Ages and Stages: Toddlers

I”m taking a few weeks away from blogging as my family celebrates our new baby, Mia.   Before I “unplugged” from the computer, I worked on this series about Ages and Stages.  Today”s installment is about toddlers.  I hope you enjoy it!  Best Wishes – Kara

Toddlerhood:  a time when our child is often full on emotion and short on patience.  But, toddlerhood can also be a time of great joy, silliness, and bonding.

In fact, many parents I know, myself included, declare these years to be among their favorite ages, despite the sometimes rocky phases one and two year olds can go through.

Patience and Laughter

It is true that toddlers have a reputation for getting frustrated easily and sometimes lashing out.  They aren’t naturally very patient so it is important that their caregivers are patient.

I know that this is sometimes easier said than done, but one thing I have learned about patience is that it gets easier the more you practice it.  And toddlers give us lots of chances to practice patience.

A sense of humor can”t be underestimated either.  Some of my favorite advice on parenting with a sense of humor comes from Carrie at The Parenting Passageway blog. As Carrie says, “Humor and playfulness does mean that we can step back and laugh at our own mistakes, the mistakes our children make, to see the humor and joy in  a situation and have some fun!”

And, it helps to try to remember not to take a toddler”s outbursts personally (not easy to do when you”re being screamed at, I know).

Realistic Expectations

It also helps you and your child if you have realistic expectations of them.  Remember:  toddlers are still very young.  They are doing a lot of learning, growing, and changing but a two year old is still a two year old, with a two year old”s mind, feelings, and capabilities.

My experience is that some of the turbulence of toddlerhood seems to drop off as verbal skills become stronger.  Being able to communicate and be understood eases some of the frustration, or at least that has been the case with our toddlers.

Don”t underestimate the calming effects of household rhythms and routines, even at this young age. In fact, I think kids at this age especially need stability, steady rhythms, and to be able to know what comes next and what the household rules are.


Play and Exploration

While I think structure is important, I also believe that it should be balanced with plenty of free play time.

Kids at this age need room to explore and play.  They need spaces and objects that they can touch, explore, and manipulate. Toddlerhood is a time many kids hear  the word “no” so they need areas and objects that can be a “yes” for them.

Times and places for making messes, trying new things, and being loud are important for kids (and, I would argue, for grown ups, too).

Toddlers also need safe spaces to explore and play and it is important to remember that toddlers can get into more  now that they are mobile and “toddling” around.  They need “baby proofing” to be taken to the next level.

This is the age when kids put things in their nose, run everywhere (often without looking where they are going), and climb without regard to height.  Foresight isn”t a toddler”s strong-suit, so they need for their caregivers to be vigilant to help prevent accidents.

Some Nice Things for Toddlers:

  • wooden blocks  and other stacking toys
  • a doll, with a blanket and very simple doll clothes (buttons may be hard for a young toddler to manipulate)
  • my kids have all enjoyed puppets at this age
  • peg puzzles
  • child-sized bowl, plate, cup, and silverware
  • a simple doll house or barn w/ a few small dolls or animals
  • playsilks or cotton cloths in squares (for peek a boo, dress up, etc)
  • some large crayons and blank paper for coloring
  • a potty seat or potty chair
  • quality picture books (board books are nice for this age)
  • a place to dig and a place to pour (a sandbox or a sand and water table)
  • time outdoors, every day if possible

Some of my favorite resources for toddlerhood:

What do you think? Would you add anything to this list? What are your favorite resources for toddlerhood?


Have you heard the news? The new baby play ebook Zero to Two is here and it is full of ideas for play and learning from infancy through the toddler years. Find out how to pick up your copy here.

About Kara

Kara Fleck is the editor of Simple Kids. She is a small town mama, writer, knitter, bookworm, and hooligan. Kara lives in Indiana with her husband Christopher and their four children Jillian, Max, Lucy, and Amelia. You can find more of her writing at

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  1. Laughter and age-appropriate expectations as you mentioned are vital, and we’re a big advocate of simple arts and crafts; both my young girls love to amke something and hang it up to show Daddy when he comes home.

  2. My favorite “tool” for my babes is actually my ipod. My kids love to dance, and when we are stressed/upset/too wild/happy we all sing and dance. It wears everyone out and seems to also provide an outlet to get out any stress that they (or I) have.
    Heather´s latest post: The Rhythm of Family

  3. Heather, it’s true for my baby too 🙂 he just love to play with this all the time…
    katie´s latest post: Baby Eagle

  4. I love this age! Such explorers! And they get so excited about each new discovery. My youngest grandaughter turns one in a few weeks and is reaching this point. So much fun!
    Living the Balanced Life´s latest post: Resources for managing your home, family and life

  5. Great post! My toddler loves his “busy box.” This was an idea found in a preschool magazine. I teach piano and also homeschool my four year old, so my 2 year old often needs something to keep him “busy!” I change the contents frequently to keep him interested. Some ideas include: paper/stamps/crayola “first markers”/stacking blocks/supplies from my kitchen utensil drawer:=)/ dot-a-dot markers/puzzles…and lots more!

  6. Oh! Remembering that so much frustration comes from lack of communication is so important. Three things that have really helped us through (in!) this age are:

    – Simple hand signs. We’re not full blown into baby sign language, but giving our kiddos signs for “eat” “tired/nap” “all done” and “water/drink” really empowers their communication and can help stave off a tantrum… sometimes.

    – Communicate the action you want. This has been a HUGE learning curve for me, but worth it. Instead of saying, “Don’t climb on the table,” say, “Climb down please.” Instead of “Don’t hit your sister,” say “Hands to yourself.” Toddlers cannot comprehend how to “don’t do” something. Saying “Don’t put that in your mouth” is just inviting the toddler to do it!

    – “Talk about our Day” – we started this when our oldest was just 18 months. Telling him each morning what to expect for the day and then recounting our activities at bedtime. I think it helps them feel in control, when we say that we’re eating breakfast and then going to the library… and then that’s what happens!

    Also, no baby talk. These kids might not be the best talkers, but they UNDERSTAND EVERYTHING! I think they respond better when we communicate with them at their UNDERSTANDING level instead of their verbalization level.
    Alissa´s latest post: Fearless

  7. Great, glad that you found this site, you have written up very en-depth article.
    Lelit´s latest post: angry birds online

  8. Realistic expectations- yes! I have to remind myself of this over & over again with my 1 & almost 4 year old. Oftentimes their behaviors that are annoying or upsetting for me are just them exploring or pushing boundaries to see how far they can go.

    Wonderful article!

  9. Great posts! I agree with all of the great ideas! We too LOVE music, love to talk about our day’s activities! A favorite activity when the weather is warm is to “paint” outside with large paint brushes and a big bucket of water!

  10. I loved reading “Simplicity Parenting” to get my toddler days off on the right foot. My toddler loves her pretend/imaginative play… and can go on and on for hours! It gives me a break, and she doesn’t need many toys for an entire afternoon of imagination.
    Hillary´s latest post: Sleep Schedules