From first shoes to sleeping in a big bed, experts and mums share their thoughts on when your toddler’s the right age.
What’s the right age to introduce your toddler to the next big milestone? Experts offer their advice, and mums share what age worked for them and their toddler.
Remember that all toddlers develop at different rates, so don’t panic if your child reaches a milestone earlier or later than others, or isn’t ready to try something new just yet. The most important thing is that your toddler’s making steady progress.
“Once you’ve put the cot base at its lowest position, keep an eye on how active your little one is. Just before you think she’s at the point where she could climb out, transfer her to a bed,” says Katrina Phillips, chief executive of the Child Accident Prevention Trust.
“When Isaac was 2 he climbed out of his cot, fell, cut his chin open and had to be taken to casualty,” say Dawn, 34, mum to Isaac, 3, “This was our signal to move him to a big bed!”
“Once they start to take their first steps, babies tend to toddle around and practise indoors for a few weeks before they become confident walkers, so bare feet are fine at this stage. It’s only when your baby’s walking outside that she needs proper shoes with a sole," says Mike O’Neil, Podiatrist, Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists.
“When Fin and Cayden started walking, I waited until they were confident on their feet before buying shoes and letting them walk outside, which was when they were around 1 year old. Cayden got his first pair just a couple of months ago and he absolutely loves them!” says Nikki, 32, mum to Finlay, 3, and Cayden, 14 months
“Move her as soon as possible," advises Dr Miriam Stoppard, parenting expert and author. "That’s as long as she’s not crying or breastfeeding throughout the night, in which case it’s less disruptive to have her close to your bed. She’ll soon learn to self-quieten and sleep happily in her own room."
“We wanted Lauren in our room for the first six months, but she was such a noisy sleeper she kept me awake. After just one week we moved her into the nursery. I felt guilty, but I knew that getting a decent night’s rest made it easier to cope, so it made sense,” says Rachael, 29, mum to Lauren, 14 months.
“Encouraging your baby to start drinking from a special cup with a spout from an early age can help prevent dental problems caused by drinking from a bottle. Start to introduce a cup by the time she’s about 6 months, with the aim of stopping the bottle completely by 12 months,” says Dr Susie Sanderson, British Dental Association.
“I knew Jacob was ready for a beaker when he began wanting to hold his own bottle at about 8 months. I bought several types of beaker and found a couple that he likes,” says Catherine, 24, mum to Jacob, 18 months.
“It depends on the individual attention span of your child. For under-3s, the attraction of aisles to run in, stray popcorn on the floor to try to eat and loos she’s never been to before are likely to be so strong you’ll spend little time watching the screen,” says Gill Devereaux, Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association.
“I agonised over when I could take Toby to the cinema. I worried about him being frightened, or the sound damaging his ears. He was over 1 when we went to see his first film and he loved it. But I took Rosie when she was just a few months old – I even took her to special screenings for mums and babies and was able to see something other than a children’s film for a change,” says Katherine, 36, and Jason, 37, parents to Toby, 4, and Rosie, 1.
“Children develop at different rates, but most toddlers will be able to walk independently by 18 months and will be extremely active and able to run by 2 years. This should be encouraged and it’s important to promote an active and healthy lifestyle as early as possible, particularly in view of the growing problem of childhood obesity. One of the ways of doing this is to make walking fun and rewarding for toddlers, and to get them out of the buggy and walking for at least part of the journey,” says Dr Richa Ajitsaria, paediatrician at Great Ormond Street Hospital, London.
“When Hannah first started cruising around the furniture at 14 months, I assumed she’d soon be happily going on country walks with me. Obviously, this was unrealistic and even at 2, doing a quick shopping trip without a buggy was a mistake. I found that by the age of 4, the kids were happy to walk without being carried, as long as they had packets of raisins and an incentive at the end, such as an ice-cream,” says Debbie, 37, mum to Hannah, 6, Oliver, 4, and Lydia, 2.
“It’s never too early to take your baby to the dentist, to get her used to the sights and sounds. We recommend women visit the dentist while pregnant and then bring their new baby with them when they go for their routine follow-up appointment. Your baby might not even have teeth, but it’s a good time for the dentist to advise about teething and looking after first teeth,” says Dr Susie Sanderson, the British Dental Association.
“I wanted Fay to be happy at the dentist, as I never was, so I chose one that has toys and a fish tank. I first took her six months ago and she loved riding in the chair and ‘opening wide’ for a check-up,” says Simone, 28, mum to Fay, 2.
“It depends on the nature of each child. One way to find out if it’s a good time is to leave your 18 month old with her nappy off for a while and watch her reaction when she wees. If she’s shocked and distressed, then she’s not ready. If she’s showing more awareness, looks at you and isn’t taken aback when a wee comes, it’s worth gently introducing the idea of a potty. By 3 years, if your child’s not getting the hang of potty training and not dry during the day at all, talk to your health visitor who’ll be able to suggest a different approach,” says Gill Devereaux, Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association.
“All three of my kids have been clear in giving the message they were ready for potty training. It’s tended to be around 2, and one of the first signs was them telling me they wanted to do a poo or a wee,” says Coretta, 38, mum to Yasmin, 8, Isaac, 6, and Joseph, 2.
“Exposing babies to water early should be encouraged, as it reduces the chance of developing a fear. But you may want to wait until your baby’s completed her standard course of first injections around 4 to 6 months,” says Peter Cornall, head of leisure safety, Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.
“When Hannah was 16 weeks, she started baby swimming lessons. John, my husband, swam with her first and it was wonderful. It’s given her so much confidence,” says Clare, 29, mum to Hannah, 15 months.
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