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Health blog

Toddler Milestones

Toddler Milestones

Is my child developing normally? Many of us ask that question point during our child’s early years. Waving bye-bye, crawling, walking – these are all important milestones in a child’s development. Children develop at their own pace so it's impossible to tell exactly when a child will learn a given skill.

However, developmental milestones give us a general idea of changes to expect as a child grows. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says toddlerhood is the time between one and three years when children make tremendous growth in intellect and social interactions. AAP describes these skill sets:

Physical Skills
A toddler can walk alone and pull toys behind him. He can carry toys while walking. She stands on tiptoe and begins to run. She climbs onto and off furniture by herself. Toddlers can kick a ball, although their aim is not yet fully developed. Fine motor skills improve. A two-year old may enjoy scribbling, the precursor to drawing a picture. He tips a bucket and builds a tower of four or more blocks. You may notice your toddler beginning to use one hand more often than the other, signaling right- or left-handedness.

A three-year old hops and balances on one foot, and can go up and down stairs without support. Play skills are improving. She can kick a ball forward, usually catches a bounced ball, and throws a ball overhand. His scribbling improves to the point where he copies squares, draws circles, and even draws a person with two to four body parts. Older toddlers begin to use blunt scissors to cut paper.

Social Skills
What parent hasn’t experienced the terrible twos? Friendly or frustrated, smiling or screaming, these mood swings are part of growing up and are signs of emotional changes taking place as your child struggles to take control of actions, impulses, and feelings. In spite of all that moodiness, toddlers achieve important social skills. They learn to imitate the behavior of other people, and are often enthusiastic about the company of children. A toddler becomes aware of herself as a separate person from others.

Allow adequate time for play. Siblings, formal playdates, and informal meetings in the park or neighborhood all contribute to social development. Not only is the child having fun, but he is learning to be comfortable with other children and how to be a friend, a valuable lesson for the future. Play also prepares children to start school later, to play nicely with others, and to listen to adults other than their own parents.

Cognitive Thinking
A toddler is making remarkable strides in cognition during these years. She can sort by color and shape. He understands what’s real and what’s not, and can play make-believe games. A two- and three-year old understands most of what you say to him. He’ll move from two- and three- word statements such as “Want juice,” to longer sentences complete with pronouns. She understands the concept of mine, and may say, “Where’s my ball, Mommy?” She now uses language to describe ideas and information and to express her own needs and wishes. And most of the time, her speech is clear enough for adults to understand it.

Don’t measure your toddler’s verbal skills against those of other children his age. During toddlerhood, there’s a lot of variation in language development. Children develop language skills at different speeds, and some children are naturally more talkative than others. This doesn't mean the more verbal children are smarter or more advanced than quieter ones. The quiet child may know just as many words but is choosier about speaking them. And boys start talking later than girls, although this evens out over the next couple of years.

Assessing Development Delays
As a parent, you know your child best. If your child is not meeting the milestones for his or her age, or if you think there could be a problem with your child’s development, share your concerns your child’s doctor. Regular wellness exams are important because your child’s doctor evaluates not only health status, but also developmental skills. If the doctor identifies a problem she will refer you to specialists trained to perform advanced assessments.

Watching your child develop and learn new skills is one of the greatest joys of parenthood. You’re teaching your child constantly. He is watching your every move, and over time his speech, walk, even facial expressions may come to mirror yours. And at the same time, your child is teaching you, helping you become a more responsive parent and bringing you adventures you would never have encountered without him.

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