There’s a big change that happens somewhere between 10 and 14 months. This is when your baby begins to act more like a toddler than an infant. You’ve come a long way from those sleepless nights, newborn cries, rocking until your arms got tired, and melting over that first smile.
Once babies approach the 1 year mark, they become much more independent and you will see their personality start to emerge. This period is when they will start walking and talking and just being a little person!
Although it’s a bit sad to say goodbye to itty bitty diapers and a baby who is dependent on you for everything, there are so many more magical moments to come. I love being able to have a conversation with my 1 year old, watch her scream in excitement to go down the slide, and run full speed to give me the biggest hug and kiss.
Now you have to switch your mindset from interacting with and caring for a baby to raising a toddler. Below are a few things that you may want to start doing just before your child turns 1 or within a couple months of their big birthday.
Things you should do before your baby turns 1
The baby stage is quickly drawing to an end and it’s time to promote your child’s independence, curiosity, and engagement. Here is a list of ways to prepare you and your baby for toddlerhood.
Get rid of the baby toys
Put away the baby toys because your toddler will no longer be amused by the multi-sensory, crinkle toys and hanging rattles on their car seat. Sure, they may grab at it here and there, but they aren’t stimulating enough for them at this age.
However, don’t put away ALL of the toys because there are still some that they can use. Your child will still be entertained by cause-and-effect toys now that they fully understand how they work. Pushing buttons and making things move or play music will provide endless entertainment for them.
So, just put away the fluffy Lamaze toys, crinkle books, and other toys that don’t provide any useful learning and engagement.
Related Post: Top 10 Must Have Baby Toys for Your 0 to 6 Month Old
Bring Out the Toddler Toys
As stated before, your child will be very bored with baby toys at this point. They need objects that provide them with stimulation and learning.
They are inquisitive little minds and want to be challenged. Toys that let them problem solve and figure out a solution are highly engaging for toddlers.
They want to be able to figure out how a toy works on their own. You’ll realize how smart they really are when they first pull apart legos or make a jack-in-the-box pop open.
Toys that make their little hands and minds work are the best. They encourage imaginative play (pretending to do real life things), improve fine motor skills (strengthening their hands and fingers to manipulate objects), and develop cognition (new knowledge and understanding).
Take a look at my list from the post below for examples of educational toys you should have for your 1 year old.
Related Post: Must Have Developmental Toys for Your 1 Year Old
Toddler Proof Your Home
If your baby hasn’t already gotten into everything in the house, they will start soon. One-year-olds are very curious and once they start crawling and walking, they will really begin to explore their new territory.
You want to be sure that your home is safe and accessible for your child. Locking cabinets, putting away fragile items, and limiting access to dangerous areas are some of the ways to start toddler proofing.
You especially want to make sure that there are no potentially hazardous items or spots in your house that can cause harm to your wandering baby. Remember, they may also be tall enough to reach counters and tops of tables so be aware of what you leave out.
This is a time when they will also start to make a mess of your house. Be sure you put items out of reach that your baby can pull out and scatter throughout your home.
My daughter always wanted to take out my Tupperware and leave it all over until I locked the cabinet. It wasn’t something that could be harmful to her, but I was just sick of picking them up every single day.
Read my post on Baby and Toddler Proofing your Home for all the specifics on areas that you may not have thought of.
Start toddler proofing BEFORE your child puts themself in harms way. So don’t wait until she gets in the cleaning supply cabinet and pulls out the bleach before you lock it up. Even if that stuff hasn’t started happening, it will soon, so be prepared ahead of time.
Related Post: How to Safely Toddler Proof Your House
Safety Proof the Crib
Make sure your baby’s crib is set to the lowest possible level. At this age, they will be able to pull up to standing in the crib. It may even be the first place they decide to stand because the bars make for an easy pull up bar.
You may not be there when your child first pulls to stand. This could potentially cause them to fall or climb out if the mattress isn’t placed at the lowest setting. Be proactive by preparing your whole home before your child is put in harms way and an accident happens.
Related Post: The Many Benefits of Daycare For Your Toddler
Dictate and Describe Everything
At this age, your babies and toddlers are little sponges, absorbing all the language and knowledge presented in front of them. They are picking up new words and concepts everyday.
Exposure to language and communication is the quickest and most natural way that your child will learn new vocabulary. Even just hearing you speak on the phone or to your spouse can provide quick learning opportunities.
While they’re just sitting and playing, use language to say everything that she’s doing and using, the color and shape of an item, and what action is happening. For example, “You’re putting the bead in the cup, you’re throwing the red ball, you’re walking over to the steps.” Your child will now be able to associate words with his or her actions.
Point out household items, talk to your child while you’re cooking, and sing to them while you’re changing their diaper. There are a ton of ways to let them hear new sounds, words, and language.
Let Them Feed Themselves
By the time your baby is one, they should have started feeding themselves.
Most of their self-feeding will be done with their hands and fingers at this point as their fine motor skills develop and improve. They should be able to use a pincer grasp to pick up tiny pieces between their thumb and pointer finger and also bigger hand movements to pick up larger foods.
Giving them the independence to self-feed will encourage them to explore and give them the confidence to eat themselves. For safety reasons, make sure foods are cut up in small, non-chokable pieces.
Now is a good time to let them hold utensils, as well. Grabease utensils are the best for little hands with a tiny handle that’s molded for them and choke guard so they can’t stick it that far in their mouth. However these may be best for the under 1 year old.
As they get a little older (toddler stage), I love OXO Tot utensils. The handle is a good size and the sturdy, metal prongs are necessary to be able to pick up food. A lot of utensils have plastic prongs which are impossible to actually spear any food.
Introduce new foods
If your baby is still stuck on eating bland purees, now is a good time to really start introducing more of a variety of foods. They can eat mostly all table food at this point as long as it’s in small, chewable pieces. Also, honey can now be added to foods once they turn 1.
Exposing them to a greater assortment of flavors and textures while they’re young should make for a less picky eater down the road. Start with foods that can be easily mashed in their mouth and if they’re resistant to certain texture or flavors, keep trying new things until you find something they like.
Read my whole post for more details on Getting Your Baby to Eat New Textures.
Transition to Sippy cup
Pediatricians recommend that your baby stop drinking from a bottle by the time they turn 1. So before their 1st birthday, it’s best to start transitioning to a sippy cup.
Straw cups are best for oral motor development and the Munchkin Weighted Straw Cups were my favorite. Both of my babies figured out how to use the straw immediately when introduced to it at 6 months of age.
If you haven’t tried yet, slowly decrease liquid bottle feedings and replace them with sippy or straw cups. Read my whole post about The Best Ways to Transition Your Baby to A Sippy Cup for more detailed help.
Read To and Teach Your Child
You will be surprised how intelligent your baby is getting. They are picking up new words and having a full understanding for directions and things you say to them.
Although you may think they are too young to learn and understand, you’re wrong! Did you know the human brain grows the fastest from infancy to early childhood? They are more capable of learning now, even more than middle school when they are taught multiplication facts and world history!
Children are born ready to learn. Parents and caregivers the ones to provide those teachable moments to them. These toddler years are the most significant years to make a positive impact in your child’s future for learning and development.
Therefore, take the time to sit and read to them, play with their blocks, and dress their baby dolls. Get on the floor and color with them, make animal sounds, and tickle them. Use this time to mold their little minds in the best way possible.
Take a look at my most popular post: 14 Things You Should Teach Your 1 Year Old
Switch to Whole Milk
At 1 year of age, your baby no longer needs formula or breastmilk as his primary nutrition source. On their 1st birthday is when you can switch them to drinking whole milk on a daily basis along with 3 full meals of solid foods.
Regular cows milk is not easily digestible by babies under 1. It also doesn’t contain the proper amount of nutrients and fats needed to sustain healthy nutrition for an infant.
If your baby has a difficult time making the switch, start mixing formula or breastmilk with a little bit of milk to start. They will eventually get used to the taste difference.
Related Post: How to Teach Colors to Your Toddler
Wean Them Off The Pacifier
If your baby has been dependent on the pacifier since they were a newborn, now may be a good time to take it away. The use of a pacifier is an easier habit to break than thumb sucking, so consider breaking it sooner than later.
Newborns have a sucking reflex that needs to be satisfied by sucking on a constant basis. Therefore, pacifiers are really only needed during infancy.
As they grow older, they don’t need to satisfy a sucking reflex, but they have just become dependent on it. Since your child should be able to wean off of it at this age, it may be a good time to start.
The longer you wait to take it away, the harder it will be. When they can really throw tantrums and vocalize how upset they are, you may find that it will be even more tough then!
As the toddler years start, you’ll really notice your child testing their limits. They’re learning about boundaries, right and wrong, and yes and no. However, they will need plenty of guidance in order to understand these concepts.
You don’t want to be too harsh on your baby because this is how they learn. Just start correcting their bad behaviors and reinforcing good ones.
I also don’t recommend that you provide them with too many limitations as they’re still just learning the rules of the world. Experiencing things on their own will help them to understand what should and should not be done.
Babies and toddlers really take a hands-on approach to learning about their surroundings. They’ll lose interest in being held and fed want to do everything on their own.
It can be hard to let go of your sense of control over their life while simultaneously letting go of that baby stage. However, your child will be insistent on being independent.
Giving them that ability to explore their environment and problem solve situations will teach them a lot of skills that they wouldn’t otherwise learn if everything is being done for them.
So let them grab the toothbrush and pretend to brush, use the washcloth during the bath, open the door to their bedroom, and turn the light switch off before bed. Watch their excitement when they accomplish so many new skills!
Sleep in their own room
If your child is still sleeping in your room or your bed, it’s probably time to start transitioning them to their own space. Just letting them sleep in your bed 1 night turns into 2, then 3 nights, and into every night.
Every family has their own ways of raising their children and if co-sleeping with your toddler is something that’s important to you, keep going for it. However, if you’ve been dying to get your baby out of your bed, now is the time to do it.
There may be some tears shed and a few days of tough love, but you will get there. Here are some tips for How I Sleep Trained Both of My Babies which will hopefully give you some advice.
Related Post: Establishing Healthy Sleep Habits for Your Baby
Sleep Through the Night
If your baby is not yet sleeping through the night, that is something they should be doing by the time they are 1. Get on a consistent routine with them and work to regulate their daily schedule. You’ll be happy you did!
Related Post: Sleep Training Methods That Worked For Both of My Babies
Most of all, have fun with your new toddler! This is such a fun age of exploring, learning, laughter, and play.
Now is the time that you will really get to start playing together. They will understand what you’re telling them and even talk back. It’s amazing to see the transformation as they age, especially into 1 year olds.
You will see them blossoming before your eyes, so savor all those giggles and snuggles and moments of pure joy. It goes by way too fast!
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