Children develop new skills rapidly. Last month we reviewed the updated developmental guidelines put in place by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for babies from birth to one year. In this article we will cover the developmental skills of toddlers. These skills are mastered by 75 percent of children of that age. It is important to identify developmental delays as early as possible to get any necessary services to assist their development.
Fifteen months is the average age to walk. This is defined as taking a few steps on their own. They can feed themselves with their fingers and may try to use a cup. They can say mama, dada, and usually one or two other words (hi, bye, or “Ba” for bottle or ball). They can point to something that they want. They can stack two blocks. They can follow a command with a gesture: i.e., saying “Hand me your toy” while putting your hand out. They can clap. They will show affection with kisses or hugs. They are still a bit wobbly, so watch them as they toddle around. Do not leave any child alone near water (pools, bathtubs, toilets, or buckets) to prevent drowning accidents.
By eighteen months your child can look at a few pages in a book with you. They will point to show you something. They have about five words (mama, dada, and three others). Keep in mind that the words may not always come out perfectly. They will follow a command without a gesture (“Pick up the book”). They love to copy cleaning activities (sweeping, dusting), and they walk well without assistance. They can scribble with a crayon (supervise this activity unless you want to repaint your walls). They try to use a spoon, but still may eat with their fingers. They can climb on and off of furniture. Reading to your child each day helps with language development. This may be as simple as pointing out pictures in a book.
By two years of age, your child will notice when others are upset. They watch you to see how they should react when confronted with something new. They will identify something in a book by pointing if you ask them, “Where is the dog?” They speak in two-word phrases like “More drink” or “All done.” They can point to two body parts when you play the “Where is your belly? hair? mouth? game.” They can blow a kiss. They like to use buttons, knobs, and switches on toys. They can kick a ball. They can hold a cup while trying to take off the lid. They can walk up a few stairs. They have mastered the spoon and actually use it to eat. Watch out…these kids can run. Hold onto them when going out and about, as they will make a break for it and head towards the street.
By two and a half years of age, your child’s language explodes. They have about 50 words. They start to expand their phrases with verbs (“Run daddy”). They can follow simple routines (“Time to pick up your toys”). They will say “Watch me” or “Look, Mommy” to get your attention. They will play next to other children, and they like to pretend (feeding a doll or talking on a phone). They will follow a two-step instruction (“Pick up the toy and put it in the basket”). They may know one color. They can turn pages in a book. They can jump. They may be able to take off a jacket or shoes. Beware, as they start to problem-solve. They may use a chair to crawl up to the cookie jar. They can open doors and unscrew lids. This can be dangerous if they are getting out of the house or into grandma’s medicine, so keep a close eye. Purses containing medicine are often left on the floor, leading to accidental poisoning.
By age three, your child can carry on a conversation with you and are understandable to others most of the time. They love to ask questions (Why? Where? What? Who?). They can say their first name. They can copy a circle after you draw one. They can use a fork. They dress themselves somewhat. If you ask them what is happening in a picture in a book, they can tell you (“He eats” or “Doggie runs”), but they may follow up with “Why doggie runs?” Spending time playing and interacting with your child is vital in their growth and development.
Remember that toddlers vary in their development, so refrain from comparing your child with another. If you have concerns about your toddler’s development, please reach out to your pediatric healthcare provider and have an honest conversation. Your provider can administer developmental screening tests. If there is a delay noted, they may place a referral to a developmental pediatrician or for early intervention services. These services can assist your child’s development. Never be afraid to ask.