Toddler Milestones: Developing Independence

Toddler Milestones: Developing Independence

After your little one's first birthday, you may witness a transition from needy newborn to take-charge toddler. If you're wondering whether your tot is ready to reach milestones such as using a spoon or brushing her teeth, look for these signs that she is up for the challenge.

Milestone 1: First steps. Many toddlers take their first steps around their first birthday. Signs your child is ready include rolling around, scooting, and climbing stairs using hands.

How you can help. Make sure your baby gets plenty of supervised tummy time from early on. Walking requires strong back muscles, which your baby develops when she lies on her tummy and lifts up her head. When your child does eventually put one foot in front of the other all by himself, be prepared for a whole new level of parental watchfulness!

Milestone 2: Self-feeding with utensils. Your little one has probably mastered the pincer grasp, a skill that allows her to pick up small objects between the thumb and forefingers, and is enjoying her first finger foods. By 15 months, she may show interest in using a spoon, even grabbing it when you feed her. By 18 months she may be able to handle the spoon pretty well (and get most of the food into her mouth). Keep plenty of paper towels or baby wipes handy – it's about to get messy!

How you can help. Invest in rubber-tipped spoons so your child can learn to self-feed without hurting her gums. Use unbreakable dishware that can survive multiple tumbles from the high chair to the floor.

Milestone 3: Brushing teeth. While your child won't have the coordination to take over the toothbrush task (and do it well), until age 6 or 7, you can let him practice if he wants to try.

How you can help. Most dentists encourage parents to let their child brush his teeth on his own, and then to follow up with a thorough cleaning. If your toddler is reluctant to brush, encourage him by letting him pick the color of his toothbrush and also a fun cup to rinse out his mouth with when he is done.

It's thrilling to watch your child become more and more independent, but it's important to let him reach milestones at his own pace. Your job? Provide support and show him how it's done.

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