need the fat and calories for growth and development) and other dairy products (1 to 11/2 cups). Iron-fortified cereals and other grains (3 ounces), fruits and vegetables (1 cup), proteins (1 ounce) and honey should be part of their diet as well.

Offer regular meal and snack times, taking into account the nap times. Give three main meals and three nutritious snacks each day. Also, include a fluid after the meals. Water is good, but milk or natural fruit juice is even better.

Chocking is still a danger at this age, so large chunks of food can get stuck in the throat. Cut the pieces to no more than ½ an inch. Firm foods like hot dogs and nuts, sticky foods like peanut butter and caramels and snacks like popcorns are common choking hazards and are best introduced after the age of four.

After the second birthday, you may introduce low-fat milk, but after talking to the pediatrician. At this age, the child will have strong opinions of what they want to eat. You can allow them to have a say, so long as they are healthy nutritious choices. Moreover, once the child is in the toddler stage, it is not necessary to introduce foods gradually not unless there is a history of allergy to other foods. Beware that picky eaters may choose the same food over and over. This means that they will not be getting nutrients from other food groups.

If you are parenting a picky toddler, here are some tips to make it easier:

  • Prepare the meals together with yoyr child to increase the chances that the toddler will look forward to consuming their own creation.
  • Choose a wide range of foods, and make sure that the child watches you eating those types of foods. Preferably, eat at the same time.
  • Do not show any disgust to food or the child will copy the same responses.
  • Gently introduce new foods and do not give up when they refuse it. Put new foods next to foods that the child prefers.
  • Do not force the child to eat. Just wait a little bit then try again with a positive attitude.
  • Give realistic portions to the toddler and do not always insist on the child clearing the plate.
  • Serve snacks at least two hours before main meals
  • Do not give inappropriate snacks that are high in fat and calories
  • Do not use food and snacks as rewards

6. Playtime

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Playtime is very crucial for maintenance of healthy weight. So, sitting down watching their favorite cartoon all day long is not an option for toddlers. The American Pediatric Association recommends three hours of physical activity daily. The toddler may not be well-coordinated, but keep them active with games and sports that they will carry on to school. It will help in the development of movement and coordination skills.

[Learn more: Fun Games with Toddlers]

Promote exercise by climbing stairs instead of using the elevator, parking your car at a walking distance, visiting the playground often, kicking piles of leaves when walking and allowing them to climb safe equipment.

You are the number one playmate of your toddler, but you should also let them play with other kids- playdates also mean a lot to the development of the child. They promote social interaction, language development and help to deal with social anxiety.

Toddler Tantrums

The toddler age is prone to tantrums. One minute you are enjoying dinner and the next they are screaming at the top of their lungs simply because a sibling touched their spoon. For most toddlers, this is normal- they are having an emotional meltdown response just because they cannot verbally express all their frustration. The best way to respond at that time is by a positive attitude and remaining calm (or at least pretend to). If you respond with another temper tantrum, you will only get more screaming, hitting and throwing things.

After collecting yourself to calmness, stay with the child in the room. If it is feasible, hold the child down or pick him up and hold him closely to you. If you are overly frustrated, you may calmly walk out of the room but return after a while. Do not give in to the child’s demands as you will only be teaching the child that throwing fits are the best way to get something. Be sure to talk to the child after the tantrum. Express that you acknowledge the anger and most importantly, let your child know that you love him.

 

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