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The Toddler

By Kimberly Sinclair RN CPNP

Oh the TODDLER! The greatest need of a toddler is independence. They believe, without experience, to make choices about their world and everything that happens to them. If they have successfully gotten through infancy, then their perpetual motion turns in perpetual action. It is understood by parents that, ‘they wish they could bottle all this energy”! Toddlerhood goes from 1 to 3 years old.


During this 2-year period a child will gain almost 10 pounds and 7-8 inches. They will go from taking “baby” steps to full out running. Not greatly able to be coordinated at first turns into action and movement. Body parts are growing and the head in not so big in comparison to the body. Balance improves and so does coordination. At this stage you see children climbing the on cabinets/tables and chairs, swinging in small sets, learning in-out, up-down, top and bottom. Throwing a ball and stirring in a pan with a spoon. These are all important moments that lead to future progress.


Rapid growth is the key word. By the time they are three they will know approximately 250 words. They will go from pointing to make their needs know to asking. They will advance to approximately 3–4-word sentences. The word WHY will become very important to them. Followed closely by the word NO! Autonomy or independence is the goal of this stage and if not obtained leads to shame and doubt. Don’t be afraid of the WHY and NO. This helps them get to the independence that your child needs. They are continuing to learn that things and people are separate from themselves.


Vision is almost 20/20 by the time a child is 3 to 5 years old. So at the end of the toddler stage, it is almost fully developed. They can see, focus in and have learned perception and perspective. This in itself is AMAZING! Any problems with turning to voice/name, being able to speak words or sounds or slurring speech should be evaluated and tested. Any problems seeing or looking at the TV, like they are looking at it with one eye is a problem. Get them evaluated! Some problems need to be evaluated by the time they are 4 years old. To get effective treatment. The pediatricians/family practice physician may not effectively screen by that time. Trust yourself as a parent and push for that evaluation if uncertain.


The child shifts from soft table food to regular foods. They should be eating with their fingers well and advancing to use simple fork and spoon independently. This should be allowed to occur despite the messiness. Otherwise, independence is not promoted, but dependence.

Other Developmental Needs:

This is also the time toilet training occurs and certain steps needs to occur before this occurs. First, they need to have words for toileting. Eg. Pee, poop, tinkle. You get the idea! Second, they need to be able to pull down and up their underwear to use the toilet. Third, they need to have periods of time between need to urinate. In other words, dry times. Fourth they need to know what they toilet is for. This seems strange, but it’s not just to be used to just flush and watch the water spin down. Fifth, they need to be fully able to do all these things independently to be considered fully toilet trained. Parents if you are doing any of these things for them then toilet training is not complete.

Discipline at this point can be started. Removing from danger or preventing danger moments can be done. Time out with having them sit in a chair. Normally 1 minute per year of age. Looking for ways to make your home safe can be the best way not to have to discipline a toddler.

The toddler period can be hard! They can be willful, obstinate and stubborn. They can also show great abilities in learning and thought. I love just listening to their questions of “why” and “how” because it is how they show their intense strengths, interests and determination! Love this stage because it leads to so much more!

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