When you have a baby, time moves differently. Weeks feel like months, especially as you get used to feeding and sleep deprivation. And while the passage of each month probably wasn’t a thing worth mentioning before, it’s now something you discuss with all of your friends and your kiddo’s future playground congregants (“He just turned 9 months old!”). And at some point when you’re ticking off those monthly markers, you’ll start to wonder when your baby is no longer considered a “baby.” Like, how old is a toddler? When do you stop counting the months? Is a four-year-old a toddler?
Brace yourself, Mama — let’s take a look at when babies become toddlers, and what else you need to know about your little one’s ages and stages.
Ok, so how old is a toddler?
According to the CDC, the age range for toddlerhood is between 12 and 36 months old, or 1 and 3 years old. Yes, that means the age range for a baby is 0 to 12 months old. As in, yup, once your baby’s first birthday arrives, they’re no longer actually a baby (we’ll give you a minute to mourn that because, well, we’ve been there).
At that stage, you might still be counting months. But once they progress past toddlerhood, most parents just refer to their child’s age in terms of years. They’re just three years old or four years old. Although let it be said, you’ll never see us scoff over the celebration of half-birthdays.
Toddlerhood is a super important stage of your child’s development, as it’s full of developmental milestones. It’s also a fairly exhausting stage of your parental development. At this age range, you still can’t really keep your eyes off your kids. Since toddlers are walking and climbing around, they get into a lot. We’re sure you’ve heard the term “the terrible twos,” which is a thing because this age range can be terribly tiring and at times challenging. Having said that, they’re also a delight.
So, let’s talk about some developmental milestones for your toddler.
What are some important developmental milestones for toddlers?
There are so many developmental milestones for toddlerhood. Keep reading to learn more about the developmental stages your child will hit before the end of the toddler years and the beginning of preschool age.
If your baby isn’t walking yet by their first birthday, they should start walking during their first year of toddlerhood. They will then (in what seems like the blink of an eye) move on to running, climbing, walking on tiptoes, and even jumping. They’ll also learn to kick a ball. All these things are great since your toddler has a lot of energy that they need to let out.
Social, Speech, and Emotional Development
The toddler years are also when your child develops a lot of self-awareness. They realize that they are separate from you (cue: separation anxiety followed by fierce independence!). They also start being genuinely interested in playing with other toddlers and kids, meaning you get can get a break from being play partner numero uno. Additionally, toddlers are master imitators, which is how they learn so much. And, suffice it to say, their imitations are really friggin’ adorable.
During the toddler years, your child starts really talking. It starts with two and three-word sentences and, by the end of the toddler years, the chatter can definitely get more complex and constant. Yay for no longer having to guess what they want, right? They can now tell it to you, over and over and over again.
Speaking of telling you what to do, toddlers learn to follow instructions. This mastery begins with simple instructions and then, later in their development, can be more complex two- or three-step actions (though they don’t always choose to).
Your toddler is now expressing a wide range of emotions, and slowly able to recognize them in books and in others.
Your toddler should be able to sort objects by colors and shapes. They can find objects hidden two- or three-layers deep. And they’re finally learning to play make-believe — which, as you can imagine, is a true delight. Seeing your child’s imagination take flight is a joy.
What’s the next stage of child development?
After the toddler stage of child development comes the preschool years. In this stage, your child is between three and five years old. They’ve got their own sets of challenges, for sure. Yet, the lightning speed of your child’s development during the toddler age range slows down quite a bit after their third birthday (which can be a bit of a relief, TBH).