She's evolving right before your eyes—and it can be exciting one moment and a little tense the next. Learn what's really going on.

To be human is to be social. As we go through life, we learn that there are different levels of social exchange—from a casual pleasantry with a total stranger to much deeper relationships with family and friends. For a toddler, this is hard developmental work. At this toddler age, social and emotional development is often a study in contradictions. You'll be delighted with your toddler's increasing displays of affection, but disheartened two hours later when she has a temper tantrum because she wants two cookies rather than one. She willingly seeks your help to solve a puzzle, but other times rejects your assistance with a firm “No!” Don't be surprised if some days she's happy and other days it seems she whines for hours at a time. Your toddler is increasingly aware of her own self (“me,” “mine”), what she wants (“you, right now!”), and that she can talk to you and you mostly understand! Still, the rapidity of change can overwhelm her at times. Consider how you might react if one week you're a middling tennis player, knitter, or blogger and three weeks later you're winning awards! Satisfying, but a bit unsettling.

Your Toddler's Milestones

Emotionally, this is a tricky time for your toddler, and for you. She needs to express herself and have her own space. Plus she needs that predictable lap to crawl back into when she's had enough freedom. But now she also needs to know that certain things she does are too aggressive or not socially acceptable. Guaranteed she's going to get upset and frustrated when her needs aren't met. Which leaves you with the difficult task of helping her learn boundaries and to control those flailing emotions, with love and infinite patience. Behavioral regression is relatively common among toddlers, and typically occurs during the mid to late months of toddlerhood. This is when your child slides back to an earlier stage, like asking for a bottle or a pacifier. This is usually the result of an upsetting event, or possibly the appearance of a younger sibling. It's also perfectly normal and will pass soon enough.

How Can Nutrition Help?

Feeding your child is about more than just giving her food. It's showing her that you love her, and that she can depend on you time and again to meet her basic needs, through picky stages and all. You're feeding more than her body. You're strengthening your emotional bond with your child.