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A toddler is a child between the ages of one and three. The toddler years are a time of great cognitive, emotional and social development. The word is derived from "to toddle", which means to walk unsteadily, like a child of this age.
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Toddler development can be broken into a number of interrelated areas. There is reasonable consensus about what these include:
Physical: Refers to growth or an increase in size.
Gross motor: Refers to the control of large muscles, which enable walking, running, jumping and climbing.
Fine motor: Refers to the ability to control small muscles, enabling the toddler to feed themselves, draw and manipulate objects.
Vision: Refers to the ability to see near and far and interpret what is seen.
Hearing and speech: Hearing is the ability to hear and receive information and listen (interpret). Speech is the ability to understand and learn language and use it to communicate effectively.
Social: Refers to the ability to interact with the world through playing with others, taking turns and fantasy play.
Although it is useful to chart defined periods of development, it is also necessary to recognise that development exists on a continuum, with considerable individual differences between children. There is a wide range of what may be considered 'normal' development.
At one year of age, the typical toddler will be able to display the following skills:
Teeth: 12 temporary
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Games: throwing and retrieving objects
Young children squat instinctively as a continuous movement from standing up whenever they want to lower themselves to ground level. One and two year olds can commonly be seen playing in a stable squatting position, with feet wide apart and bottom not quite touching the floor, although at first they need to hold onto something to stand up again.
Talking is the next milestone of which parents are typically aware. A toddler's first word most often occurs around 12 months, but again this is only an average. The child will then continue to steadily add to his or her vocabulary until around the age of 18 months when language increases rapidly. He or she may learn as many as 7–9 new words a day. Around this time, toddlers generally know about 50 words. At 21 months is when toddlers begin to incorporate two word phrases into their vocabulary, such as "I go", "mama give", and "baby play". Before going to sleep they often engage in a monologue called crib talk in which they practice conversational skills. At this age, children are becoming very proficient at conveying their wants and needs to their parents in a verbal fashion.
There are several other important milestones that are achieved in this time period that parents tend to not emphasize as much as walking and talking. Gaining the ability to point at whatever it is the child wants you to see shows huge psychological gains in a toddler. This generally happens before a child's first birthday.
This age is sometimes referred to as 'the terrible twos', because of the temper tantrums for which they are famous. This stage can begin as early as nine months old depending on the child and environment. Toddlers tend to have temper tantrums because they have such strong emotions but do not know how to express themselves the way that older children and adults do. They also throw tantrums to let others know that they are free and can do what they want. The toddler is discovering that they are a separate being from their parent and are testing their boundaries in learning the way the world around them works. Although the toddler is in their exploratory phase, it is also important to understand that the methods used by the parents for communicating with the toddler can either set off a tantrum or calm the situation. This time between the ages of two and five when they are reaching for independence repeats itself during adolescence.
Self-awareness is another milestone that helps parents understand how a toddler is reacting. Around 18 months of age, a child will begin to recognize himself or herself as a separate physical being with his/her own thoughts and actions. A parent can test if this milestone has been reached by noticing if the toddler recognizes that their reflection in a mirror is in fact themselves. One way to test this is to put lipstick on the child's forehead and show them their own reflection. Upon seeing the out-of-the-ordinary mark, if the child reaches to her own forehead, the child has achieved this important milestone. Along with self recognition comes feelings of embarrassment and pride that the child had not previously experienced.
The toddler developmental timeline shows what an average toddler can do at what age. Times vary greatly from child to child. It is common for some toddlers to master certain skills (such as walking) well before other skills (like talking). Even close siblings can vary greatly in the time taken to achieve each key milestone.
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