The following was produced in partnership with Pull-Ups® Training Pants.
In their second year, from 12-24 months, your child’s life is a rich tapestry of epic successes, and equally size-able dramas, as your Big Kid learns to navigate the world. Amidst the rollercoaster ride of parenting an emerging two-year-old, you will find joy in witnessing major milestones and quintessential moments of this stage in life.
1. That joyous early dance. Putting movement to music comes naturally for many two-year-olds. They are too little to be self-conscious and their want to bop around to anything with a beat seems innate. Their enthusiasm to cut loose is also contagious. Go ahead, your kid won’t judge.
2. Mastering pushing and pulling. The perfect entertainment for toddlers between 12 and 24 months, pull-and-push toys help your child learn motor control and balance, while also having fun.
3. Their first pair of Pull-Ups® Training Pants. Parents celebrate the beginning of potty training, starting around 18 to 24 months, because it signals the end of an era marked by stinky diapers and midnight changes. Kids celebrate because it means they are one step closer to independence. That first pair of Pull-Ups® Training Pants makes it official — they have taken a very big step towards becoming a Big Kid.
4. Eating new foods. Expanding toddlers’ food repertoire now can go a long way toward making them more adventurous eaters as they get older, and also help increase the diversity of bacteria their guts, something doctors now know is critical for long-term health and development. Plus, it always makes for a worthy Instagram moment.
5. Learning to communicate. Research suggests that your 12-month-old child can be as adept at communicating via hand signals as they are with words. The magical connection that happens when she makes a sign for “food” or “Dad” will stay with you for days. Whether you use official American Sign Language or create your own meaningful gestures, nonverbal communication is a key way to expand your toddler’s cognitive development.
6. One small step for parenting … You can’t really hang out at home waiting for it to happen, since the range is broad for when that first step will occur (somewhere between 7 and 14 months), but if you’re lucky, you will be present during the moment when your baby becomes, literally, a toddler — taking their first fledgling steps. Soon, it will become you and your partner’s obsessive pastime, trying to coax your kid into trying it again and again.
7. Following directions. It doesn’t mean she’s going to follow them, but your toddler’s ability to comprehend your instructions, even a two-step one (“Put down the fork”) is an important milestone.
8. Moving from bottle to cup. Learning to use his hands to negotiate a liquid substance from tabletop to mouth and back again may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s a toughie for kids to master. Start with a sippy cup around 10 months, and graduate to a regular kid’s cup by age two.
9. That first haircut. Bowl or buzz? Barbershop or kitchen table? There are many ways to give your kid their first haircut, but whether you enlist professional help or DIY, the moment makes a cute photo op. As for when it happens, that totally depends on how much hair the kid was born with: Luscious locks signal pre-12-month cut, while a bald babe could wait until age two.
10. Naming body parts. Figuring out how their world works starts with figuring out how they work — and to master that, toddlers need to know the names of the “pieces” they are made from. Between ages 1 and 2, you can play the “touch this body part” game: “Touch your ears…. Touch someone’s toes….” Knowing about their body gives your child confidence.
11. Learning to use utensils. Although you’ve been known to still practice caveman habits when no one is around, you generally agree it’s a good idea that your child not eat like one, and so it’s a milestone worth celebrating around 18 months, when they begin to explore such refined tools as spoons and forks.
12. Mimicking your mannerisms. They say kids are like sponges, so it should be no surprise when you turn around one day to see your two-year-old sitting with one hand pointing in the air, the other pressed against her forehead, just like you do when you get excited in conversation. Beyond making the mental leap between a parent’s action and their own, the thing that really gives the old heartstring a tug is knowing they could imitate anyone or anything, but yeah, they chose you.
13. Sorting by shapes and colors. Another cognitive milestone, being able to identify like objects by their general shape or hue is a sign your little Einstein is well on her well to AP physics class followed by Harvard. At the very least, it shows appropriate motor and cognitive development in that critical 18- to 24-months window.
14. Playing ball. As you roll or gently bounce a ball back-and-forth between you, there is serious pleasure in watching your youngster catch on to a new game. That it stimulates your 18-month-old’s mind and motor reflexes is icing on the cake.
15. Climbing stairs. For kids, this is a great, grinning victory. For parents, it’s honestly rather horrifying. Starting around 12 months kids will master the all-four approach until around age two, when your toddler can go up and down using the railing.
16. Reading books (without trying to eat them). By reading, of course, we mean you holding the picture book in one hand and your snuggly (or squirmy) toddler with the other arm, and turning the pages that will ignite your youngster’s imagination. It’s never too soon to start the age-old tradition of bedtime stories, which can lead to a lifetime of learning through the magical world of books.
17. That first big hug. In the first year, they need you completely. On their way to age two, they can now acknowledge your care with a very real, moving hug.
18. Moving to the big-kid bath. By 24 months, kids are ready to use the same bathtub as mom and dad. The inconvenience of storing, setting up, filling, emptying, removing, and putting away the baby bathtub every time your child needs a cleaning is over. Hallelujah.
19. Recognizing relatives. Your toddler quickly learns to identify those in his most immediate circle: Dad, Mom, and brothers or sisters. Between 12 and 18 months, they may also start recognizing those he sees much less frequently: Grandparents, cousins, or other distant relatives, and soon it will become apparent that his universe of love and support is far deeper and wider than he knew.
20. Finishing an ice-cream cone. Sitting on a park bench, swapping licks from a vanilla swirl cone — there are few more lasting bonding moments with kids. It’s a tradition to start now and continue right through college, when your grown-up kid comes home for summer break.