Fabulous Firsts

From making a friend to drawing a picture, amazing things happen when babies turn into toddlers.

Now that your child is leaving the cozy confines of infancy, his dexterity, mobility, and vocabulary will start increasing every day. And he'll encounter new challenges that will be thrilling for him—and for you. So put on your playclothes and get ready for some great leaps forward. Here are a few of the big adventures awaiting your little one this year.

First Show and Tell

What'll happen: Sometime between the ages of 10 and 18 months, your child will start bringing you all sorts of objects to look at.

Why it's fab: This new way of connecting with you is a major social stepping-stone. "Your child is saying, 'I find this interesting, and I think you'll find it interesting too,'" says Stuart Teplin, M.D., a pediatrician in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. This sudden desire to share his interests adds new texture to relationships and facilitates more sophisticated play.

Take it further: Give your child time and space to explore, and try to see things from his point of view. If he picks up a mud-covered leaf at the playground, say, "Ooh, it fell off the tree!" instead of "Yuck, put that dirty thing down!"

First Friend

What'll happen: Early in her second year, your toddler may begin to seek out a particular child or play more contently around other kids (though she'll still be mostly self-absorbed).

Why it's fab: Friends can provide toddlers some of the security they need to face down a fear of strangers and try out a little more separation from Mom and Dad. And early exposure to peers might give children a head start in developing social skills.

Take it further: Now is a great time to set up a first playdate. Just keep the visit short and don't count on uninterrupted grown-up chat. Early friendships need lots of supervision, not just for safety's sake but to keep the experience positive.

First Attempts to Help Out at Home

What'll happen: Around his first birthday, your child will probably try to comb his hair or talk on a pretend telephone. As his balance improves and his imagination kicks in, this imitation will progress to what can loosely be termed "helping." He'll want to feed the dog, stir the dough, or water the flowers.

Why it's fab: "Learning by seeing and doing is a big part of growing up," Dr. Teplin says. At times, toddlers may be frustrated by their limitations, but helping out brings them feelings of pleasure and power.

Take it further: Give yourself extra time to complete tasks so that your toddler can help without getting in the way, suggests Lorna Cheifetz, Psy.D., a psychologist in Phoenix. Get toy versions of household tools, such as a broom and dustpan. And look for simple jobs for your tot. Amy Bateman, of Concord, New Hampshire, gives 18-month-old Emma a sponge and lets her wipe her own table—the perfect task for an eager assistant.

First Artwork

What'll happen: Make space on the fridge door—your child will soon be presenting you with her scribbles. Within a few months of turning 1, she'll learn to draw a line by watching your hand and imitating the movement.

Why it's fab: "The more toddlers play with different materials, the more they get a sense of how things work," Dr. Cheifetz says. "Everything is like a science experiment to them." And even at this age, art helps a child express herself. Sarah Koenig, of Chicago, recently watched her 21-month-old, Ava, scribble intently, then name the masterpiece Cat. "It was thrilling, like I'd just seen a lightbulb turn on in her brain," Koenig recalls.

Take it further: Draw familiar objects for your child. Get creative with art supplies: Let him scribble on his high-chair tray with chocolate pudding or try tub paints at bathtime (but always supervise your little Picasso closely).

First Act of Kindness

What'll happen: Your child still thinks he's king of the world, but sometime during his second year he'll probably start showing hints of compassion. He'll pat a crying friend's shoulder, for instance, or share a piece of cookie. Empathy has more to do with personality than age, though; not all toddlers will display it.

Why it's fab: When your child first shows kindness, he may just be imitating the loving gestures he sees you display, or he may be genuinely disturbed by others' sadness.

Take it further: Model kindness, and don't despair if he isn't a natural nurturer: Empathy can be learned. Also, remember that kids express compassion in different ways. Melissa Steward, of Bristol, Tennessee, can barely get 20-month-old Andrew to hold still for a kiss. But if the family dog gets a scolding, Andrew always pats and hugs him, his mom says.

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