Of course you have the cutest toddler on the block -- every parent does! But when it comes to assessing your perfect bundle of joy's physical and mental development, you have to use the same yardsticks as everyone else. The most important thing to remember about your child's development is that he'll progress on his own unique timetable. But knowing when he should be doing what can help you relax and just enjoy his progress through the milestones of toddlerhood without over-analyzing his development.
If you started holding your little guy upright in your lap right out of the womb, exclaiming over how he was going to be an early walker because he could already stand -- you're a typical parent. Walking is one of the big physical milestones of toddlerhood, since toddlers should toddle! The average toddler takes a few steps by 1 year, and 50 percent start walking unaided by this age, according to pediatrician and author William Sears. The normal range for walking is 9 to 16 months. By 18 months, many toddlers can walk up the stairs holding onto a rail and run clumsily. At 2, he can throw a ball and stand on his tiptoes. By age 3, he runs well and can pedal a trike.
You might swear your little Einstein started talking at 4 months, but typical toddlers have one to two words they use with actual meaning at 1 year -- usually "mama" and "dada" among them. By age 2, your chatterbox says sentences of two to four words, such as "get ball" or "want cookie." By age 3, he knows his own name, sex and age, and carries on conversations with two or three sentences. Most people who don't know him can understand what he says by age 3. He properly uses the words "I" and "you," and can pluralize most common objects.
Sometimes when you look at your toddler trying to figure something out, you can almost see the wheels turning inside his head. By 18 months, your toddler knows the names of most common objects, such as a spoon or brush. He can usually identify one body part, such as his nose or eye, and points to objects to draw your attention to them. If you're brave enough to give him a crayon or marker, he'll begin to scribble with it. By 2, he can build a tower of four blocks and can follow a two-part direction, such as, "Pick up your coat and put it on the chair." By 3, he can copy a circle, build a tower of six blocks, and do simple puzzles with three or four pieces.
By the time he's a toddler, you have an idea about your child's personality, but his social development will explode over the next few years. Toddlers are very interested in other kids, but don't generally play with them. Instead, they play next to them, a stage that's termed "parallel play." Between 1 and 2, toddlers have no understanding of other people's feelings and often play too rough with both people and animals. By 2, he may be deliberately naughty and defiant, as he begins to assert his independence and sense of self. At 3, he may show signs of empathy and shower unsolicited affection on his friends and other people.
Physical growth is often as exciting to parents as other types of development, although it's harder to influence. By age 1, he's tripled his birth weight and doubled his growth. At this point, he still looks like a baby, because his head is the biggest part of him. During the second year, growth slows down; your toddler will gain 4 to 5 inches and add around 5 pounds. At age 2, you can predict his adult height by multiplying his current height by two. Growth slows down a little more between 2 and 3, when he gains 2 to 3 inches and around 4 pounds. By this age, the baby look -- with the rounded belly and shorter arms and legs -- has vanished, leaving in its place a little guy who looks more like a preschooler.
If your toddler fails to meet developmental milestones, talk to his pediatrician. If he loses skills he once had, such as speaking, or if he seems disinterested in people and prefers to spend all his energy on objects, your doctor might want to make sure there isn't a physical or developmental reason. Loss of skills can indicate physical disorders or emotional disorders.
Suzanne Robin is a registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology. She also has extensive experience working in home health with developmentally delayed or medically fragile children. Robin received her RN degree from Western Oklahoma State College. She has coauthored and edited numerous books for the Wiley "Dummies" series.