Toddler Development Stages

Toddlers are still just realising they’re separate people so as your toddler grows and develops, they’ll begin to learn who they are and will have more understanding about themself. As toddlers slowly build up a picture of themselves and a sense of self, they learn what they look like and work out the things they can do. To begin with, a toddler’s view of themself is still very much a reflection of what other people seem to think of them. Therefore, it’s important for their developing self-esteem that they’re exposed to mainly positive views.

This means:

  • Telling your toddler, as often as possible, that you love them and that they’re marvellous, wonderful and fun to be with.
  • Letting your toddler know you love them by showing affection with lots of hugs, kisses and kind words.
  • Always being supportive and encouraging of good behaviours.

Doing all the above, will help in developing self-esteem in your toddler

Nothing is more damaging to your toddler’s developing self-esteem than a message from you that they’re not loved, liked or wanted. It’s important not to use sarcastic, unkind words or a harsh tone of voice when speaking with them. They’ll believe what you tell them and if your message is that they’re irritating, it’ll have a negative impact on their self-esteem. If you’re feeling angry, never say things such as “You’re so stupid” or “I’d wish you’d never been born!”


  • Show love – tell your toddler, as often as possible, that you love them. Show affection every day.
  • Chat – talking together gives the message that you enjoy your toddlers company.
  • Listen – show your toddler you find them interesting and worth listening to.
  • Play – join in your toddler’s games or if you have household chores to do, ask them to help. Including your toddler shows you enjoy spending time with them.
  • Praise – not just for succeeding, but for efforts and attempts too. Even if your toddler doesn’t manage to do exactly what they set out to do, saying things such as “That was a really great try” will encourage them to have another go. It’s amazing how far this alone will go in building your childs self esteem.
  • Encourage – managing buttons or putting on their own clothes gives a great boost to self-esteem. Take it slowly so your toddler feels proud of what they’ve managed to achieve, and be ready to step in if they get into difficulties and gets too frustrated. But don’t solve every problem – help them feel they can manage.
  • Provide choices – help your toddler feel they can exert some control over the world. You might ask your toddler to choose their own clothes or offer a choice of shoes, for example.
  • Stay one step ahead – try to avert disasters that can lead to loss of confidence, tempers and tears. Be aware that the over-confidence shown by some toddlers can falter quite quickly if they constantly fail at all the things they try. You need to be ready to distract your toddler from anything too complicated, helping to prevent too many upsets.
  • Emphasise good points – concentrate on the positives and try to ignore any annoying behaviour as much as possible.
  • Provide plenty of activities – trying out lots of things makes it more likely you’ll find something your toddler is good at, even if there are lots of other things they can’t manage so well yet. Some children are great swimmers, for example, while others solve problems easily.
  • Encourage friendships – being able to make friends and get on with others plays a big role in building self-esteem. Take an interest and, if possible, invite your toddlers friends round to play.
  • Celebrate family life – morning chats in bed or particular ways of saying goodnight not only celebrate family life, but also help your toddler understand that they have a special place within it.

Knowing what to expect through the dvelopment stages will help you understand your toddler and support them in the best way possible.

Development stage: Walking and talking

Often from the moment your toddler has mastered how to crawl it can become the next challenge of teaching them to take their first steps. The initial step to the sofa turns into 2 steps and then the amazement of the few shaky unconfident steps into your arms becomes confident steps which opens up a whole new world to the child. It is such a proud moment that few forget.

Once your toddler has started to develop walking and talking you’ll find you’re suddenly very busy, chasing a child that has learnt to use there feet can be a shock to the system, as they find things like stairs and cupboards. Obviously this doesn’t just happen over night, but is more a gradual process to develop. There are times when all parents remember the stage where the child remained where they were put, with fond memories

By the time your toddler reaches the age of 2 they will have learned to develop the skills needed to kick and throw a ball, this also means they can kick and throw other objects which may be unacceptable behaviour. To the toddler however this can seem to be fun and they haven’t mastered the realisation that throwing a ball and receiving praise does not achieve the same praise as throwing books, cups or even the family pet.

Once they reach the age of three or maybe four they will have learned to develop the necessary balance skills to be able to ride a bike (with stabilisers) and to run with some confidence.

This is also the age in which their speech will develop and you should find that your toddler will become a bit of a chatterbox. By the time they reach 18 months the average toddler is able to use between six and twenty words and is starting to put together simple word structures, maybe two to three words long.

By the time your toddler reaches two years their curiosity will start to show, this usually involves all parents favourite word “why?”! Be prepared as this question will be in abundance! Once their school days start to come closer you will be able to hold simple conversations with your toddler as they begin to speak in sentences and sing rhymes.

Development stage: Feeding Time

Mealtimes are usually a messy occasion once independence starts. Your toddler will become more insistent on feeding themselves, developing their skills with a spoon and a cup, and generally trying to take charge. Although it can be frustrating that your toddler appears to be getting more food on the floor than in their mouths it is an essential part of their learning independence and as such needs to be encouraged. The mess does get less!

By the time they reach three or four, their hand-eye co-ordination is usually a little more improved; at this stage they could even be attempting their skills with a knife and fork.

Between their second and third birthday your toddler should be about ready to attempt toilet training, but don’t get frustrated if they cant get the hang of this immediately as some take longer then others. Remember that they all get there in the end! By the age of three, most are dry through out the day, though the majority do need to wear nappies still for bed time.

Independence again appears, this time in the guise of dressing, you will notice getting dressed will take some time as your toddler will become more insistent on doing this for themselves. By the age of three (and even four), your toddler will have figured out how to undo press studs, and remove other simple fastenings on clothing. They should also now be able to put on some clothing, such as shorts and T-shirts.

Development stages: Play

At around 2 years old, your toddler will become increasingly interested in making their own mark. Their first picture may not look like much to most people, but as parents they will probably hold a special place in your hearts. By the age of 2 or 3 you will start to see lines and circles appearing inside their pictures, and around the time they start nursery it’s likely your toddler will be using the circles and lines to form simple stick people.

You will find also that instead of always wanting to play with you, they now want to play alongside other toddlers; this is often termed parallel play. Your toddler is not actually making friends at this stage but is learning to play alongside someone else they feel comfortable with.

By 3 or 4 you should expect your toddler to start developing friendships (not how an adult perceives friendship, but a simpler form of wanting to play with a particular child). This may be a one off friendship or it may develop as the child’s understanding of friendship develops.

Finally your toddler will form a group of friends as they grow. Here they will learn about sharing, and at some point after the age of three most arguments and fights over sharing usually begin to calm down.

You are likely to see a change in your toddlers sleep pattern here to. At 18 months of age your toddler will need on average around 13.5 hours sleep a day (including a nap during the day), by 4 years this will have dropped to around 11.5 hours with no naps.

So there you have it; some of the most common themes experienced through the development stages of a toddler. This is a wonderful time to witness as your child’s indentity begins to shine through. Above all else, enjoy it with them.

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