One minute your sweet baby is cooing and babbling, eating mashed peas, kicking their little feet, and relying on you for every single thing.
And the next minute, you’ve got a walking, talking, opinionated — ahem — independent toddler on your hands. What just happened?
You blinked, and your baby grew up. Your child is in a whole new phase of life and you’ll need to step up your game to meet their changing needs.
But when, exactly, is the big transformation from baby to toddler? Here are 13 signs that your baby is no longer a baby. (Spoiler: It’s probably sooner than you expect.)
According to the
Up next for those who simply go by age? Turning into a preschooler, or a child aged 3 to 5.
Do you know why they’re called “toddlers”? Because their uncoordinated movements while they’re learning to walk look like “toddling” (which, coincidentally, also looks like stumbling around as if they’ve had too much to drink… have we mentioned toddlers are a handful?).
Seriously, though, one of the biggest indicators that your baby has taken the leap into toddlerhood comes with some literal leaps — off the couch, down the stairs (put one of these baby gates on your shopping list!), across the playground, and out of your arms — to explore the world on their own two feet.
Toddlers will also perform more complicated gross motor skills, like jumping, climbing, squatting, and throwing a ball.
Coincidentally, this and other indicators below may happen before or after the age of 1 year.
Oh, your baby used to happily wear whatever you picked out, eat whatever you served, and go wherever you wanted them to? You can kiss those days goodbye now that you have an independent-minded toddler.
The word of choice for kids in this developmental phase is “no,” and they will never get tired of saying it right to your face.
It’s all totally normal — as kids start to realize they have their own preferences, they learn that saying “no” sometimes means they get more of what they want and less of what they don’t. Again, normal… but annoying.
No, not that kind (we hope!). Think waving, clapping, and pointing to objects as a means of communicating with you. Your toddler may not be able to say they want the yellow truck on the top shelf just yet, but they’re learning that if they point at something, it can still get their message across.
We’ve used the word “independent” a few times already, and that’s because there’s no better adjective to describe just how badly toddlers want to set themselves apart from their parents and figure out their role in the family.
They want to put their own shoes on. They want to buckle their own car seat. They want to choose their own clothes and brush their own teeth and carry their own snack to the living room, and they do not want your help at all.
Don’t feel offended — learning how to take care of themselves is an important developmental milestone.
Speaking of your little one learning to take care of themselves, there is a bright side: You’re going to get a bit of a break.
Remember how you used to have to sit next to their high chair and feed messy spoonfuls of applesauce into their mouth? No more! Your toddler can sit (supervised) at the table and feed themselves now, freeing up your hands.
Other things your toddler may start doing by themselves include getting dressed, putting away their toys, and getting their own drinks or snacks.
Toddlers still partake mostly in parallel play (e.g. side-by-side playing rather than truly interactive cooperation), but you might start fielding more requests for playdates as your toddler develops preferences for certain peers and their socialization skills start to take off.
Your child may ask for other children by name, wondering what Benjamin from day care or Hazel from down the street is doing today.
Naptime, bedtime, bathtime, dinnertime… really any “time” of day your kid is supposed to be doing something is an opportunity to argue. Why?
Toddlers don’t have a lot of control: We tell them where to go, what to do, what to eat and wear, when to sleep — and it all flies in the face of their growing autonomy.
In an effort to gain even just a teensy bit of power, toddlers may fight about literally anything and everything, no matter how insignificant.
By the time they’re 12 months old, most kids don’t need a bottle or breastfeeding session during the night. That means they may actually be sleeping for one gloriously long block of time (anywhere from 8 to 12 hours) every night.
Toddlers also need one or two daily naps; according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, their total sleep per day should add up to 11 to 14 hours.
While your toddler’s actively growing independence and curiosity may make napping a little trickier, uninterrupted nighttime sleep should be much easier to come by in the toddler years.
Language skills absolutely erupt during the toddler years, with most 1-year-olds adding about 50 words to their vocabulary before their second birthday (and anywhere from 200 to nearly 1,000 by age 3!).
Where your baby might have only been able to say “Mama,” “Dada,” “baba,” and “up” on their first birthday, pretty soon you won’t be able to do anything or go anywhere without hearing a nonstop stream of descriptors.
Favorite stuffed animals, foods, and objects — as well as familiar people and places — will all have names, allowing you and your toddler to communicate verbally more than ever before.
One of the coolest things that develops in the toddler years is an active imagination. Your toddler may start:
- telling you silly stories
- drawing colorful pictures
- practicing their dance moves
- engaging in dramatic play involving lots of pretend scenarios
Memorization is a key way that toddlers learn — and repetition is usually the fastest route to memorization. There are several ways for your toddler to practice numbers and letters every day:
- singing songs
- counting toys
- playing hands-on games
One caveat about relying on screen time to teach numbers and letters. If you want to introduce classics like “Sesame Street,” try to watch with your toddler. The AAP recommends limited “co-viewing” from 18 to 24 months, and then just 1 hour of high-quality screen time daily.
Sure, babies have personalities — but it’s nothing compared to toddlers, who really let their true colors shine between the ages of 1 and 3. Is your child more silly or serious? Introverted or extroverted? Athletic or artistic, impulsive or observant?
All the nuances of personality begin to make themselves clear during the toddler years, as kids not only understand their place in the world but develop ideas about what part they want to play in it.
The toddler years sneak up on you, so once your baby is inching close to their first birthday, get ready!
This phase is full to the brim with challenges, but watching your squishy, immobile little baby turn into a personality-packed tiny human with a mind of their own is worth every power struggle (trust us).