During the Toddler stage, your little one is starting to stand and walk. He’s also gaining better control over his hands and fingers. And with all these new skills, he’s ready to express his independence. Two of his favorite words may be “no” and “mine.” He’ll experiment with testing his limits and being more assertive. He may insist on attempting to spoon feed himself or perhaps show anger when a toy is taken away. Your toddler may also be more social. He might like meeting new people and following conversations—especially when he can join in. And you may find that he loves being with children his own age; it’s a good time to take him to play groups with other toddlers. As you watch your toddler grow, remember that children develop on different time schedules, so don’t worry if your little one isn’t developing at the same time as other children of the same stage.
- Stands alone and begins to walk alone
When your child first stands, his posture may look a bit unusual; his belly will stick out and his back will have a forward sway to it. This is normal and will continue until he has a better sense of balance. Once he starts walking, it may take a few months for your little one to perfect these skills. On the other hand, if he’s good at crawling, he may not be interested in walking for a while. When he does walk, he’ll be “toddling” at first—walking with his feet wide apart and toes pointed outward; he’ll have difficulty walking on uneven surfaces or around corners without falling. As he walks around and maneuvers around furniture and other household things, watch him carefully to avoid injuries.
He’s also fine-tuning his hand and finger skills, which give him more control when he explores the world around him. These skills will be useful for learning to use a spoon and a fork, and to more accurately get food into his mouth with them. He’ll begin to dip his spoon rather than scoop, may start to drink through a straw, and will be able to bite through a variety of textures.
Your toddler’s attention span is increasing. And while he may be able to sit for as long as 15 minutes with a particularly fascinating object, most of the time he’ll still be in motion. As your little one learns more about how objects work, he’ll begin some simple forms of fantasy play, such as pretending to drink from a cup, putting a toy telephone receiver to his ear, or imitating your actions. Imitation is a big part of his learning and behavior now, so remember that whatever you do or say may be copied or replayed over and over as he learns from you.
A giant developmental leap occurs at this stage; as your toddler begins to understand much of what you say and is more responsive. For example, you may tell him it’s dinner time and then find him standing next to his high chair. Or you might say to him that you’ve lost your purse—and he’ll go find it. This makes talking to your little one a lot more fun—but you may also find yourself spelling out words like “n-a-p” when he’s close enough to hear you. Keep in mind that talking happens at different times for different children, and boys generally develop language skills more slowly than girls. When your toddler starts to speak, his first few words will probably be the names of familiar people, his favorite toys, or body parts. His early words may be hard to understand because they may just include the first consonant and a vowel. He may also substitute sounds he can pronounce, such as D or B for more difficult ones.
Your toddler’s eating skills continue to improve. He can hold a cup with two hands and eventually with just one. He becomes more efficient at eating foods of varying textures. Your toddler feeds himself easily with his fingers and uses a spoon with less spilling. He also develops the skills to chew and swallow firmer foods skillfully as he progresses within the Toddler stage. These new eating skills allow him to eat coarsely chopped foods with noticeable pieces, bite-sized pieces of foods and toddler foods, such as GRADUATES® LIL’ ENTRÉES® selections, GRADUATES® PASTA PICK-UPS® raviolis, GRADUATES® FRUIT STRIPS snacks, and GRADUATES® Fruit & Cereal Bars.
Hunger and fullness cues
You’ll be less likely to under or overfeed your toddler if you understand his hunger and fullness cues.
You’ll know your Toddler is hungry when he:
- uses words or sounds to indicate he wants certain foods
- uses phrases such as “want that” or leads you to the refrigerator where he points to the food he wants
You’ll know your toddler is full when he:
- shakes his head to say “no more” or “get down”
- plays with his food instead of eating it
Changes in appetite
Your toddler’s growth slows down at this stage and his appetite may drop, too. Don’t worry if your toddler suddenly becomes picky about what he eats or even resists coming to the table. He doesn’t need as much food as he used to. Though your toddler may be eating what the rest of the family eats now, don’t expect him to eat as much as you do. Remember that his stomach still holds less, so he needs about 3 meals and 2 snacks a day. But don’t count on your child actually eating that way every day—toddlers are known for erratic and unpredictable eating habits. For example, your toddler may eat a huge breakfast, but little else the rest of the day. The amount of calories he needs to eat depends on his activity level, growth rate and metabolism.
The dinner table may become a battleground when you try to get him to eat a balanced diet. Don’t take it personally when he rejects the food you prepare for him, and don’t allow him to fill up on empty calories if he does not eat. Remember that your child’s diet will balance out over several days, especially if you remember who’s in charge of what. Your job is to provide a variety of healthy foods for your toddler, and his job is to decide what, and how much, he wants to eat.
If you feel your child is a picky eater, you are not alone. This is common among parents of toddlers. While there is no scientific definition for this, parents describe their toddlers as picky eaters when they refuse to try new foods, eat only a few foods or have strong preferences when it comes to both type of food and preparation. What should you do?
- Be patient; occasional picky eating can be a normal part of development.
- Provide a variety of food options—both new and familiar—and let your toddler choose
- If your toddler refuses a particular food, never force him to eat it or finish it. Instead, move on to a different food and try that food again at a later time.
- Keep offering foods again and again—it can take about 10 tries for your child to accept a new food.
What foods and textures are best?
During the Toddler stage your child needs food from the same four basic food groups that you do, but in a somewhat different texture:
Meat, fish, beans, poultry and eggs
Fruits and vegetables
Cereal grains, potatoes, rice, breads and pasta
Children don’t learn to chew in a grinding motion until their fourth year, so make sure to provide his food in an easy-to-chew texture such as mashed or cut into small pieces. Also remember that your little one can still choke on foods that are big enough to block his airway. Always supervise your toddler when he’s eating, make sure he’s eating while sitting down, and teach him not to talk when he has food in his mouth. Also avoid giving him the following foods that pose a choking hazard:
Nuts, popcorn, seeds
Whole grapes or cherry tomatoes (cut them into quarters)
Hard fruits and vegetables such as apples or raw carrots
Whole or large sections of hot dogs or meat sticks
Hard candies (including jelly beans or gummy bears)
Spoonfuls of peanut butter
Your toddler’s growth
At the end of this stage, your toddler’s growth rate begins to slow, although his height and weight will still increase steadily. Your little one will begin to lose his baby fat and become more lean as his activity increases.
The height and weight ranges provided in the charts below are representative of the majority of children at the age specified. Of course, healthy toddlers can also be outside this range. Remember that your toddler’s actual length and weight are not as important as the steady, appropriate rate of his growth. It is important to track your child’s length and weight over time as this is one of the key indicators of healthy growth and development. So keep plotting your child’s growth on a growth chart and discuss with your pediatrician at each visit, including if your child is following a different curve on the chart or gaining weight or length slowly.
Typical length and weight for Toddler boys at 12 months
**indicates 10th-90th percentile range Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Typical length and weight for Toddler girls at 12 months
**indicates 10th-90th percentile range Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
What you can do to help your toddler’s development
As a parent you can play an active role in every stage of your child’s development. Here’s a recap of what your toddler might be doing at this stage, plus some things you can do to support his healthy development along the way.
During this stage your toddler may:
- Build a tower of two blocks
- Try to scribble with a crayon
- Try “cruising”—walking while holding on to furniture
- Stand momentarily without support
- Walk a few steps without support
What you can do:
- Give your toddler push-and-pull toys to play with
- Offer him balls of all shapes and sizes
- Put your toddler on his hands and knees close by and call his name to encourage him to come toward you.
- Hold your toddler’s hands as he practices walking
- Have him help you with simple physical activities around the house, such as sweeping the floor. Turn learning this new skill into a game so that it’s fun for both you.