Physical Growth

Lookin’ Good!

Your toddler continues to grow steadily. However, after the 2nd birthday, growth slows. By age 2, your toddler weighs four times his or her birth weight, usually measures about 34 inches in length, and has a head size that has grown to almost 90 percent of adult head size.

Between the 2nd and 3rd birthdays, your toddler will usually put on only 3-5 pounds and add only about 3 inches in length.

During the toddler years, the soft, round look of your baby changes. Baby fat begins to disappear from cheeks, arms and legs. Your child develops a neck. Muscles “bulk up” as muscle mass increases twice as fast as bone. Legs are longer and straighter and feet point forward. Your 1-year-old’s flat feet develop arches as the fat pad that hid the arch disappears.

Brain Fact

During the toddler years, amazing changes are taking place in the brain. The brain is growing in complexity as the number of connections between nerve cells increases to 1,000 trillion, which is twice the number of connections at birth (and twice the number in an adult brain).

In addition, there are three other changes. The supporting cells of the brain multiply. Individual nerves are insulated for more efficient firing, and new blood vessels are formed to supply areas of increased activity with oxygen and nutrients.

Dental Development

Baby Your Baby's Teeth

By age 2-1/2, most children have all 20 of their baby or primary teeth. The second molars are the last to appear usually coming in between 20 and 30 months.

Your child’s primary teeth are important for chewing, speaking, and your child’s smile. Primary teeth are also important for jaw growth. They hold a place for permanent teeth.

Sixty percent of 3-year-olds have one or more cavities. One of the most important things you can do for your child’s smile is to take good care of your baby’s teeth – regular tooth brushing, a healthy diet, a minimum of sticky, sugary foods and regular visits to the dentist beginning at age 12-18 months.

Milestones: Physical Skills

Usually around 18 months, your child is practicing physical skills every waking hour. You’ll be
amazed at your child’s progress with coordination and balance. Some highlights include walking backwards, walking up stairs holding someone’s hand, being able to bend over to pick up a toy, and being able to remove larger pieces of clothing.

Usually around 24 months, your child can walk up and down stairs alone and may want to try jumping off the bottom step. Your child can also use a spoon well, kick a large ball, build a tower of six blocks, and unzip a zipper.

Usually around 36 months, your child can walk up and down steps alternating feet, can open a door by turning a knob, can bend over easily without falling, and can ride a large wheeled toy like a tricycle. At this age, your child’s favorite activity may be running. Get ready!

Useful Info: Living with an Intense Toddler

Toddler years are especially challenging for children with intense temperaments. Try these techniques to make life easier for your child (and for you). If your child is:

Intensely active: Schedule lots of supervised active play in safe spaces – outside whenever possible.

Intensely loud: Ask your child to save loud noises for outdoors and use an “inside voice” when indoors. Encourage singing and reciting nursery rhymes.

Play Activities

Daddy Says

How? Tell your child to copy your movements. Point to your ear saying, “Daddy says point to your ear.” Your child should imitate you. Try pointing to your nose and then your toes, each time saying, “Daddy says point to your nose” or “Daddy says point to your toes.” Throw in a few “Daddy says stick out your tongue” or “Daddy says make a funny face” just so you can get your toddler giggling. Don’t expect the game to last for more than a few minutes.

Why? Toddlers love to imitate, they love activity, and they love having fun, but they have very short attention spans.

Ask Your Doctor

Development — 30-36 Months

Your baby may need a developmental evaluation if by his or her 3rd birthday, he or she:

  • falls frequently and has difficulty with stairs
  • drools or has speech that is difficult to understand
  • has difficulty handling small objects
  • cannot copy a circle
  • doesn’t understand simple instructions
  • is not interested or has very little interest in other children
  • does not have pretend play
  • does not put two words together
  • is unable to separate from parents without significant protest

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics


During the toddler years, you can almost see your child learning. Your child is able to solve problems by thinking and doing. Your toddler can recognize same and different and begins to have more complicated play. In addition being able to sort objects by color and shape, your child understands the idea of numbers, especially two.

Toddler years are a time of magical thinking when your child finds it difficult to separate fantasy from reality. Magical thinking can be delightful, for example, a visit from an imaginary friend. It can also be dangerous, for example, a 2-1/2 year old deciding to fly down the steps like Superman.

Books for Your Toddler

Reading books to your toddler does more than provide entertainment. Sharing books together provides a message that books are important. Reading is a crucial skill for success in school. Help your child get a head start by starting early.

You can tell that your toddler is interested in books if he or she brings you a book to read, tries to hold the book, wants to turn the pages, points at the pictures, asks for the same story over and over, carries a book around the house, or sits and “reads” a book out loud.

Major Milestones: Language

Mastery of speech and language is perhaps the most variable of developmental milestones. About 1 in every 10 to 15 children has some difficulty with language or speech. Try to be both watchful and reasonable with your expectations. It helps to know that boys usually talk later than girls. Share any concerns you might have with your child’s doctor.

Your toddler is better at understanding language than producing it. Children can point to a body part before they can name it.

Some of the most important milestones of the toddler years are imitates animal sounds; refers to self by name; begins to use “I” and “me;” begins to combine words in 2- and 3-word sentences; uses “please” and “thank you;” adds “ed” to verbs to indicate past tense like “I walked” and “s” to nouns to indicate plurals like “dogs;” asks what, where, when and why questions; uses 4 and 5 words in sentences; can be mostly understood by strangers; and understands “on,” “in,” and “under.”

Brain Fact

A continuing theme in your child’s development is the relationship between attachment and achievement. In the first year, your child’s eagerness to explore depends on your child’s sense of security. In the toddler years, your child’s ability to learn depends on feeling secure.

The importance of attachment doesn’t go away. In school-age years, children of equal intelligence are most likely to achieve in schoolwork if they have a strong parent-child attachment.

Source: L. Alan Sroufe, Ph.D.

Emotional Development

Toddlers are incredibly self-centered. You may observe a few of these behaviors: refusing to share, temper tantrums, biting or hitting.

Most toddlers are intense at least part of the time. They can be extremely happy, extremely sad, and extremely angry all within 15 minutes. If your child’s temperament is intense, you’re likely to see temper tantrums. If your child is quiet, you may see clinginess or whining. It’s all part of the same developmental process. Your child is trying to work out how to behave around others. Your help with soothing ruffled feelings and calming angry tantrums is a huge plus for your child’s development.

By the time your child reaches 3 years, he or she is able to take turns in games, show affection for playmates, understand “mine” and “his” and “hers,” and show more self-control. Your child also begins to show concern for others.

Your child becomes more aware of pleasing or displeasing you during the toddler years. Somewhere around 3, toddlers show emotions such as shame, embarrassment, pride, guilt, and even envy. Self-awareness is a major emotional milestone. Now your child knows that you have expectations and knows whether he or she is living up to them. This is the first step toward the development of conscience.

Questions & Answers

Q: My first-born took 2-1/2 years to potty train. He wasn’t potty trained until 4. With my second-born, I started at age 2-1/2, and he was completely potty trained by age 3. Why?

A: Although there could be lots of reasons why your second-born was easier to potty train than your first-born, here are two possibilities. First, you started the process later with your second-born. Toilet training requires cooperation. Your child has to want to be toilet trained. During the extremely negative period that begins the toddler years, your child doesn’t want to cooperate with anything. For that reason, it’s best to wait until 2 or 2-1/2 when your child is less negative and more eager to please you. The second reason is your second-born wanted to be grown up like his older sibling.

Child Rearing Myth

Parents who childproof their homes and who constantly watch their toddlers are being overprotective. Children should learn the rules.

Child Rearing Fact

Toddlers are too young to be expected to remember and follow the rules. Since toddlers don’t have the knowledge or experience to avoid danger or keep their hands off breakables, they require constant watching – especially in a home that hasn’t been childproofed.

Health Alert: Poison Here! Poison There! Poison, Poison, Everywhere!

Keep a bottle of syrup of ipecac (non-prescription – costs about $2) on hand and locked in your first-aid kit. Use only on direction of your doctor or the Indiana Poison Center.

Toddlers are curious. They put everything in their mouths. It’s no wonder that 1- to 3-year-olds are at the greatest risk for poisoning. Now that your child can climb, open doors and drawers, and open bottles, everything that could be harmful must be out of sight and out of reach.

You may reach your local poison center by calling 1.800.222.1222 (Universal Poison Center number).
See “Poison Safety” in the Child Safety section.

Useful Info: Congratulations! You're a Guardian Angel!

If there is one time in childhood your child requires a guardian angel, it’s the toddler years.

Toddlers need constant protection. Be especially watchful when children are hungry, for example, before mealtimes and in the late afternoon. At times of stress or confusion like holidays, family illness, houseguests, or moving day, children are at an increased risk of injury or harm and need extra protection.

Health Alert: To Grandmother's House We Go

Attention all grandparents. Be sure to enroll in a CPR and first-aid course as soon as you know you’ll be grandparents.

Prepare carefully for a visit from your newly walking grandchild – as well as older toddlers and preschoolers. Use the “Room-by-Room Checklist” in the Child Safety section to childproof any rooms that will not be kept locked during your grandchild’s visit.

More than one-third of all poisonings occur in the homes of children’s grandparents. Toddlers will eat anything. Since you can’t guard against all the dangers your grandchildren can find, you’ll need to take your turn as a guardian angel watching over your little ones.