You help your son blow out his first birthday candle and Great Aunt Lilly proclaims, “He’s a toddler now!” Not so fast! The period between twelve and eighteen months places a child on a one way bridge to the future. Infancy is a thing of the past and toddlerhood is straight ahead. A baby still? Not really, but neither is he a toddler and that is the key to understanding this phase of growth. Take a couple of photos because the child leaving infancy will not resemble the child entering toddlerhood six months down the road. This is a period of metamorphosis when his potential for learning seems limitless, his budding curiosity unquenchable and his energy level never seems to diminish.
This is a period of great of exchange: baby food is exchanged for table food; the highchair for booster seat; finger feeding replaced with spoon; babbling sounds transition to speaking, the first unsteady steps are conquered by strides of confidence, and the list goes on. Moving forward at a lighting pace, your pretoddler is driven towards a new level of independence, equipped with a mind of his own. Whether you’re ready or not his natural inclination and challenge of “I do myself” will become increasingly apparent, not to mention frustrating.
The emerging pretoddler is acutely aware of self, although at twelve months of age he is not fully absorbed in the self importance of me, myself and I. (Hang on, that blessing of his nature will show up around twenty -months of age.) Try taking something away and a scream of protest is likely. Remove him from a dangerous object and his curiosity lures him right back. His favorite foods suddenly become not-so-favorite and in a few months “No!” will become his default word whether he understands the question or not.
The natural inclination within pretoddlers towards independence is very strong yet, unpredictable. He is always in motion and not easily restrained, directed or controlled, but he needs to be! Boundaries will be tested, rules understood as suggestions, and curiosity will become a force to reckoned with. How will you meet these unfolding challenges? That is big question. The answer begins with understanding the various growth transitions of the next one- hundred and eighty days of your pretoddler’s life.