Normal Growth And Development Of Toddlers

Who are toddlers?

Toddlers are children who are 1 to 2 years of age. This time period is a stage of growth for your young child. During this time, he will go through many changes in his physical, psychological (mental and emotional), and social development.

What physical changes occur during the toddler years?

Your child's body grows and changes as he learns to do new things.

  • Movement: Your child's muscles develop as his motor (movement) skills get better.

    • Body control or movement: Your child may sit without support at about one year of age. He may start walking on his own or still need to hold your hand. Later, he may be able to jump.

    • Hand and finger control: Your child learns to use his hands. He may be able to hold a book without help and turn board pages, which are thicker than regular pages.

  • Weight and length: Your child may gain four times his birth weight during this time. His length may increase to about 22 inches. The length is your child's height measured while he is lying down.

What changes in communication occur during the toddler years?

Your child becomes interested in his environment. His language skills improve as he tries to let others know his thoughts.

  • Speech: Your child tries to form words which may result to babbling (talking without meaning) at first. Later, he learns to use actions to tell what he wants. He learns a lot of words which may start to come out like sentences. At around two years of age, he may be able to make 2 to 3 word sentences.

  • Understanding words: Your child may be able to point to a body part when named or point to pictures in books. Later, he may be able to name familiar pictures. He may recite or fill in words in stories that he knows. Your child may also be able to follow simple directions and requests.

What emotional and social changes occur during the toddler years?

Your child starts to express his feelings and interact with other people.

  • Attachment and fears: During the toddler years, your child wants to be near his caregiver. A caregiver may be the child's parent, relative, or babysitter. Your child will not like to be away from his caregiver or around strangers. He may play beside other children, but may not want to play or share toys with them. Your child may be anxious around objects that he is not familiar with. He may fear heights and may even be afraid of the toilet.

  • Behavior: Your child wants to be in control and may insist on doing things himself. He may seem stubborn, refuse help, and get easily frustrated. He may often say "no"' when he is asked a question. His mood may easily change and lead to temper tantrums.

What factors may affect a toddler's development?

  • Certain medical conditions: Problems that affect hearing or the brain may also slow your child's ability to speak well. These problems may include infections and head injuries.

  • Eating habits: Toddlers often become picky of what they eat and may prefer certain foods. Refusing to eat, or only eating fast food or junk food may decrease your child's growth and development.

  • Play: Playing helps a child develop his imagination. Your child will also learn how to get along with others.

  • Sleep: Your child needs sleep to grow and develop normally. The total time spent sleeping includes naps in the morning and afternoon, and sleep without waking up at night. Lack of sleep decreases your child's energy. Daytime behavior is worse if your child is a poor sleeper. If your child does not have enough naps during the day, it is important that he sleeps more at night.

How can I help my child during his toddler years?

  • As your child starts to speak, learn the signs or actions he uses in place of words. Be patient and give your child time to finish his thought. Try to understand what he is saying. Do not use complex or very simple sentences when talking to him. Speaking to your child using clear sentences will help him learn how to communicate better.

  • Give your child a variety of healthy foods each day. This should include fruit, vegetables, bread products, dairy products, and protein (such as chicken, fish and beans). Have your child sit with the family at mealtime even if he does not like to eat. This way, he will still see different foods and develop his taste at his own pace. Do not force your child to eat. You may need to offer him a food 10 or more times before he eats it. Give him healthy snacks between meals, and water to drink.

  • Make sure to keep regular appointments with your child's caregivers for check-ups and vaccinations (shots).

  • Make sure your child gets enough sleep (about 12 to 14 hours) every night. Schedule his sleep with the same bed time and wake time each day. Bedtime routines are also helpful for your child. Do not place a television in your child's room, and keep the room cool and dark.

  • Play with your child. This helps his learning, boosts his self-confidence, and improves his skills. Store toys or objects that may cause choking, poisoning, or other accidents away from your child. Store toys when he is not using them. Computer and video games should only be used with an adult. These should be used for 1 to 2 hours a day or less. All games should be fit to your child's age.

  • Read with your child. This helps develop his language and reading skills. Place books fit for his age within his reach.

  • Time out may be used as a way to discipline your toddler. This lets him quiet down and think about what he did. It also gives you time to calm down and stay in control. Set limits for your child. Praise and reward your child when it is suitable. Do not criticize or show disapproval of your child when he has done something wrong. Explain what you would like him to do instead, and tell him why.

Where can I find more information?

  • American Academy of Pediatrics
    141 Northwest Point Boulevard
    Elk Grove Village , IL 60007-1098
    Phone: 1- 847 - 434-4000
    Web Address:
  • American Academy of Family Physicians
    11400 Tomahawk Creek Parkway
    Leawood , KS 66211-2680
    Phone: 1- 913 - 906-6000
    Phone: 1- 800 - 274-2237
    Web Address:

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. To help with this plan, you must learn about your child's growth and development. You can then discuss treatment options with his caregivers. Work with them to decide what care will be used to treat your child.The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.