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How to Support the Growth and Developmental Needs of a Toddler

How to Support the Growth and Developmental Needs of a Toddler

Use this guide to navigate the growth and development of your toddler.


Your baby just turned 1, cue the fireworks! Congratulations on making it through what must have been an exciting and exhausting first year, Mom and Dad! You may be feeling conflicted now about how to address your little is he no longer called or considered a baby? She certainly isn’t as independent as those 3-year-old toddlers you see dancing at mommy-and-me music class. But it’s true: In what feels like a blink of an eye, you are now the parents of a toddler (of course, we know he is still your baby). From now on, your child’s skills will start to grow exponentially.

Keep reading for tips to help you support the growth and development needs of your toddler.

Helping Your Toddler with Language Development

Your child’s language skills will start to explode, especially in the 18- to 24-month timeframe. Your heart will melt as you witness them growing from a word like “Mama,” to two words at a time, and eventually to sentences like “I love you, Mama!” (and yes, this is the best thing ever!). To encourage this language development, Amanda Gerson, MS, CCC-SLP, a speech-language pathologist at ABG Speech Therapy, recommends you describe what you’re doing and comment on what your child does, such as “I am putting your shirt on,” “I am washing your tummy,” and “You’re moving the car fast.” Your child needs to hear the words before they start to use them.

You are your child’s greatest teacher, and you’re building a strong foundation for speech and language skills by modeling the words to use when interacting with your child. This creates opportunities for your child to learn new words. Gerson suggests modeling the words and giving choices versus asking only open-ended questions. Your child may not have the skills yet to know how to respond. So rather than asking “What do you want to eat?” or “What do you want to play with?”, ask “Would you like a banana or pear slices?” or “Do you want to play with cars or with blocks?” It’s also recommended to have a balance between talking time and quiet time to allow your child to explore the world around them.

Helping Your Toddler Develop Fine Motor Skills

It may feel like every two weeks your child is able to reach new things. Before you know it, those curious little hands will be reaching over the coffee table or kitchen counter and could potentially grab a dangerous item. If you haven’t yet, it’s time to babyproof, even if certain concerns seem far off. Your toddler may just be starting to walk, but in a matter of weeks he will be free-roaming all over your home. Vases, breakable coasters, and the TV are some of the first items that will be targeted. As your child ages, watch out for the harder to reach areas too. Even when items such as scissors or an active frying pan may seem out of reach, you’ll quickly be surprised at your little one’s resourcefulness and new abilities to grab things

To keep her hands distracted and also work on developing her fine motor skills, you can give her easy activities like putting pipe cleaners into a water bottle or sorting cotton balls into a cupcake tin. Safe replacement activities that allow toddlers to explore using all of their senses will help keep them distracted from the other alluring items in your home, according to Dorrie Barbanel, BCBA, LBA, LMSW, of Manhattan Psychology Group. Toddlers love playing with household items, so giving them a safe outlet while also being mindful of putting away breakable objects (this includes that photo of Grandma they’ll try to grab that you think is “high up on the bookcase”), will help you survive your transition into year 2.

Another option is to create a “yes” space in your home—a safe play area in which a child can play without interruption and is 100-percent safe from harm.

Is it time to switch to a toddler bed?

If it looks like your little one is lifting his leg up and testing the limits in the crib, watch out…the ability to literally climb out of there is not far off. Even the lowest crib setting eventually won’t stop your ambitious child, but you may be intimidated by the idea of switching to a toddler bed or feel he isn’t ready for it. I know, your heart may skip a beat at the idea of that little monkey having open access to her room!

A hack to buy you more time is to remove the springboard from the crib and lower the mattress to the floor within the crib frame. This, of course, depends on the type of crib you have, as only some allow you to do this safely. For example, ensure the crib sides are flush with the top of the mattress in order to avoid gaps between them where your toddler’s body parts can get stuck. Additionally, you can buy toddler-sized sleep sacks, which can prevent them from getting their legs over the side of the crib for a bit longer. In the meantime, make sure the room is set up safely so that you’re prepared for the switch to the inevitable toddler bed.

Toddler Growth Spurts

As your baby begins to grow after the 1-year mark, you’ll see changes in his face, height, and weight as he transitions into a toddler. As she runs around (all the time!), you’ll start to see some of the baby fat melt away and her features will look more like a “big kid.” Unlike the first year when your baby seemed to grow and change each month, toddlers grow more slowly.

On average, your little one will grow 4-5 inches in height and gain approximately ½ pound per month between 12-24 months. By age 3, your toddler will add on another 3 inches and gain approximately 4 more pounds. At this point he’s typically quadrupled his birth weight! If you’re the type of parent who likes to keep memories of your child, you may find it fun to purchase a height chart and mark off how much she’s grown each month. Once your child is in preschool, you can expect him to lose more baby fat as his limbs grow.

Toddler Growth Chart

The below measurements are average height and weight for toddler boys and girls, according to the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  

Age

Size

Boy

Girl

12 months

Height

30 inches

29 inches

Weight

21 lb, 3 oz

19 lb, 10 oz

18 months

Height

32½ inches

31¾ inches

Weight

24 lb, 1 oz

22 lb, 8 oz

2 years

Height

2 feet, 11 inches

2 feet, 10 inches

Weight

28 lbs

26 lbs, 11 oz

2½ years

Height

3 feet

3 feet

Weight

30 lbs

28 lbs, 11 oz

3 years

Height

3 feet, 2 inches

3 feet, 1 inch

Weight

31 lb, 12 oz

30 lb, 10 oz

3½ years

Height

3 feet, 3 inches

3 feet, 2 inches

Weight

33 lb, 12 oz

32 lb, 14 oz

4 years

Height

3 feet, 4 inches

3 feet, 3 inches

Weight

35 lb, 15 oz

35 lb, 1 oz

4½ years

Height

3 feet, 6 inches

3 feet, 5 inches

Weight

38 lb, 6 oz

37 lb, 4 oz

5 years

Height

3 feet, 7 inches

3 feet, 6 inches

Weight

40 lb, 13 oz

39 lb, 11 oz

  
If your child’s measurements don't match the numbers in the toddler growth chart exactly, don’t fret. Genetics play a major role, as well as gender, nutrition, activity level, sleep, breast- vs. bottle-fed, among many other factors. Speak to your pediatrician if you have any questions or concerns. 


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Alison Leighton

Author:

Alison Leighton spent a decade in marketing at Fortune 500 Financial Institutions before leaving that world to focus on the hardest job out there: being a parent. She now does freelance writing and marketing and is the founder of Social Parent NYC, which hosts events for parents and their babies/toddlers. Follow the brand to get creative parenting inspiration about travel and activities on Instagram and Facebook: @SocialParentNYC. She lives in NYC with her husband and son and spends a lot of time reading Corduroy and wondering why Play-Doh smells so good.

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