We've all heard the expression, “The days are long, but the years are short." That phrase definitely rings true in year one. While some days probably felt like an endless blur of diaper changes and feedings, in a flash your little newborn has grown into a busy and curious toddler. (Well done, mom!)

Dr. Tovah Klein, head of the Barnard College Center for Toddler Development and author of How Toddlers Thrive explains that although it's exciting for tots at this age to explore more independently as they learn about how things work, they still need you more than ever. Knowing you're nearby and always there helps them grow up to feel good about themselves and loved. Here are simple ways to provide that reassurance:

  • Continue the routines you've started: Bedtime, bathtime, and mealtime routines are important to help your baby feel comfortable and know what to expect each day.
  • Try to be extra patient: This can be hard sometimes. Babies this age can be very trying… one minute they're clinging to you and the next they're acting like they don't need you. Your baby always needs you, but sometimes just wants to know you are there but not be with you.
  • Help make separations easier: Always tell your little one if you're leaving (even if it's for a short time) and that you'll be back. Explain who is staying with her. This helps her learn to handle her feelings. It's okay if she feels sad, as long as she knows that you'll be back and that you care about how she feels. If you sneak out without saying good-bye, your child worries that you can leave at anytime.

With the big first birthday right around the corner, try these weekly activities from child development psychologist Dr. Holly Ruhl.

Week 1

Letting your almost-toddler make autonomous choices is an easy way to build self-esteem, relinquish some control, and sidestep conflicts. Involve baby in mealtime decisions by offering a few healthy choices at the grocery store and letting baby choose which foods to bring home. Early practice at making healthy choices may foster healthier eating later in life.

Week 2

Exposing your youngster to animals can ward off allergies and lay the foundations for empathy. Stop by a local pet store or animal shelter and introduce baby to a few furry friends. Labeling the animals will build baby's budding vocabulary and teaching gentleness will foster baby's respect for creatures great and small.

Week 3

Teaching colors is much more complex than the old ROYGBIV adage. Color categories are not universal, making them difficult to learn for many tots. Start teaching colors effectively by labeling objects before noting their color. Instead of “the blue car," try “the car is blue". Such a simple change in labeling can significantly improve learning in this domain!

Week 4

Congrats! You made it through an exhausting, but exhilarating, first year with baby! Celebrate your toddler's birthday (and your hard work) with a short and simple soirée! Invite baby's closest friends and family to a park or favorite hangout. Time festivities around baby's nap and leave expectations at the door. Baby may not even touch the cake, let alone smash it.

1st Birthday Present: Mega Bloks First Builders

This 80-piece set of sturdy blocks are easy to hold, stack, and take apart. Perfect for little hands, it's the gift that keeps on giving through the toddler years. The sturdy storage bag makes for easy cleanup and toting to grandma's house.