As new parents, we gear much of our time and energy towards pregnancy, or to surviving the many challenges during the first year post birth. Suddenly, after the candles on the first birthday cake are blown out there is less of a focus on firsts, because both child and parent have hit their stride, and endured four seasons together.
Just because your child has turned one doesn’t mean that the milestones you can look forward to are over. The toddler years are filled with amazing progress and a time where your child develops from a squirming wee infant to a personality filled force to be reckoned with. There may not be firsts every day, but somehow, to me anyway, the firsts my kids have experienced during the toddler years have felt more meaningful as I’ve gained perspective on who they are, and who they’re becoming.
7 First Steps
Some babies, particularly those with older siblings tearing around, take their first steps and get mobile on their feet at nine to 12 months and are walking by around month 14 to 15, whereas others don’t begin walking until they are closer to 16-18 months old. Both ends of this spectrum are completely normal.
Infants will slowly develop their strength, confidence and balance as they learn to sit, roll and crawl. This will eventually lead to the first time they pull themselves up to stand, cruise, and then their first few independent steps. Once they gain better control of their steps, they’ll begin a slow walk, and eventually a fast run.
As soon as you suspect walking is at the top of your toddler’s agenda, it’s probably time to investigate any additional babyproofing required for your home, as your child will soon have a heightened and elongated reach as they explore everything breakable, and dangerous.
6 The First Time They Tell You They Love You
By a year your child probably has some words and sign language they use to communicate with you. For the first two years of my son’s life, most of his words involved food - he could say delicious and yummy before many other common words and expressions. You can’t choose your child’s first words, which is partially why many situational comedies have poked fun at who a child bestows their first word upon, and whether or not that word is mama, dada, aunt Jane or grandpa.
While first words are awesome, I found it even more amazing when my kids were better able to communicate and articulate their emotions to me. There is nothing more amazing than tucking your child in at night, or dropping them off at daycare and having them say I love you, and genuinely mean it. Be sure you reciprocate and regularly tell and show your little one just how much they mean to you.
5 The First Time They Help You
It starts out small, just like them, at around a year when your child will be able to follow simple directions like handing you an item upon request or stopping an action when you tell them to stop or call out “No!” This is the very beginning of them being your proud little helper.
By the time your child is three years old they will generally be able to complete more complex tasks, including following through on two part requests. When you say, “Please take off your shoes and put them in the corner to dry,” they should be able to do this.
Positive encouragement goes a long way towards building a sense of pride, and encouraging them to want to help more. If your child is having difficulty following two step requests, consider breaking up the task into single steps, praising them along the way, until they become more confident and routine based in the type of request.
4 The First Time They Make a Friend
Young toddlers mostly practice independent play, but soon they will begin parallel play where they play alongside their peers. Eventually, somewhere between ages three and five your toddler will begin to interact with other children in cooperative play and some independent or collaborative imagination based games.
As your child ages and develops emotionally they will begin to make their own friends and become social with their peers beyond the social circles of family, and your friend’s children. The first time your child makes a special bond with another child is something to remember, and maybe mark down in their baby book.
By encouraging friendships to blossom you will be helping your child develop his own social skills. This sometimes includes teaching them how to cope with rejection calmly when another child doesn’t want to play. There are many activities, like blocks, puzzles and board games that you can play with your child to help him build his skills in cooperative play. There are also many ways that you can help him make friends and encourage him to play with others.
3 The First Time They Draw a Picture That Actually Looks Like Something
Most children two and under will practice scribbled drawings that don’t really represent anything. Generally after six months of scribbling they will become more engaged with their drawings. Next, they will begin to name and identify the shapes they squiggle. At age three and four they enter the preschematic stage where they begin to draw representationally, where what they create begins to represent symbols, even if they are the only ones who can decipher the code! Letters and numbers, and more realistic colors will begin to become a part of their creations.
All of a sudden, those pictures won’t just be a blur of scribbles. People will have limbs, faces, and hair. Seeing your child go from placing a few lines on a page to drawing their interpretation of a family portrait is pretty cool. You may want to hang on to some of these masterpieces, even if it’s just to hang them on the fridge.
2 The First Time They Surprise You With Something They Can Do
As parents of multiples, both my husband and I are guilty of completing tasks for them in the spirit of speed over providing teachable moments, a lot more often than we should. At the same time we know that we want our children to become capable and independent people; it’s a bit of a double edged sword we’re wielding, especially when you’re running ten minutes behind and have an important meeting.
Every once in a while, a child will surprise us by doing something that we had no clue they were capable of doing. There is something marvelous about that prideful smile when we show our excitement over their new item of mastery, whether it’s peeling a clementine, getting on all of their snow attire independently, or knowing how to turn off and tidy up the keyboard when they are done playing rock band with their sibling. Each time they master a new skill it’s a sign that they are capable of doing more on their own, so grab a tissue, your little munchkin is starting to grow up!
1 The Day Your Toddler Starts Identifying Body Parts
Ever since your baby’s birth you’ve been completely in love with his button nose and with time, he has now become ready to discover what all the fuss is about. At around 13 to 14 months of age, your toddler will be able to learn about his body parts and will definitely get a kick out of being able to point out his eyes and nose when you ask.
By the time he hits the two-year mark, your toddler with be able to point to about ten different body parts. His vocabulary is sure to skyrocket when you continue to repeat the names of each body part that he finds. With the passage of time, he will be able to say “Eyes!” instead of just identifying the different parts of his body by pointing.