Ask experienced moms and they may all give a different answer to the question of which age is the most challenging when it comes to parenting little ones. Some might swear that their “three-nager” gave them the worst of it, while other moms and dads don't even want to think about repeating those sleepless newborn times again.
I've found that once one age has passed, it’s on to the next one. Once a milestone that once seemed so amazing has been achieved, it’s easy to forget how amazing you once thought it was quite quickly, always looking ahead to what’s still to come and also focusing on whatever challenges you currently face.
Childhood (and parenthood) is inevitably a time of constant change and many transitions, and surely the development of a baby into a “toddler” is one of the big ones.
Think of the changes to mobility alone — toddlers are referred to as such because they are learning to walk, right? From new safety considerations to topics of behavior and beyond, we’ve tried to cover a bit of it all for you here today.
The baby just turned into a toddler: Here are 20 things that are about to change.
Based on my experience, which is FRESH in my memory with my second little one nearing the two-year mark, there’s a type of behavior that may sort of start creeping its way into a little one’s repertoire as soon as toddlerhood hits, and then perhaps intensifies as the second birthday approaches.
It’s that “all by myself!” attitude... and if you think about it one way, it’s a good thing, right?
It’s only natural that even very little kids are trying to imitate what they see around them — grown-ups and older kids doing so many things all on their own.
This part of the learning process, I’ve noticed, can involve a lot of trial and error, and uncertainty. It can be tough when a tot wants very badly to do something, but it is actually something they still sorta need help with.
Our big one lately is that my toddler insists on getting into the car seat on her own, which currently usually slows us down more than it helps at all. But I love that she’s learning!
Here’s probably the most basic point in this discussion today: Once a little one turns into a toddler, shoes are generally considered necessary to protect those little feet when they are stepping out and about in the world.
I’ve noticed some moms avoid shoes in any form for a long while. The printout from our doc’s office says to put comfortable ones on toddlers once they are walking.
We’ve really liked those trendy moccasins of the last few years. It seems similar to walking barefoot because there’s just a layer of leather there, and toddlers can even learn to slip them on as they get a bit older, which is one “all by myself!” thing that can actually help us to get out the door…
I’ve watched with both of my kids as the reasons that they tend to cry become so much more nuanced and more about how they are feeling, as opposed to just simply, say, “tired” or “need to toot” or “want milk NOW.”
I have found that watching my very young children begin to express their emotions as toddlers can be very intense and can, sure, sometimes require a great deal of patience (in the face of a great deal of LOUD noise).
It’s that toddler trademark, releasing what they are feeling, right then and there, in the way that comes naturally.
I like to model using calm words and acknowledging an entire range of emotion as goals to work toward.
I’ve watched over the last year, between when my second little one turned one and an approaching second birthday, that the word "mine" started being used a lot more.
As my two toddlers more and more frequently had little arguments throughout the day about who got to use which toy, and discussions about which things belonged to whom.
Sometimes, one will steal a toy from the other and run off into a corner just to get a reaction.
Quite frequently, a toy will be sitting unused, and then as soon as one shows any interest, the other kid goes to snatch it.
This is, therefore, one big change I noticed once the toddler times hit: getting possessive.
Those newborn times… At first, it seemed like a constant cycle of nursing, diaper changing, and sleeping, all throughout the 24 hours of the day.
But as sleepy time drifts on, somehow your newborn becomes an older baby who naps more like every 3 hours instead of every two, and then fewer times still as the months trickle by.
A big part of my life as a mom has been following and carefully respecting/encouraging as needed the scheduling of naps, and a big change for the family indeed may be the transition from multiple naps to two main naps, and then to one nap during the toddler years.
It all depends on the kid, with some dropping naps earlier, some napping longer than others, and all variety of schedules. But there is one trend that stands out: in my experience, toddlers tend to prefer one nap in the middle of the day or early afternoon.
Well, there’s not a lot of falling or tumbling when babies are just rolling, scootching, or even crawling, I found.
One big adjustment of toddlerhood, therefore, may be seeing some falls and bumps begin to happen.
We do what we can to prevent any injury, but now that I’ve had two little ones, I see that little spills and plops down on those pudgy little booties are sort of par for the course as they learn to walk.
We try to take extra care to prevent actual booboos, of course, by using common sense, putting them in shoes that don’t trip them up… things like that. We also almost always put on long pants during the early months of walking, helping to prevent so many skinned knees.
As I sit with my more like a preschool-aged child sometimes, or my younger one, still for sure a “toddler,” I have to just appreciate the moment of closeness with them.
Whereas you may find yourself with a baby in your arms or lap much of the time that you are in the same building as them as a mom, I have found that toddlerhood and all of its physical independence and exploration means a shift away from the physical closeness of the baby days.
And also, when, where, and how closeness happens may just sort of change.
A toddler may sort of just come to “check in” for a quick hug or snuggle every now and then, as opposed to wanting to be held so much of the time.
There are still other ways to be close, even if you are now nursing less or not at all, such as reading stories together.
I have seen first-hand that every kid eats differently. That’s for sure.
And also, I’ve seen first-hand that toddlerhood can mean a shift in eating tendencies or behavior.
Even a baby who was an enthusiastic and focused eater quite reliably can be hard to keep sitting still for a mealtime.
It’s just like they almost always want to be on the go, go, go!
With my first, we developed a few strategies, such as even reading a story to her while she sat in her high chair and nibbled this and that.
Getting creative with the foods you offer and even the dishes and presentation, I’ve found, can also help to keep that toddler interest.
Here’s a pretty huge aspect of toddlerhood some parents may want to brace themselves for: potty training.
There are so many different approaches and strategies, and I’d say doing some reading and talking to your little one’s pediatrician are probably the best way to educate yourself on the whole matter.
But I will say that for sure, the shift to toddlerhood may mean a shift toward sitting on the training toilet to go rather than relying completely on diapers.
Both of our kids showed interest and started sitting to go sometimes right at the start of toddlerhood. We had simply made the training potties available.
My second has gone into it with real gusto, probably because everyone else in the family does it! I also know kids who don’t approach it at all until later in toddlerhood. Whatever works!
We actually would tell each other — my husband, and I — that our little one was “up-downing” us. That’s a common phrase we would use for when she would keep wanting to be put down and then — oh, wait, no — picked up again, over and over and over throughout the day.
All indecisiveness about the matter aside, I’ve noticed that of course the toddler years mean kids wanting to have a chance to practice some of that said “toddling.”
They will need a chance to practice walking on their own and won’t want to ride in a stroller or carrier or be held so much of the time.
Honestly, this can slow you down, whether you’re trying to get in the car or make your way around the zoo.
It’s also a whole new world of watching after them, as they carry themselves (sometimes amazingly quickly and quietly!) wherever their whims take them.
So, while it may seem like babyhood was all about doing everything for your little one (EVERYTHING) alll the time, I loved discovering how even right at the start of toddlerhood, my kiddos had not only the desire but also the actual ability to help me out with some things.
No, seriously! They can help me throw away a diaper, sort the laundry, and so much more.
OK, so it’s not always fast. It’s not always accurate or perfect.
But it is cute and actually really helps me out sometimes! It’s amazing to watch a baby become a real little member of the family, wanting to chip in.
I hinted already earlier at that whole new level of needing to monitor a little one once they were mobile up on two legs out in the world.
Well, there’s also sort of the need, once toddlerhood hits, to be cautious everywhere on a whole new level — literally.
They can reach up higher now. They can pull up and maybe even start to climb.
They can get into more and on top of that get around quicker on their own. And their curiosity seems to grow and grow.
My first loved to hurry into my closet and quickly put many pairs of panties around her neck like they were necklaces. You just never know what will pique their interest, so you sort of just have to assume everything will.
BabyCenter.com notes that this is a prime time to take another look at your childproofing.
Oh, this is a big one. I watched as my toddlers (and others at the park/store) discovered at a miraculously young age about seeking reactions.
The classic example I can think of now is one that probably happens to every mom when that baby who has somehow become a toddler begins to whine or cry in the store about a toy or item that they want.
It may be something like that, or as simple as making a sound to see what your reaction is to it.
This whole thing is sort of like training, I guess, in that I’ve found that if you are careful and consistent with your reactions, you will get an outcome that aligns more closely with what you want.
In the example above, I quickly learned not to respond to the whining by buying the toy, and my little one learned not to whine for things in stores.
I touched earlier on how I noticed my toddlers sometimes needing help simply sitting still or focusing long enough to eat as good of a meal as they perhaps once would.
Well, then there’s also the fact that appetites may just change around this age.
Kiddos who are about 13 months old, notes BabyCenter.com, may change from “hearty” eaters to being pickier. That site says it’s typical for kids at this age.
“This change may seem strange, considering how active your child is now. But because he's growing more slowly, he really doesn't need as much food,” BabyCenter.com also says. “Try not to pressure your toddler to eat more. Instead, let his appetite determine how much food he takes in.”
They say to just keep offering a variety of healthy options — and to check with your doctor if you’re worried about the issue.
A trend I’ve noticed in the last handful of years, having had two babies who have become toddlers, is that sometimes it feels like as soon as there’s a nice and predictable sleep schedule happening, something changes.
“Even if your child has been sleeping soundly for months, he may now start waking up again at night,” says BabyCenter.com about the 13-month mark. “Of course, that can happen at any stage during the baby and toddler years for one reason or another. But one new potential sleep disturbance at this age is dreaming.”
That site says that right around this age, active dreaming can wake a little one up, perhaps even startle them.
Having a consistent routine, and a bedtime ritual can help keep that good schedule. If I didn’t have those things in my family, I don’t know how I would have gotten through the last four years.
Well, some parents may note that when they think toddlerhood, they think of some pretty wild times.
“A 13-month-old is a whirlwind of activity,” notes BabyCenter.com. “Your child probably thinks it's fun to push, throw, and knock everything down.
She's not being deliberately destructive. Rather, she views the whole world as one big science experiment: What happens if I do this? …”
Now, although it may seem like a tiny person is intentionally tearing your home apart, it’s all just part of the interesting and thrilling life that is being a toddler.
For more structured cause-and-effect fun, games and toys that involve putting small objects into a container, dumping them out, nesting, stacking, and banging may be a real hit as toddlerhood begins and progresses.
I remember how it took a bit of getting used to, when my first baby was still very young, that I always had to have a huge bag of stuff along with us, from diapers for her to water for me to extra clothes and beyond…Well, once the toddler times hit, you may need even more packed with you — stuff, that is.
Toddlers need snacks and waters. They may need toys and books to keep them entertained, certainly for any longer journeys but also for very short ones. BabyCenter.com helpfully states,
“The secret to traveling with a 1-year-old can best be summed up in two words: Be prepared.”
You’ll need something for “every eventuality,” they include, such as those snack and bevs, diapering supplies, plenty of extra clothing, a sweater, and diversions galore.
The time that a baby transitions into being a toddler may also be a good time to think about socialization with new eyes.
There are ways parents can help their tots to develop social skills, notes BabyCenter.com.
Here’s a fun idea: hide-and-seek! That can be great fun for toddlers, or playing fetch, retrieving toys that your little one tosses.
Handing toys, books, and more back and forth may be some pretty good times for your new toddler, too. “This kind of give, take, and give again is actually a social game, a way of interacting with you and learning how to interact with others,” notes BabyCenter.com.
Toddlers may also love to be watched as they sort of “perform,” and love to get applause or a positive response, then repeat whatever inspired the praise (so use caution…).
Well, I have spent most of the last four years nursing one baby or the other — I’ve had two who are spaced just about two years apart.
So I know what a big part of life breastfeeding can be for mothers, and I know that the transition to toddlerhood can mean at least some if not some big changes.
If you keep it up, you might need to develop different positions and tactics than you did before, partially just due to the size of your growing child. Totally doable, though — I can tell you from much experience!
Although, sure, there may be some challenges, notes BabyCenter.com, “extended nursing” (past the first year) is great if it works for all involved, giving calories vitamins, immunities, and more to tots even as they rely more and more on solid foods.
“Nursing creates a strong bond and provides emotional support that encourages independence and self-confidence,” says the same site as above.
I know I and my little ones have sure found it to be great, well into toddlerhood!
These little babies are real little people, and part of living their real little lives will be overcoming any fears that come up, notes BabyCenter.com.
Things that were no big deal before may make a tot really scared as toddlerhood comes on. The site above notes things like the vacuum or a dog in the neighborhood suddenly being not-so-friendly. According to BabyCenter.com,
“Most of your toddler's fears will fade as she becomes more secure in herself and her environment, but until then you need to find ways to work around them.”
They touch on the example of the bath: If your tot isn’t a fan all of the sudden, you could take a break and just wipe them down instead, let them sit in there without any water, or skip shampoo for a bit.
Making the scary situation fun with distractions and toys can help, too, they note.
References: BabyCenter.com and this one mom’s experiences.