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Looking Ahead to the Toddler Years

Before you know it, your baby will become a toddler. The toddler stage starts around age 1, and at this time your child’s brain is still developing very quickly. Toddlers are eager to use all of their new abilities and explore everything they can. All the time you spend with your toddler helps them learn.

Ages and Stages

Differences in development

Toddlers are learning many new skills, and every toddler develops and learns at their own pace. Try not to worry if your toddler gains some skills more slowly than other children you know. But if you think there may be a problem, or if your child loses skills they once had, talk to their doctor or contact AzEIP.


Between ages 1 and 2, most babies become experts at walking. Many start walking around their first birthday, and before they turn 2 they can walk confidently without help. At 2 years babies can also climb on furniture and stairs. You will need to baby-proof your home before your baby can do these things. See the Home Safety Checklist for a list of ways to make your home safe for your baby.


Between ages 1 and 2, your toddler’s stream of babbled sounds starts to become real words. Your toddler now starts to connect words to their meanings, and starts using them to communicate. This will probably start with “mama” or “dada.” Your toddler understands many more words than they can say. Keep helping them learn more words by talking to them.

Reading books together and having back-and-forth conversations helps with learning to talk and read, even before your child can use words.

You can watch videos and learn more about helping your baby learn to talk here.

Helping Your Toddler’s Brain Develop

  • Talk, read or sing to your child whenever you are together.
  • Ask questions, like “Where’s the ball?” or “What do you see?” Encourage your child to answer in words.
  • Have back-and-forth conversations with your child.
  • Read to your child every day. Read favorite books again and again.
  • Give names to everyday objects like toys, clothes and animals.
  • Help your child use words to say how they feel.

Helping Your Child Learn Social Skills

During play, children explore new feelings, ideas and skills. They create make-believe stories and games. They are learning how to play with each other, how to relate to adults and how to handle their anger and fears. You can help your child learn to get along well with others. You can do this by talking to them about what has happened during their day.

Helping Your Child with Their Fears

Young children may be afraid of strangers, or being away from you. They may be afraid of dogs, loud noises or the dark. They may have scary dreams. They are more likely to be afraid when they are feeling unsettled or stressed. This is all normal. Let your child know that everyone is afraid at times, and you will help keep them safe.

Starting to Set Limits

Toddlers don’t really understand why there are rules or why you give warnings. Tell and show your child what you want them to do. Be patient when your toddler makes mistakes, but also be consistent about the rules. Rules and limits should fit your child’s age. Give your toddler choices when you can, and praise and hug them for good behavior.

Starting to Use the Toilet

Your toddler will let you know when they are ready to learn about using the toilet. This is often around 2 years old, but it can be a bit earlier or later. Signs that your toddler is ready for toilet training include:

  • Fussing or asking to be changed when their diaper is wet or dirty.
  • Asking to use the potty or wear “big kid” underwear.
  • Being able to walk to the bathroom, follow simple directions and help undress themselves.

Be encouraging about toilet-training. Accidents will happen, but if you are relaxed and positive about the process, your child will be too.

Head Start

This program for 3-to 5-year-olds is like preschool. It helps children get ready for kindergarten, and it offers other services that families may need. These include meals, screenings for learning disabilities and health issues, and help with getting health care and dental care.

Electronic Devices and Your Toddler

Babies and toddlers should spend very little time with electronic devices, including computers, smart phones, tablets and TV. Babies learn best from real-life play. Video-chatting apps like FaceTime and Skype are OK for short amounts of time, when used with a parent. As your child gets older, it helps to plan how much time they should spend with screens. A plan for “screen time” lets you reserve enough time for meals, bathing, family time and physical activity. Try to limit your own screen time as well. While your child is young, it’s important for you to look at their face and talk to them. You can’t give your child your full attention when you are looking at a screen.

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