Growing from a baby into a child is hard work, and much of that work comes during the toddler years. From 1 to 3 years of age, your child will likely learn to walk, run, jump, feed herself, stack blocks and copy simple shapes. All toddlers develop skills at different rates so talk with your pediatrician if you have concerns about any aspect of your toddler’s development.
Gross Motor Skills
As your baby becomes a toddler, her gross motor skills progress from sitting upright and crawling to walking, running and climbing. The baby that joyfully pulls to standing one month might be the toddler climbing on your kitchen table just a few months later. You can help your toddler develop her gross motor skills by fitting at least 60 minutes of unstructured physical activity into her schedule each day. Even though this kind of play is unstructured, it will be more fun for you and your toddler if you play with her while allowing her to take the lead. Unstructured play can be as simple as rolling, throwing or kicking a ball back and forth or chasing her around the house.
Fine Motor Skills
Your toddler’s fine motor skills, or ability to use her hands, will generally develop alongside her gross motor skills. From the two-fingered pincer grasp to the ability to copy basic shapes and eventually write, fine motor abilities are the cornerstone of many self-help and academic skills. Your toddler will enjoy drawing, building with blocks, stringing large beads onto shoelaces or putting large pegs into pegboards. Providing her with a variety of interlocking blocks, cups, crayons, and drawing paper will help her develop these skills.
Oral-motor skills for your toddler will include chewing and swallowing food, feeding herself with a spoon and fork, and drinking from a cup. Giving your child small pieces of cereal to pick up and eat with supervision will help to develop both her oral-motor skills and her pincer grasp. When your toddler becomes interested in spoon-feeding herself, start with yogurt, pudding and other foods that do not slide off of the spoon. If your 2- or 3-year-old regularly gags on food, has difficulty chewing and swallowing, or drools excessively even when she is not teething, consult your pediatrician or a speech therapist.
As motor skills increase, so do safety concerns. Gone are the days when you could lay your baby down and expect to find her where you left her. As your toddler develops her new motor skills, she will become even more adventurous. Keep any potentially harmful substances locked away. Use baby gates to block stairs and other potential hazards when you cannot see her. Monitor your toddler during mealtimes and when he is working with smaller objects to prevent choking. Correct or redirect your child when necessary rather than saying “no” all the time.