Pediatricians use development charts to keep track of your child's growth and acquisition of important skills. These charts monitor areas of development and are a valuable tool for determining whether your toddler is behind, ahead or right on track. It is important to keep in mind that toddlers develop at different paces and the charts are designed to give parents an average age of when certain skills should appear.
What They Measure
There are several parts of your child's development that charts are used to track. Cognitive development charts measure your toddler's progress in terms of thinking skills, problem-solving and ability to explore. Physical charts track your toddler's height, weight and head circumference and places them in a percentile that lets you know what their growth is compared to other children their age. These charts also measure your child's motor skills. Social and emotional development charts look at how well your toddler can express his feelings and pick up on those of others and how well he interacts with others. Language charts watch for vocabulary acquisition and language development.
How They Are Used
By the time your child is a toddler, you're probably well-versed in how a yearly checkup proceeds. The pediatrician probably asks you lots of questions about how your toddler is doing and what skills he's mastered. This lets your child's doctor watch for developmental problems that might need to be addressed. The growth charts are a bit more technical and involve mapping your child's size in relation to other toddlers. If your toddler falls in the 25th percentile, for example, about 75 percent of toddlers are bigger than he is. Some doctors give you a breakdown of the charts, but others will just let you know what they show.
Developmental Skills to Watch For
The toddler years are full of strides in development with many common skills picked up by all children. These skills indicate proper development. By the time toddlers are 2 years old, they'll speak about 50 words and will be able to point to items they want. They'll know what everyday objects, such a spoon or toothbrush, are used for, they'll know some of their body parts and will show the beginnings of pretend play. Toddlers will also be able to walk, run, eat with a spoon, help dress themselves and manipulate toys. You'll start to see temper tantrums and stranger anxiety, too.
When There's a Problem
If your toddler lags slightly in developmental milestones, you probably don't need to be concerned. However, if several areas are lagging behind and your toddler doesn't show signs of catching up, he might have a developmental delay. Make an appointment with your toddler's pediatrician if you notice that your child is slow to gain skills. A series of tests and a visit or two with a specialist might ease your mind or pick up on a problem. In many cases, early intervention solves the delay and your toddler will go on to match her peers.