Your toddler is moving toward “big kid” status—she might even tell you so herself. Check out these toddler development milestones that parents often ask about, along with realistic age expectations.
In some ways, toddlerhood is a quick zip between having a baby and having a “big kid.” Your little one is gaining many new skills, and she is able to do more for herself every day. At the same time, development in toddlers is a process that unfolds naturally; it shouldn’t be rushed. Every experience lays the foundation for the next one.
While all children develop differently, each at their own pace, here’s a realistic guide to when you can expect your toddler to be ready for some big toddler development milestones.
Big Kid Dining
Once your toddler is able to reliably get food into her mouth with her hands, she has the dexterity to begin trying with a spoon. Give her lots of practice. By 15 months, she’ll be able to fill a spoon (with, say, cereal or mashed sweet potato) and get it into her mouth. Expect the spoon to turn over sometimes right before hitting its target.
By 18 months, most toddlers can use a spoon, fork, and cup. But don’t expect perfection. They still like to drop their utensils and use their hands, especially to play with food. Most are fairly tidy diners by age 2, but for some, the messes go on another year.
Giving Up the Morning Nap
Most toddlers drop napping during the second half of their second year and take just one afternoon nap that lasts up to three hours. For some, this transition comes as early as 12 months; for others, soon after turning 2. Your toddler may be letting you know she’s ready when she begins resisting a morning nap. If it happens just once, she may be wired from being overtired. But if it happens over several days or weeks, she may be done with the A.M. nap. Substitute quiet time instead, and he may be able to make it to lunch and then take an extended afternoon rest.
The afternoon nap typically ends by age 5. But a 2015 review of 26 studies of napping in children found that napping after age 2 is linked to poorer sleep quality. Children may need less daytime sleep at a younger age than is traditionally believed.
Don’t start until your child shows signs of readiness, usually around 18 to 24 months (although some children aren’t ready until 2½ or 3). These signs include
- staying dry for two hours after a nap
- knowing when she’s having a bowel movement (going to a different room or asking to be changed)
- expressing a desire to use or interest in the potty
- the ability to help dress and undress
- the ability to follow simple directions
- wanting to wear big kid underpants
- wanting to use the bathroom like a parent does
If you’re having a new baby, moving, changing sitters or schools, or experiencing another stress in the house, though, all bets are off. Toilet training can be more challenging amid these stressors, so you might want to hold off until things are calmer.