Toddler Parenting Tips (1- and 2-Year-Olds) (2023)

If your living room is strewn with Legos and your coffee is always cold, you might have a toddler. Toddlers seem to be in a constant state of motion. As their new walking skills allow them to cover more ground, you may find yourself feeling a bit spent as you follow along with them to make sure they stay safe.

Toddlers have a blossoming sense of independence that spans into the nighttime hours as well. You may find yourself dealing yet again with nighttime wake-ups, but this time your child doesn't just cry for you—they walk right out of their bed and come find you.

Along with being active and curious, toddlers can be highly emotional. Don't be surprised if they shriek with glee when you tell them you're headed to the beach or if they melt down completely when they can't put their shoes on themselves. And when the tantrums come, it can seem like nothing you do can stop them.

As your child continues to grow and develop, their daily needs and activities will change right along with them. Take a closer look at what to expect during the toddler years when it comes to diet and nutrition, sleep, safety, health concerns, and more.

Toddler Parenting Tips (1- and 2-Year-Olds) (1)

Daily Life

Toddlers aren't physically growing as much as they did when they were babies. Instead, they are developing gross motor skills and sharpening their cognition. Their daily lives are filled with sleeping, eating, and physical activity.

Diet and Nutrition

You may feel a little concerned if your toddler seems to eat less than they did as a baby. But this is common and expected. After age 1, babies aren't growing as fast, so they don't need as much food. "Kids at this age tend to be very picky and eat a lot less than they did when they were younger, both because they are slowing down their growth rate and because they become mobile," explains Elham Raker, M.D., a pediatrician and founder of the blog Ask Dr. Mom.

If your little one scarfs down their lunch and asks for a third helping, but takes only a bit of banana for dinner, there's no need to worry. Toddlers need roughly 1,000 calories per day, spread out over three meals and two snacks, but they tend to take it in varying amounts.

The important thing is to offer your toddler a variety of nutritious foods. This should include vegetables, fruits, proteins, starches, and healthy fats. Portions don't need to be big—you may be surprised to learn that toddler serving is only about a tablespoon. "Do not worry about the quantity of food, just offer good quality food," notes Dr. Raker.

To build healthy eating habits, you should decide what you are going to serve, and your child should decide which of the available foods they eat and how much. Try not to make food a big deal. If your toddler refuses to try a new food, say "OK," remove the food, and then offer it again another time.

Milk and dairy products like cheese and yogurt are an important part of a toddler's diet. But if your toddler hasn't turned 2 yet, don't reach for the low-fat milk. At age 1, babies still need full-fat dairy products to support their brain development.

If your toddler still loves their bottle, they might be in for a rude awakening. The AAP recommends that babiesgive up the bottlebetween 12 and 24 months to prevent tooth decay and to ensure that they don't fill up on milk instead of eating enough food.

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"Too much cow's milk also inhibits iron absorption and may impact sleep," explains Heather Wallace, a certified pediatric sleep consultant and postpartum doula, and the owner of BraveHeart consulting. "You want to stick to no more than 16 ounces of cow's milk per day. But if your toddler won't drink that much milk from their sippy cup, supplement by offering foods high in protein and healthy fats such as avocado, beans, eggs, cheese, greek yogurt, hummus, and tofu."

When you do switch to a cup, you may find that your toddler drinks a lot less milk. This is pretty typical and it is not a cause for concern. Continue to offer unsweetened milk or water with meals and snacks. Skip the juice, which is high in sugar while lacking the fiber found in whole fruits.

Toddlers may love to explore different types of foods, but there are foods that pose a choking hazard that needs to be avoided. This includes whole carrots, cherry tomatoes, hot dogs, and grapes. Peanut butter can also be a choking hazard if eaten by the spoonful.

Physical Activity

When your toddler takes their first steps, they may walk carefully and a bit unsteadily, but it won't be long until they are running. You may feel as if you are raising a little whirlwind. Gross motor skills develop rapidly during the toddler years, and your little one's blossoming curiosity will help to propel them as far they can go.

Toddlers require at least three hours of physical activity each day. "At this age, kids are starting to explore their environment and will naturally want to try new things, like running and climbing stairs," says Dr. Raker. "Let them explore while keeping safety measures in place."

The good news is that as long as you can provide the space for your child to move, they will get the exercise they need on their own. "Outdoor activities are the best if weather permits, like parks and outdoor play structures," notes Dr. Raker. Taking walks around your neighborhood and or letting your toddler lead the way on a forest trail or along the beach are perfect ways to make sure your child gets enough physical movement in their day.

Toddlers don't yet need organized sports, but they may enjoy low-pressure parent and child classes such as soccer, yoga, or music classes. They learn and develop best through play.

Around the House

You might see your toddler pick up the broom and try to sweep or put on a pair of your shoes. Your little one will likely want to be by your side most of the time they're awake. It’s important to let them get involved in some of the activities you’re doing.

While it may be easier and quicker to do everything yourself, allowing your toddler to help in even the smallest ways can keep them active and teach important skills. You can ask them to throw a napkin in the trash for you or allow them to use their toy broom to sweep alongside you.

Chores for toddlers will mostly consist of picking up toys, putting dirty clothes in a hamper, or putting books back on the shelf. Your little one will likely be interested in helping you do chores too. Allow an older toddler to assist you in wiping up messes, caring for pets, and making the bed.

The best way to spend time with your toddler is to get down on the floor alongside them in a child-friendly space—but follow their lead. If they are playing with a doll, play with them.

It's fine if you can't play with your toddler every moment though. "It's a good idea to have one drawer that your toddler can explore safely," says Dr. Raker. "This can help meet their needs for curiosity in a safe way."

Just don’t be too concerned about whether they're doing things “the right way.” In a toddler’s imaginative play, it’s OK for bathtubs to be on the roof of the house and it’s fine for cars to talk.

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Health and Safety

Regular wellness visits are key to ensuring your toddler is on target with developmental milestones. They also allow your child's pediatrician to keep track of their growth and provide immunization against certain illnesses.

Visiting the Doctor

Well-child visits for toddlers usually occur with a pediatrician at 12, 15, 18, and 24 months of age. The AAP's vaccine schedule gives a variety of immunizations to 1-year-olds, but your child may only need a flu shot at their 2-year appointment.

Your child's pediatrician can help answer questions about nutrition, behavior, sleep, and any other concerns you may have. They will look at how your toddler is growing and how well they are meeting milestones.

UPDATE: November 2022

On October 20, 2022, the Center for Disease Control's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted to add COVID-19 vaccination to the childhood immunization schedule. While the CDC makes vaccine recommendations, each state will determine which ones are required for school entry. The updated schedule is set to be released in early 2023.

Potty Training

Toddlers are interested in trying to do what adults do, and toileting is no exception! Even if you're not ready to start potty training yet, it's a good idea to get a child-sized potty sometime after your child's first birthday.

There are specific developmental milestones that your child should reach before you tackle potty training. These include the ability to recognize that they need to go, bladder and bowel control, and language skills that allow them to tell you when they need to use the toilet.

Praise works best when you are potty training your child. It may be frustrating when they have an accident, but try to stay outwardly calm so they don't feel you are disappointed. Punishment should never be used while potty training, but you can use logical consequences such as having your child help you clean up a mess.


If you put your child to bed later after a fun family day at the fair, you might notice that they are more likely to have tantrums the following day. Getting enough sleep is still very important for toddlers, who still need 11 to 14 hours of sleep per 24 hours.

Sleep problems may resurface during the toddler years. "You may find that your toddler is staying up longer before falling asleep at bedtime, chatting to himself, rolling around, even crying," says Wallace. "This could be a sign that your young toddler is ready to transition to one nap."

The transition to one nap occurs around 12 to 15 months of age, and you will know it's time when you see your toddler's sleep is affected. "Your toddler might shorten one or both of the naps, fight bedtime, have long night wakings, or early morning wake-ups," notes Wallace.

Instead of a later morning nap and a mid-afternoon nap, your child may do best with one longer nap right after lunch. "Typically a midday nap around noon will allow your toddler to get more quality consolidated sleep, rather than two shorter naps in the day," explains Wallace.

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The toddler stage also typically includes thetransition from sleeping in a cribto sleeping in a big kid bed. You don't have to rush into this transition unless your child is attempting to climb out of their crib.


Injuries are the leading cause of death for children under age 4 in the U.S. Many of those injuries can be prevented if you follow some basic safety guidelines. Consider removing firearms from the home when you have a toddler. If you choose to keep a gun, keep it unloaded and locked in a safe place. Store the ammunition separately. When your child visits another home or if they attend an in-home daycare, ask how guns are stored.

Toddlers explore by putting everything in their mouths. Use safety caps on any toxic household products and medicines—and keep them out of sight and out of reach.Store the number to poison control on your phone and post it in your house so you can find it easily in the event of an emergency.

Most falls aren’t a problem, but stairs, sharp-edged furniture, and open windows can pose a serious risk. Use gates to keep your toddler away from stairs and install window guards above the first floor. Don’t leave chairs or objects your child can use to climb on nearby countertops or tables.

Water safety is of utmost importance during the toddler years. It only takes two inches of water for a toddler to drown. Keep bathroom doors closed and never leave your child alone near a bathtub, a pail of water, wading or swimming pool, or any other body of water. Stay within an arm’s length of your child when near water.

A car seat can save your toddler's life. And as uncomfortable as it might be, toddlers should remain in rear-facing car seats as long as possible, until they reach the height and weight recommended by the safety seat’s manufacturer. Be sure safety seats are installed correctly, and never leave your child alone in or around the car.


No matter how educational an app claims to be, the truth is that your toddler learns best from real-life interactions. It's important to be careful about how you incorporate technology into your toddler's life. Before 18 months, it is advised to avoid all screen time, with the possible exception of video-chatting with relatives.

Once your child turns 18 months, you can let them view high-quality programming for as long as about an hour per day, but don't get too excited about having extra time to cook or catch up on things around the house. Kids at this age still learn best from interaction, so it's important to view the content together with them and interact with it, such as pointing things out about the show or asking them questions as you watch.

It is important to make sure that screen time does not interfere with your toddler getting the recommended three hours of physical activity each day.

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Your Toddler's World

Toddlers want to explore as much of the world as they can. From how something like a block sounds when it’s banged on the floor to how dirt tastes when they put it in their mouth, they’re constantly trying to learn everything they can.

Try to foster your toddler's sense of curiosity in safe and healthy ways. Instead of always saying no, find ways to give your toddler the freedom to explore. For example, have one drawer in your kitchen that your toddler is free to open and take things out of. You can put toys, measuring cups, or anything else for your child to touch and play with.

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Toddlers are generally only concerned with their own needs as they don’t yet have the capacity to put themselves in anyone else’s shoes. So your toddler will likely experience a lot of frustration if they don’t get their way.

Often, distraction is your best bet. You can pick up your child and move them away from whatever it is that they want and can't have, and try to put their attention on something else. For example, if they want to get a toy that you don't plan to buy them, you can tell them the toy will stay in the store and then head to another aisle.

It is also wise to be proactive and avoid situations that you think might set your toddler off. Maybe you walk around the block to avoid passing by the playground when you know you won't be able to stop there.

Some toddlers have separation anxiety when you drop them off at daycare. If your child struggles with this, give them a loving kiss and hug, and remind them that you will come back later. Don't linger if you don't want to do so every day. Toddlers do better with drop-off if it's a quick, consistent routine.

Toddler Developmental Milestones by Age

Other Tips for Your Toddler

Toddlers love the process of doing simple chores or activities such as washing fruit or scooping lemons out of a bucket of water with a slotted spoon. While adults complete tasks as a means to an end, toddlers see work as the end itself.

For example, we may sweep the floor to get it clean. But toddlers actually love the idea that they are sweeping. Try scattering some small pompoms over the floor for your toddler to sweep up with a broom and dustpan just their size. Most likely, they will enjoy pouring the pompoms back out and repeating the process many times over.

Toddlers have a lot of energy and they do best when they are able to be on the move. If your toddler seems to never get enough movement no matter what, try giving them "heavy work" to do, such as carrying a backpack walking over a hill, or pushing a toy grocery cart full of food or other items. Some little ones actually crave these types of activities, because they feel an urge to use their developing muscles.

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A Word From Verywell

Toddlers are a lot of fun, but they often seem to defy all the rules of logic you thought you knew. Whether it's a tantrum because their green socks are in the wash or an unstoppable urge to pull all your tampons out of the box and line them up on the floor, toddlers are certainly a handful.

Learning more about your child’s development can be key to helping you be a confident parent. Readparenting books on the toddler years, ask questions, and look for resources that will help you be prepared to deal with everything from tantrums to potty training. Always reach out to your pediatrician if you have any questions about your toddler's health or behavior.

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What age of toddler is hardest to parents? ›

The term "terrible twos" has long been used to describe the changes that parents often observe in 2-year-old children. A parent may perceive this age as terrible because of the rapid shifts in a child's mood and behaviors — and the difficulty of dealing with them.

What should 1 and 2 year olds be learning? ›

At 1-2 years, your child will learn to use and understand more words and more types of words. At first they'll understand and say mostly nouns – for example, 'dog' and 'bus'. Eventually they'll understand and say a few verbs – for example, 'eat' and 'run'. Adjectives come next – for example, 'big' and 'blue'.

How do you deal with a 1.5 year old baby? ›

To increase infants' self-esteem and confidence, always take a positive approach to your child's learning process. Try to say “yes”, “good”, “well done” more often, rather than “no”, “bad”, “not good”. Play hide and seek with your infant and see if he can find the objects you hide.

What is the most exhausting age to parent? ›

In fact, age 8 is so tough that the majority of the 2,000 parents who responded to the 2020 survey agreed that it was the hardest year, while age 6 was better than expected and age 7 produced the most intense tantrums.

What is the hardest stage of raising a child? ›

For some parents, infancy is the hardest. For others, it's toddlerhood. Some parents feel that the preschool years present special challenges.

What should a 1 2-year-old know academically? ›

Learning, Thinking Skills

Find things even when they're hidden under two or three layers. Starting sorting shapes and colors. Complete sentences and rhymes in familiar books. Play simple make-believe games.

What are red flags in child development? ›

Can't support head (by 3 months) Doesn't babble or try to imitate sounds (by 4 months) Doesn't bring objects to mouth (by 4 months) Doesn't push down with legs when feet are on firm surface (by 4 months)

What is normal 2-year-old behavior? ›

At 2-3 years, you can expect strong feelings, tantrums, pretend play and independence. Toddlers are developing new skills in many areas, including language, thinking and movement. Development activities include talking and listening, reading, playing outdoors, playing with others and cooking together.

How much should my 1 1 2 year old talk? ›

Most kids say 1–2 words by 15 months and 3 or more words by 18 months. By 2 years old, most toddlers are saying even more words and can put together 2-word sentences. No matter when they say their first words, it's a sure bet they already understand much of what you say.

At what age do toddlers get easier? ›

They become quite independent as they reach 5-6 years of age, even wanting to help you with some of the chores! This is probably why most parents look at age 6 as the magical age when parenting gets easier.

What age of a toddler is more fun? ›

The Best And Hardest Ages

Well, the parents have spoken, and children are the most fun when they're five years old. According to a recent survey, five year olds are the most fun to be around. Forty percent of survey participants felt that five was the most fun age.

Why are toddlers so difficult? ›

It's hard because: We have to be our toddler's pre-frontal cortex. As my friend Jeanne-Marie says, “it's our job to keep them safe.” They follow their urges, for example, to climb on the table and do not use the rational part of their brain to make these decisions.

Which parent is more important to a child? ›

In a long-term analysis of 36 international studies of nearly 11,000 parents and children, researchers have found that a father's love contributes as much — and sometimes more — to a child's development as that of a mother, while perceived rejection creates a larger ripple on personality than any other type of ...

What age is the most crucial for a child? ›

Recent brain research indicates that birth to age three are the most important years in a child's development. Here are some tips to consider during your child's early years: Be warm, loving, and responsive. Talk, read, and sing to your child.

When should I worry about toddler tantrums? ›

If your child has temper tantrums that last longer than 15 minutes or are very violent, talk to a healthcare provider. And if your child is older than 4 and still having frequent tantrums, it's also a good idea to speak to your provider.

What math should a 2 year old know? ›

Around two years old, the toddler knows that one remains when one object is subtracted from 2 things. He also knows that when 1 item is added to 2 items, there should be 3 in all. He can group objects with similar characteristics, such as the same shape, the same size, or the same color.

How do you discipline a toddler? ›

Give consequences.

Calmly and firmly explain the consequences if they don't behave. For example, tell her that if she does not pick up her toys, you will put them away for the rest of the day. Be prepared to follow through right away. Don't give in by giving them back after a few minutes.

Why does my toddler hit me and laugh? ›

Laughter is one of the ways children release their feelings of fear, so hitting is sometimes accompanied by laughter—your child is trying hard to release tension, but can't laugh it away fast enough to stop themselves from launching a hit or two. Most children hide their feelings of fear at an early age.

How do you rule out autism? ›

Diagnosing autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can be difficult because there is no medical test, like a blood test, to diagnose the disorder. Doctors look at the child's developmental history and behavior to make a diagnosis. ASD can sometimes be detected at 18 months of age or younger.

How do autistic toddlers behave? ›

Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder are often restricted, rigid, and even obsessive in their behaviors, activities, and interests. Symptoms may include: Repetitive body movements (hand flapping, rocking, spinning); moving constantly. Obsessive attachment to unusual objects (rubber bands, keys, light switches).

What is the main cause of autism? ›

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability caused by differences in the brain. Some people with ASD have a known difference, such as a genetic condition. Other causes are not yet known.

At what age is speech considered delayed? ›

The physician should be concerned if the child is not babbling by the age of 12 to 15 months, not comprehending simple commands by the age of 18 months, not talking by two years of age, not making sentences by three years of age, or is having difficulty telling a simple story by four to five years of age.

At what age is a toddler considered speech delayed? ›

Signs of a speech delay

Age 2: doesn't use at least 25 words. Age 2 1/2: doesn't use unique two-word phrases or noun-verb combinations. Age 3: doesn't use at least 200 words, doesn't ask for things by name, hard to understand even if you live with them. Any age: unable to say previously learned words.

When should a child use 3 word sentences? ›

As part of language development, your child will begin to use two-word sentences at around two years. By age three, they'll be able to use sentences with three or more words – for example, 'Mummy get in car' or 'Me go too'. You'll start to hear grammar and more structured sentences.

What is the best method for dealing with a tantrum in the moment? ›

Typically, the best way to respond to a tantrum is to stay calm. If you respond with loud, angry outbursts, your child might imitate your behavior. Shouting at a child to calm down is also likely to make things worse. Instead, try to distract your child.

How can I stimulate my baby's speech? ›

Sing to your baby – this helps them tune in to the rhythm of language. Repeat the sounds your baby makes back to them – this teaches your baby lessons about listening and taking turns in a conversation. Talk in a sing-song voice – this helps to keep your baby's attention.

Is it OK to shout at toddler? ›

Your children are no different. Shouting will make them tune out and discipline will be harder, since each time you raise your voice lowers their receptivity. Recent research points out that yelling makes children more aggressive, physically and verbally.

What is positive discipline for toddlers? ›

To discipline your child in a positive way, replace punishments that frighten, shame, or belittle them with strategies that encourage better behavior, like redirecting them, praising them, and spending quality time together.

Does a 1 year old understand punishment? ›

Discipline can be a difficult concept for a one-year-old toddler to understand. However, at this age they can still learn certain boundaries. Most of your disciplining at this age will be setting limits and teaching your child what good behavior is, instead of explicitly disciplining them for unwanted behavior.

Does ignoring tantrums work for 1 year olds? ›

Ignoring is usually most effective for behaviors like whining, crying when nothing is physically wrong or hurting, and tantrums. These misbehaviors are often done for attention. If parents, friends, family, or other caregivers consistently ignore these behaviors, they will eventually stop.

How do you stop a tantrum quickly? ›

If your child is having a public tantrum, pick them up and calmly carry them to a safe place. Take them to your car or a public restroom, where they can blow off steam. Once you're there, gently explain your position, and remain calm. Sometimes just touching or stroking a child can soothe them.

What's the difference between a tantrum and a meltdown? ›

A tantrum is willful behaviour in younger children and therefore can be shaped by rewarding desired behaviours, whereas a meltdown can occur across a lifespan and isn't impacted by a rewards system. Tantrums slowly go away as a child grows up, but meltdowns may never go away.

What age does it get easier with toddlers? ›

They become quite independent as they reach 5-6 years of age, even wanting to help you with some of the chores! This is probably why most parents look at age 6 as the magical age when parenting gets easier.

What is considered a difficult toddler? ›

Some children (approximately 10-20%) are born with “difficult temperament.” Traits include: high, often impulsive activity level; extra sensitive to sensory stimulation; overwhelmed by change in routines and new experiences; intense, inflexible reactions; easily distracted or incredibly focused; adapt slowly to change, ...

Are 2 or 3 year olds worse? ›

Experts say 'threenagers' are more likely to give you grief with their temper tantrums. While many parents know about the terrible twos, not as many will be familiar with 'threenagers'. Yet if you believe today's parenting experts, three-year-olds will in fact give you more grief than two-year-olds.

Why is parenting a toddler so hard? ›

It's hard because: We have to be our toddler's pre-frontal cortex. As my friend Jeanne-Marie says, “it's our job to keep them safe.” They follow their urges, for example, to climb on the table and do not use the rational part of their brain to make these decisions.

What age is no longer a toddler? ›

The toddler age group starts at one year old, and while the end of the toddler age range is a little less definitive, it's generally thought to come to close when a child turns 3.

What is normal terrible twos behavior? ›

The "terrible twos" refers to a normal stage in a child's development in which a toddler can regularly bounce between reliance on adults and a newly burgeoning desire for independence. The symptoms vary between children but can include frequent mood changes and temper tantrums.

How many tantrums a day is normal for a 2 year old? ›

Tantrums happen most frequently between ages 1 and 4, averaging up to one a day. They typically decrease when a child starts school. At this age, they're talking more, so they can express their needs verbally. Tantrums usually last between two and 15 minutes.

Why are two year olds so difficult? ›

Toddlers are also developing the language skills that help them express their ideas, wants, and needs. At the same time, toddlers do not understand logic and still have a hard time with waiting and self-control. In a nutshell: Two-year-olds want what they want when they want it.

Why won't my toddler listen to me? ›

Just like the rest of us, toddlers don't always listen. But unlike us, there's often good reasons for this. Being absorbed in their playtime, not understanding complex instructions, and not getting the attention they need from you, can all impact on how much your toddler listens.


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