University of Missouri Extension

GH6121, Reviewed August 2004

Infant and Toddler Basics: Development During the First Three Years

Dennis Murphy art, the path to developmentAmy Halliburton
MU Graduate Student
Sara Gable
State Specialist, Human Development and Family Studies

Between birth and age three, children rapidly achieve many important milestones that create the foundation for later growth and development. Early in life, babies depend on others to meet their needs for safety and security. When infants receive warm, consistent care and attention from adults, they are able to establish a sense of trust in the world. They learn that important caregivers will feed them, change them, bathe them, and play with them. This trust serves as an important first step for children's development during the toddler years, a time when children establish independence by exploring their environment. If toddlers trust their caregivers and use them as a secure base from which to explore, they are more confident in their efforts to learn about the world. Furthermore, when children become afraid or encounter danger, they have the confidence to turn away and return to their secure base for reassurance and protection. Toddlers also experience a new sense of self-awareness that grows from their increasing desire to do things for themselves. In other words, toddlers become more independent each and every day. For toddlers, learning to feed themselves and becoming toilet trained are important and exciting accomplishments. These markers provide the necessary starting point for growth and learning during the preschool years.

Dennis Murphy art, speed limitHelping children feel safe and secure during infancy and later encouraging toddlers' exploration are important responsibilities for adults. Children who trust their caregivers are more likely to confidently explore their surroundings and establish a sense of healthy independence. And, as children begin to establish their independence, a positive sense of self-control and self-esteem emerges. Caring adults have a wonderful opportunity to foster children's independence and, in turn, their positive sense of self. The following information provides general knowledge about children's development during infancy and toddlerhood, including physical development, thinking and learning, expressing feelings, awareness of self and others, and communication. Specific suggestions for how adults can positively influence children's development are offered. Special attention is also paid to several issues that are particularly important during infancy and toddlerhood, particularly:

Development between birth and 30 months

Each child grows and develops at his or her own rate. Children display developmental landmarks at different times. The tableb elow lists characteristics that children between the ages of birth and 2-1/2 typically display as they grow and develop. For each type of development (e.g., physical, communication), characteristics for younger children are listed first, followed by the characteristics that children display as they get older (i.e., younger children's characteristics are at the top of each list, older children's are at the bottom).

Development table: Physical

Birth to 8 month

Characteristics

What can adults do?

8 to 18 months

Characteristics

What can adults do?

18 to 36 months

Characteristics

What can adults do?

Development table: Thinking and learning

Birth to 8 month

Characteristics

What can adults do?

8 to 18 months

Characteristics

What can adults do?

18 to 36 months

Characteristics

What can adults do?

Development table: Expressing feeling

Birth to 8 month

Characteristics

What can adults do?

8 to 18 months

Characteristics

What can adults do?

18 to 36 months

Characteristics

What can adults do?

Development table: Awareness of self and others

Birth to 8 month

Characteristics

What can adults do?

8 to 18 months

Characteristics

What can adults do?

18 to 36 months

Characteristics

What can adults do?

Development table: Communication

Birth to 8 month

Characteristics

What can adults do?

8 to 18 months

Characteristics

What can adults do?

18 to 36 months

Characteristics

What can adults do?

Toilet training

Most children successfully master toilet training by the age of 3. This is an important marker of independence for toddlers, as they gain more control of their own bodies. Parents and other important caregivers play a critical role in facilitating this transition in their children's lives. Children need extra attention and affection during this time. With support from teachers and child care providers, parents can make toilet training a successful learning experience. Listed below are tips for toilet training your child.

Dennis Murphy art, caution biting

Biting

Whenever a child bites another person, it is upsetting for everyone. Biting is common among very young children, particularly in group settings such as child care. It is very important for adults to understand why children bite so that they can help children find more appropriate ways to express themselves. The chart on page 6 lists reasons children bite, strategies to help prevent biting, and strategies for responding to biting.

Reasons children bite and strategies to prevent biting

Biting satisfies their strong need for independence and control.

Teething makes babies mouths hurt.

They are trying to approach or initiate interaction with another child.

They are seeking attention.

They are angry or frustrated.

They are experimenting and want to know what will happen if they bite.

They are feeling threatened.

Strategies for responding to biting

Sometimes prevention efforts do not stop children from biting. When a child bites another person, the adults in charge should consistently respond to each biting episode; specific strategies and ideas are listed below:

Conclusion

Children grow rapidly during infancy and toddlerhood. They accomplish many milestones, including establishing a sense of trust in the world during infancy and finding their independence in toddlerhood. Adults have the important task of providing children varied opportunities to promote their development during infancy and toddlerhood. Using the suggestions that have been offered will help adults to foster a positive, creative environment wherein children can thrive.

References

GH6121, reviewed August 2004

GH6121 Infant and Toddler Basics: Development During the First Three Years | University of Missouri Extension

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