During ages 12 to 24 months, children learn and develop best in a caring and loving home from which they can safely explore and experience life. You can help nurture your child by knowing the challenges of toddlerhood, learning basic parenting techniques, and using behavior management strategies.
Physical growth and development
Promote your child's physical growth and development by:
- Adopting healthy eating strategies. Although picky eating is common during this age, a simple and relaxed approach to eating usually helps your child to eat well. Offer healthy foods at regular times. It may also help to set a pattern by being together at the table for all main meals. For more information on helping your child to eat well, see the topic Healthy Eating for Children.
- Seeing your doctor for all well-child exams. During these visits, the doctor will measure your child's growth to make sure he or she is on track. The doctor will also give your child any needed immunizations.
- Teaching healthy habits to help reduce your child's risk of infections.
Thinking, reasoning, and memory skills
Promote your child's thinking, reasoning, and memory skills (cognitive development) by:
- Building with blocks. Help your child learn to stack blocks and knock them down.
- Scribbling on paper. You can find washable and thick crayons and pencils that are made for a toddler's fisted grip.
- Playing with balls and other moving toys. Toddlers love to watch a rolling ball. It helps them learn to track objects and fosters eye-hand coordination.
- Finding toys he or she can turn, sort, pound, push, and pull. Examples include knobs, sort-by-shape toys, and thick-paged books.
Social and emotional development
Promote your child's social and emotional development by:
- Spending time with him or her. Make an extra effort to sit and play, read, and talk to your child. Don't worry too much about having "play dates" and organized activities for your child between the first and second birthdays. Children this age don't interact much with each other. Rather, they tend to play alone but near each other, a behavior called "parallel play." Your love and attention are the most important factors that help your child's social and emotional growth.
- Knowing about your child's individual temperament. Every child is different. Getting to know your child's personality helps you to predict and handle his or her reactions to everyday situations.
- Praising your child. When your child reacts well to a difficult situation, such as leaving the park without protest, tell him or her how proud you are. Although your child may not understand the exact meaning of your words, he or she will associate the positive behavior with your approval.
- Not responding to angry outbursts. When you react to a child's temper tantrum or similar behavior, it is more likely to continue. Unless your child's behavior is dangerous, ignore it (but stay nearby and soothe your child as needed). After the outburst is over, you can talk to your child calmly and reassure him or her that everything is okay. It is very important that you do not get angry or threaten to spank or hurt your child. Staying calm can sometimes be difficult. Keep in mind that you are the model for your child's behavior.
Sensory and motor skills
Promote your child's sensory and motor skills by:
- Providing safe opportunities for exploration. Play games that encourage walking and movement, and go outside when possible. For example, help your child walk around the yard with push toys, such as play lawn mowers or bubble poppers. Play chase and race in areas that allow "soft landings."
- Helping him or her to climb stairs. Keep a secure hold on your child as the two of you go up and down stairs together.
- Letting him or her feel different textures. Find items that let your child safely explore the concepts of soft, hard, fuzzy, wet, dry, cold, and warm.
Promote your child's language development by:
- Talking. Get face-to-face and eye-to-eye with your child as much as possible when interacting. Talk in slow and regular speech about the things your toddler can see, what you are doing together, or those things that are an important part of his or her world.
- Responding to your child's words. Repeat and expand on what he or she says.
- Asking your toddler to use words to express meaning. Teach words like "happy," "sad," "angry," "want," "like," and "don't like" so that the child can begin to associate words with feelings and wants.
- Reading to him or her every day. Also use songs, stories, games, and rhymes to engage your child in language. To help your child's brain develop, play or read together instead of letting your child watch TV, watch movies, or play games on a screen. For more information, see the topic Speech and Language Development.
Learning parenting skills
Because your child is growing and developing so quickly, in many ways you have to "get to know" him or her over and over again. Help create a strong, lasting, and loving relationship with your child by thinking about what you like and don't like about the relationship from time to time. It may help to think about:
- What do I like most about my child?
- What new skills has my child developed within the past 3 months? 2 months? 1 month?
- When am I happy about how I treat my child?
- What don't I like about some of our interactions? When do these episodes tend to happen?
- What could be triggering my child's challenging behaviors? Are any of these new triggers?
- What things can I encourage my child to do for himself or herself? How can I encourage him or her?
As a parent or caregiver of children, it is also important for you to:
- Learn and use effective parenting and discipline techniques and avoid the use of corporal punishment. Parenting classes are offered in most communities. Ask your doctor or call a local hospital for more information.
- Learn healthy techniques to resolve conflicts and manage stress. For more information, see the topic Stress Management.
- Ask for help when you need it. Call a family member or friend to give you a break if you feel overwhelmed. Investigate community resources that are available to help you with child care or other needed services. Call a doctor or local hospital for a place to start. Some communities have respite care facilities for children, which provide temporary child care during times when you need a break.