A Year to Cheer

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Even at 1, many babies enjoy the company of other children. "When they see a friend, they may point at her or shriek with delight," says Dr. Meltzoff. They can begin to have playdates, too, but don't expect them to play together in the conventional sense. "Babies this age don't know how to share, so parents need to step in with extra toys and distractions should squabbling and grabbing start," says Dr. Meltzoff.

It's at this time that the seeds of empathy begin to grow. By 2, your toddler will play independently with a fellow toddler -- and comfort her if she gets hurt. You will be the beneficiary of the same compassion. Eighteen-month-old Cavan Crowley, of Winchester, Massachusetts, for example, is clearly the sensitive type. "If I make a sad face, Cavan gives me a hug," says his mom, Lee. "Sometimes I make those faces just to get that hug."

In addition to understanding that other people have emotions, babies this age become aware that those emotions and opinions may differ from their own. "In fact, a toddler knows that you and he may not see eye-to-eye on a number of issues and has no qualms about experimenting with just what happens when your opinions collide," says Dr. Meltzoff.

This can be an infuriating part of normal growth. "But it's more endearing when you look at it as curiosity," says Dr. Meltzoff. "The 'terrible twos' is really a cognitive exercise. It's a toddler's way of exploring cause and effect, with her parents as the guinea pigs."

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