Infants and Toddlers are born ready to learn. Through interactions, relationships, and active exploration of the world around them, infants and toddlers begin to build their understanding of how to move, make things happen, communicate, and interact with the people around them. The relationships that infants and toddlers have with their caregivers are critical in the child’s learning and development. Caregivers play a crucial role in a child’s development. By providing secure, trusting, and predictable relationships with infants and toddlers you are providing them with the confidence to explore their environments and build a strong foundation for learning and development. Caring for infants and toddlers in groups can be challenging if caregivers are not aware of the characteristics of infants and toddlers. For example, in an infant room a caregiver may be responsible for 4 children that are in very different developmental stages such as a newborn, a 6-month-old, or a 9-month-old.

Infants and young toddlers, and older toddlers each have distinct characteristics, and development is rapid. Here are some basic characteristics by age groups:

Young Infants: Birth – 6 months

  • Sleeps and shows alertness during waking.

  • Cry to get needs met.

  • Startles easily.

  • Are learning about their bodies.

  • Can move hands, feet, legs, arms, head.

  • Likes to be held.

  • Begin to self-soothe by sucking on fingers or hands.

  • Kick at mobiles.

  • Smiles when smiled at.

  • Begin to show emotions.

  • Turns head to see something.

  • Begins to hold head up.

  • Rolling over at roughly 4 to 6 months.

  • Sitting up unassisted by 6 months old.

  • Smile, babble and laugh or squeal with emotion.

  • Begins to explore food with fingers.

  • Manipulates objects.

  • Repeats actions to make something happen again.

Older Infants: 6 to 12 months

  • Begins to move independently, crawls or scoots.

  • Eats solid foods.

  • Holds own bottle.

  • Shows stranger anxiety.

  • Lifts arms up to be picked up.

  • Explores interesting toys and may have favorite toys or objects.

  • Babbles and tries to imitate adult language.

  • May say simple words, such as "mama," and understand a limited vocabulary of basics, such as "no".

  • Hand skills to use a pincer grasp, pick up and put down small objects and make attempts to scribble with a crayon or other writing tool.

  • Recognizes familiar people and objects in his/her environment.

  • By 10 to 12 months may creep, crawl and may support weight on legs.

  • Learn object permanence (objects still around even when out of sight).

  • Shows interest in rhymes, finger plays, and stories with props.

Young Toddlers: 12 to 24 months

  • Picks up and carries objects.

  • Walks, Throws, Climbs, runs, jumps.

  • Mouths objects.

  • Points to and names items.

  • Jumps, hops, skips, runs.

  • Uses two or more words in sentences.

  • Assembles simple puzzles.

  • Builds with blocks.

  • Scribbles, draws.

  • Follows simple directions.

  • Aware of emotions.

  • Easily frustrated.

  • Capable of self-help skills.

Older Toddlers: 24-36 months

  • Walk, run, and start learning to jump with both feet.

  • Pull or carry toys while walking.

  • Throw and kick a ball; try to catch with both hands.

  • Stand on tiptoes and balance on one foot.

  • Climb on furniture and playground equipment.

  • Walk upstairs while holding the railing; may alternate feet.

  • Start brushing own teeth and hair.

  • May pull pants up and down.

  • Turn on the faucet and wash hands.

  • Build a block tower of at least four blocks.

  • Start practicing snaps and zipping up (if you start the zip).

  • Hold utensils and crayons with fingers instead of a fist, although at this age the grasp still may not be quite right.

  • Enjoy more complicated pretend play, like pretending that a box is a spaceship or assigning people characters when playing.

  • Remember and talk about things that happened in the past, using phrases like “the other day” or “a long time ago”.

  • Do three- to four-piece puzzles.

  • Group toys by type, size, or color.

  • Recite favorite books and nursery rhymes with you.

  • May follow two-step directions, such as “take off your coat and hang it up”.

  • Understand the words for familiar people, everyday objects, and body parts.

  • Use a variety of single words by 18 months and speak in sentences of two to four words by 24 months (may combine nouns and verbs, like “mommy eat”); have a vocabulary of 200+ words by 36 months.

  • Repeat words they hear.

  • Start asking “what’s that?” and “why?”.

  • Begin using plurals (dogs) and basic pronouns (me, you).

  • Mimic what other kids and adults do and say, as well as how they say it.

  • Be happy to play near, if not with, other kids.

  • Start to realize they can do things without your help.

  • Disobey more than before, doing things they are told not to do, just to test what happens.

  • Have tantrums when frustrated.

  • Show increasing separation anxiety by 18 months, which typically eases a lot by 24 months.

  • Become increasingly independent and aware of themselves as their own person between 24 and 36 months.

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