Birth - Age 3 Behavior

What do I need to know about my child's development?

It is often difficult to support infants and toddlers due to language and communication barriers. Babies show their needs through non-verbal communication, what many of us think of as behaviors. This can be crying, whimpering, cooing, rubbing their eyes, sucking on their fists, etc.

As babies grow into toddlers, typically they will develop more language and abilities to verbalize their wants and needs. However, this transition from non-verbal to verbal communication can be difficult for both child and caregiver. Toddler vocabularies can be vulnerable to stress and big feelings. When this happens, many times toddlers will resort to biting, hitting, kicking, etc., to show you what they are feeling. This is common and, though frustrating, will decrease as the toddler learns more language.

WHAT BEHAVIORS SHOULD I EXPECT FROM MY INFANT?

Infants at this age...

  • typically begin to recognize faces, voices and smells by the third month of life.
  • have a higher awareness, understanding and appreciation of their bodies and how they function, including increased coordination.
  • learn to trust primary caregivers and rely on them for comfort.
  • are forming self-regulation, concentration and the ability to focus.
  • show a growing ability to tolerate and enjoy a moderate degree of change, surprises, uncertainty and potentially puzzling events.
  • have an increasing ability to identify their own emotional responses and those of others.
  • share a trusting relationship with nurturing and responsive caregivers.
  • may have emerging capacities for caring and cooperation.
  • show increasing awareness of what can harm them.
  • have increasing confidence that they can participate and take risks without fear of harm.
  • have an attachment to their primary caregivers and primary care group.

WHAT BEHAVIORS SHOULD I EXPECT FROM MY TODDLER?

Toddlers at this age:

  • show an increasing ability to play an active part in routine and day to day activities.
  • show an increasing capacity to successfully communicate their feelings, needs and wants.
  • have a comfort level in taking on different roles in their environment (ex. helping others, turning off the water, holding the door).
  • have an understanding of the routines, family customs and regular events of the day.
  • are increasing mastery of self-help skills to assist with daily personal routines.
  • have the ability to express disagreement with peers and caregivers in developmentally appropriate ways.
  • have an increased ability to focus on an activity or toy while other things are occurring in the environment.
  • have the ability to make decisions and chose their own materials.
  • have curiosity that leads to exploration in play (can be symbolic, pretend and/or dramatic).

Sources

Michigan Early Childhood Standards of Quality for Infant and Toddler Programs
Zero to Three, National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families