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Nurturing Your Little One’s Development from Baby to Toddler

Congratulations, parents! Your little bundle of joy is growing fast, and you’re entering an exciting new chapter—the toddler stage. From first words to newfound independence, there are lots of big changes coming your way. This can be a time of both joy and challenges, and we’re here to help you confidently guide your child as they navigate the journey from baby to toddler.

Understanding the Developmental Stages1

Between the ages of one and three, toddlers progress through various developmental stages, each with its own set of challenges and accomplishments. While every child is unique, familiarizing yourself with these stages can provide insights into their changing needs.

Early Toddlerhood (12-18 months)

This stage is characterized by rapid language development, increased mobility, and growing curiosity. Your little one will start exploring their surroundings, imitating others, and experiencing a range of emotions.

Mid Toddlerhood (18-24 months)

About halfway through the toddler phase, your child becomes more independent and assertive. They’ll typically start using simple two-word phrases, expressing preferences, and gaining greater control over their motor skills.

Late Toddlerhood (24-36 months)

As your toddler approaches the age of three, their language skills continue to advance, and their autonomy grows. Imaginative play, a wider range of emotions, and an emerging understanding of social rules become evident.

Important Milestones When Entering Toddlerhood

Physical Changes


Toddlers are on the move! Encourage their exploration by creating a safe environment and allowing opportunities for crawling, cruising, and eventually walking. Offer support and supervision as they develop their newfound independence.


As your toddler grows and their body needs additional nutrients, they will gradually transition from breastfeeding or bottle-feeding to solid foods. While the timing of this varies with each child, some emerging research has shown that introducing solid foods at around 4 months may offer benefits like being more open to trying different fruits and vegetables later in life and even lowering their risk of developing food allergies.2 As they slowly wean off of breast milk or formula, you can begin to introduce a variety of nutritious foods, textures, and flavors. By diversifying their diet, your toddler will receive a broader range of vitamins, minerals, proteins, and other essential nutrients that are important for their development. As always, consult with a pediatrician for guidance on a balanced diet for your growing toddler.

Fine Motor Skills

As hand-eye coordination improves, your toddler will begin to enjoy activities that enhance their fine motor skills. Offer toys and puzzles that require grasping, stacking, and fitting objects together. Engage in arts and crafts, such as coloring, to further refine their dexterity.


Another way to encourage those fine motor skills and their independence is to encourage self-feeding. Provide appropriate utensils and food options that are easy to grasp and explore. Expect some messiness as they learn and be patient while they develop their coordination and dexterity.

New Cognitive Skills

Looks for Hidden Objects

Play hide-and-seek games with your toddler to foster their cognitive development. Start by hiding an object in a simple hiding spot, like a toy under a blanket, and gradually increase the level of difficulty.

Explores Objects in Different Ways

Provide your toddler with a variety of age-appropriate toys and objects that offer different textures, sounds, and shapes. Encourage them to explore these items through touching, shaking, and manipulating. This stimulates their curiosity, sensory perception, and cognitive abilities.

Uses Objects Correctly

Help your toddler understand how objects are used in their daily life. Demonstrate how to brush their teeth, feed a doll, or use a toy phone. Encourage their experimentation and offer positive reinforcement when they use objects correctly. This fosters their cognitive development and strengthens their understanding of their environment.

Social & Emotional Development

Personality Emerges

Toddlers start testing limits, asserting their independence, and expressing their preferences. Parents can help navigate this stage by setting clear and consistent boundaries while still allowing them choices within a safe range. Respond with patience, understanding, and positive reinforcement to help shape their emerging personality.

Separation Anxiety

It’s common for toddlers to experience separation anxiety as they become more aware of their attachment to caregivers. Ease separation anxiety by creating predictable routines, providing comfort objects, and offering reassurance. Gradually introduce short periods of separation to help them develop resilience and trust.

Imitates Behavior of Others

Toddlers are keen observers and imitators. One of the best ways they learn is by watching the actions of those around them and trying out the gestures themselves. Encourage their mimicry by engaging in playful interactions such as clapping hands, waving, or blowing kisses. Model positive behaviors and interactions, as they learn from watching you and others. Set up playdates or activities where they can observe and interact with other children, fostering their social skills and empathy.

Enjoys Company of Other Children

Arrange opportunities for your toddler to socialize with peers through playgroups, preschool, or community activities. Support their interactions by teaching sharing, turn-taking, and problem-solving skills. This helps them develop friendships, empathy, and essential social skills.

Language and Communication

Vocabulary Expansion

Communication evolves significantly during the baby-to-toddler transition, especially their vocabulary. Toddlers are rapidly learning new words daily. On average, between the ages of two and three, most toddlers can use at least 200 words and can speak in two and three-word sentences.3

Nonverbal Communication

While their language skills improve at lightning speed, toddlers are experiencing big feelings that they don’t always know how to express in words. So, nonverbal cues such as facial expressions and body language remain vital for expressing emotions and understanding others.

Conversational Skills

Engage your toddler in simple conversations. Ask open-ended questions and encourage them to express their thoughts and desires. Additionally, their ability to understand and follow instructions gradually improves during this time.

The transition from caring for a baby to caring for a toddler is an exciting one. By understanding developmental stages and celebrating milestones you can navigate this phase with confidence. Keep in mind that every child is unique and develops at their own pace. Trust your instincts, seek advice from reputable sources, and enjoy witnessing your little one flourish into a curious and independent toddler.


The information contained is for informational purposes only and is NOT intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely solely on this information. Always seek the advice of your healthcare provider.


  1. Healthy Children: Ages and Stages
  2. NIH: First Bites – Why, When, and What Solid Foods to Feed Infants
  3. Augusta Health: Toddler Speech Development
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