16 super facts about your baby and toddler

Our child psychologist reveals what your child may be thinking

At first, your toddler may be afraid of decision-making

1) Sometimes it feels like your tot’s afraid to make a decision. Studies show that fears do develop at this age due to a child’s active imagination and fluctuating confidence. If a decision is about something she’s not chosen before, it’s easy to see why it might be worrying. Fears tend to appear and vanish very quickly, so explain why each ‘decision’ option is positive, whatever she decides.


2) Evidence from psychological studies confirms a toddler can be influenced by the content of his TV viewing. And there’s no doubt watching aggressive programmes can increase a young viewer’s aggressiveness. Direct your youngster towards those made specifically for his age group.

3) A regular daily schedule provides young children with stability and security. But obsessively sticking to a routine can create the opposite emotional effect. Your toddler is developing and changing all the time, so you need to adapt routines and show flexibility as he grows, or he could become troubled and moody.

4) Travel sickness is rare in under 2s. After that, it’s quite common and is caused by different messages sent to his brain from the visual and balance system. For instance, if he looks inside the car, his eyes tell him he is not moving, yet his inner-ear balance tells him he is. It’s that conflict between the senses that makes him feel sick.

5) Most babies have a cuddly toy they like to have with them, loving its familiar feel and smell. Using a comforter doesn’t mean your baby is afraid or timid. In fact, there’s no link with emotional instability later in life. If anything, studies have shown babies who have a comforter are often more confident starting school.

6) A psychological study has looked at the effect on a toddler’s development when he’s frequently praised by his parents for trying to be independent. The research found that a year after a toddler is regularly praised by his mum and dad for trying to do things for himself, he is more likely to be curious, adventurous and willing to tackle new challenges.

7) A toddler plays up when eating out because she’s learned this is a great way to get attention from her parents. Once she realises mum and dad don’t want her to be disruptive and that they’ll make an extra-special effort to keep her quiet and amused, she might start to play up specifically for that purpose. That’s why a relaxed, low-key approach is more effective than confrontation when trying to settle a toddler in a restaurant.

8) Shyness is unpredictable in toddlers. Even an outgoing child can become withdrawn. Excitement, tiredness, disappointment and hunger can all have an effect. That’s why your tot might chat away about Grandma’s visit, but hide when she appears! Don’t pressurise him to be sociable, just give him time to come round.

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9) Your baby has more than one billion brain cells. From birth, they begin to form connections that enable her to learn, think and understand. Stimulation through sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell provides your baby with the experiences needed to build those brain connections.

10) Research has shown that when a boy hurts himself or others in an accident, he usually blames other people and doesn’t see the need to behave differently the next time. A girl is more likely to blame herself and behave sensibly the next time. So changing the adventurous behaviour of a boy is harder than it is in a girl.

11) Your baby’s eye movements are controlled by six eye muscles, which give him increasing control over his gaze. One study found that 11-month-old infants could follow an adult’s line of vision to discover what that person is staring at! Psychologists claim positive mutual gazing helps parents and babies connect.

12) Your little one is learning about independence, and bedtime is one area when he can really test the boundaries with you, especially if he’s been allowed to share your bed up until now. Try and find a balance so he still feels like a decision maker – offer him a choice of pyjamas or bedtime story. That way it won’t seem like you’re suddenly removing all the control from his world.

13) While active play is really important, bear in mind that too much activity isn’t good for your baby. You need to find a balance. If she’s over-stimulated, she may become irritable, tired, unsettled or unable to sleep. And that won’t help her brain at all. Over-stimulation can actually reduce your baby’s need to think for herself so factor in some quieter time, too.

14) A baby tends to smile and laugh more when she sees her father, and tends to gaze more when she sees her mum. It’s thought that she associates her dad more with fun and games because traditionally a father spends less time with his baby and therefore makes an extra effort to play with her when they’re together.

15) Imaginary friends vary from child to child, and often they appear less than once a day, or even disappear for weeks at a time. A toddler can have a range of moods when playing with her companion, and one in five tots play with their friend when they’re on their own. Research confirms, however, that a boy’s invisible pal is usually more competent and talented than the boy himself, whereas a girl’s fantasy friend is generally less competent.


16) Most scientists agree that a baby’s personality is a made up of a combination of characteristics she was born with (some inherited from parents) and how she is raised. Some mothers-to-be even report their baby shows signs of how she’ll be in the womb – for example, a baby who’s active in the womb is active in the first year of life.

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