Toddler & Preschool

Tod•dler \’täd-lər, ‘tä-dəl-ər\


Definition: one that toddles; especially: a young child. (Merriam-Webster Online)

Pre•school \’prē-,skül, (,)prē-‘\


Definition: of, relating to, or constituting the period in a child's life that ordinarily precedes attendance at elementary school. (Merriam-Webster Online)

19 months–5 years

Physical Development

  • By two years old, both boys and girls stand about 2 ft. 10 in. tall and weigh between 27 and 28 pounds. Growth rate and weight gain remain relatively constant. The child will gain approximately 5 pounds a year until the age of 5.
  • The child typically acquires large motor skills allowing him or her to stand and walk. During preschool children become more skilled at running, jumping and kicking, and will commonly be able to catch a ball, pedal a bike and hop on one foot.
  • Fine motor skills develop during this stage. The child can stack objects and will learn to scribble, use a spoon and cup and copy a circle. By the end of preschool the child will have the motor skills for better self care, including dressing and neatly feeding him or herself during a meal.

Cognitive Development

  • Toddlers notice others’ states and activities. They are able learn from others, perceive goals and reproduce strategies to achieve those goals. Toddlers may recognize that others may have different tastes or preferences that influence how goals are achieved.
  • Cognitive development in toddlers may suffer by being too parent-dependent. Intrusion from parents and teachers can discourage mastery of behavior, whereby toddlers propel their own personal growth.
  • Academic performance during the preschool years is often predictive of success throughout life.  Thus it is important that children struggling academically be helped as soon as possible. Programs that sustain and improve the quality of education for at-risk preschoolers are critical.
  • The ability to self-regulate, sequence, plan, and organize to achieve goals becomes expected. Deficits in these abilities can result in long-term deficits in social and emotional development.

Emotional, Cultural, and Social Development

  • The toddler who has learned that the people she depends on for comfort will help her when she is emotionally distressed is more likely to approach others with empathy and trust than the toddler whose worries and fears have been dismissed or belittled.
  • Toddlers self-regulate their emotions. Children talk to themselves to give encouragement, change goals when frustrated, and employ other strategies to avoid distressing situations.
  • Shyness is a trait that parents and caregivers may alter. Many preschoolers who are initially shy do not remain so. Unique patterns of brain activity in children who do not develop beyond their initial inhibitions suggest the presence of an underlying influence on social behavior.
  • Almost all children will learn to talk without explicit instruction. Children born into bilingual homes appear to learn each language as if it is their only tongue. A problem bilingual children encounter is retaining both languages when one language is used in the home and the other is used in the broader society, such as by teachers and peers.
  • While almost all children will learn to talk, not all children will read.  Writing requires more self-conscious teaching than spoken language, and not every child will reach a fluent reading level in his or her lifetime.

Next: School Age