University of Illinois Extension

Ages & Stages - Toddlers

When children learn to walk, they are called toddlers. Usually this term is applied to one and two year old children. The toddler stage is very important in a child's life. It is the time between infancy and childhood when a child learns and grows in many ways. Everything that happens to the toddler is meaningful. With each stage or skill the child masters, a new stage begins. This growth is different for each child. Children have their own timetable. During the toddler stage, most children learn to walk, talk, solve problems, relate to others, and more. One major task for the toddler is to learn to be independent. That is why toddlers want to do things for themselves, have their own ideas about how things should happen, and use "NO" many times each day.

The toddler stage is characterized by much growth and change, mood swings and some negativity. Toddlers are long on will and short on skill. This is why they are often frustrated and "misbehave." Some adults call the toddler stage "the terrible twos."

Toddlers bursting with energy and ideas need to explore their environment. You need to make sure that they can explore in an environment that is safe for them. They want to be independent, and yet, they are still very dependent.

Toddlers are very concerned with their own needs and ideas. This is why we cannot expect them to share. Toddlers sometimes get frustrated because they do not have the language skills to express themselves. Often they have difficulty separating themselves from their parents.

Usually between 2-1/2 and three years of age, children begin to take an interest in being toilet trained and by age three they are ready to be known as preschoolers. By this age, most children are toilet trained, have developed verbal skills, are continuing to be more independent, and are taking an active interest in the world around them.

One Year Olds

Physical Development - Toddlers may eat less, but they tend to eat frequently throughout the day. They get better at feeding themselves, although spills should still be expected. They may grow less quickly than during infancy. Most walk without support by 14 months. Most walk backward and up steps by 22 months. They can drink from a cup with help. They can scribble. They can stack blocks.

Social and Emotional Development - Temper tantrums are common. They have difficulty sharing toys. They may be possessive. They want to do things independently. They cannot remember rules. They show increasing fears. They have rapid mood shifts. Their emotions are usually very intense but short-lived. Routines are very important. They enjoy playing by themselves or beside (not with) other children. They view themselves as the center of the world. They may continuously ask for their parents. They become increasingly more self-aware. They begin to express new emotions such as jealousy, affection, pride and shame.

Intellectual Development - Toddlers name familiar people and objects. Their attention span is short. They are curious. They use "NO" frequently. They point to objects that they want. They name body parts and familiar pictures. They imitate animal sounds. They use pronouns me and mine. They can hold a pencil and scribble. They combine two words to form a basic sentence. They point to objects that they want. They use objects for their intended purpose. They begin to include a second person in pretend play.

Two Year Olds

Physical Development - They stand on tip toes. They throw balls and kick them forward. They walk, run, climb, walk up and down stairs alone and dig. They jump with two feet together. They feel discomfort with wet or soiled diapers. They start to show an interest in toilet training. They take things apart and put them back together. They like to screw and unscrew lids. Children are generally more active than at any other point in their lives.

Social and Emotional Development - They try to assert themselves by saying "No." They like to imitate the behavior of adults and others. They want to help with household tasks. They begin to play simple pretend games. Their fantasy play is very short and simple. It does not involve others. They sometimes do the opposite of what is asked. They are generally very self-centered and sharing is still difficult. They enjoy playing near other children. They refuse to help. They are more sure of themselves than one-year-old children. They become frustrated easily. They still need security.

Intellectual Development - They express their feelings and wishes. They follow simple directions. They still have a very limited attention span. They use three or more words in combination. They can memorize short rhymes. They use objects to represent other objects. They can join in simple songs. They have trouble making choices, but they want to make choices. They begin to think about doing something before doing it.