As your baby grows bigger and stronger, you will begin to see important changes that indicate the next stage of childhood – becoming a toddler.
Soon your baby will no longer be content to lie quietly on the carpet. He or she will begin wriggling on their stomach, crawling about, pulling themselves up against the furniture and giving their first steps. As soon as they are walking, even if those steps are unsteady and small, your baby is officially a toddler.
What is a toddler?
A toddler is a small child, usually between the ages of 1 and 3 years old. It is a developmental stage of critical importance, during which many cognitive, physical and emotional skills are learned.
Physically, your child is taller and sturdier, they learn to run, jump and climb. At the same time, fine motor skills are developed, like grasping a spoon and crayons. They start listening and begin talking with others. This is a good time to get your child into a play group with other tots to help them interact with other children of their age.
What about milestones?
There are certain milestones that the experts have defined, just to keep parents on their toes. For instance, a one-year-old will typically be able to stand, will begin walking, have a few teeth, be able to sit down and bang two blocks together. Between the ages of one and two years old, your child will learn to respond to sound, will understand words and say mama and papa. Your young toddler will point at things and wave goodbye.
For first-time mums especially, these milestones can be a source of great anxiety. Like, for instance, when their 16-month-old does not walk yet, or has chosen to sidestep the crawling stage and went straight to walking. Comparing your child to others seems natural but can bring a great deal of anxiety. Your child will develop in his or her own time.
Having a toddler brings about a whole new set of challenges for new parents. Your little one wants to explore and is finally able to get to places it always wanted to. You will have to child-proof your house if you haven’t done so already – paying attention to electrical sockets, sharp edges on tables, stairs that need to gated etc.
Don’t think you will always be able to watch your child, plan for the unexpected! Put child-proof locks on cupboard doors and consider your pets. Often dogs and cats that grow up with babies know how behave around them and are not easily annoyed, even if their tail is being pulled. But if you have an aggressive dog breed or a cat that is likely to lash out, you may want to think about finding a different home for them.
The emotional changes your toddler is going through may be the most daunting of all. Your little one is unable to know what is safe and what is not, yet it wants to climb up the highest wall to reach a bird nest and cross the road when traffic is roaring past. They don’t understand “no” and will push your patience to the limit. Tantrums are normal and there is a reason why people refer to the time around the two-year-mark as the “terrible twos”.
Your toddler is now entering the world and it wants to go everywhere, see all of it, taste everything.
It does take a bit of getting used to and it may feel, at least for a while, as if parenting got very hard, very quickly. Fortunately, there are many of rewards too.
Best part of having a toddler?
The first time your little one calls you mama will become one of the most special moments of your life. The way his or her face lights up when they see you, their laughter and joy upon playing a game of peek-a-boo. Your toddler can communicate with you in ways your baby was unable to and you get to discover the thrill of ice cream and the excitement that lie within ordinary things like trains, big trucks and construction machinery!
Don’t be afraid to let your child make a mess, like learning to eat by themselves. This is how your toddler learns vital skills that will help them as they grow older. Your job is to love, support and guide your toddler. How you do that now, will have a huge influence on the kind of human he or she will become.