What's in: Letting 'em dig in
Ready, or not? When she can hold a crayon and exert enough pressure to mark paper, your toddler's fine motor skills are developed enough for her to try using silverware. And while choking is still a hazard, your child will be better at chewing by around 2.
Here we go! It's always smart to cut large, hard, or stringy foods first, but let your child use her hands whenever possible. Over time, encourage her to spoon up her own cereal and cut soft food, like pancakes, with a lightweight plastic knife while you supervise.
Don't be surprised if your child relishes her food more -- and tries new things -- when she can eat all by herself, with her hands. Of course, watch that she doesn't bite off more than she can chew -- literally. And consider taking CPR/choking safety classes, to be safe.
What's out: Monitoring potty habits
What's in: A little bathroom privacy
Ready, or not? It depends on your family's general level of modesty and your child's maturity and personality, but she may ask you to leave the bathroom at around age 4.
Here we go! "You're dealing with the most personal parts of your child's body, so it's respectful to follow your child's lead," says Jan Faull, author of Mommy! I Have to Go Potty! Leave the door ajar at first, and tell your child to call you when she's done (until kindergarten, help her wipe up -- or check her work). If she eventually wants to close the door, that's fine -- but have her leave it unlocked for safety.
Teri Cettina, a mom of two, moved her older daughter to a bed after she climbed out of her crib -- and broke her collarbone.
Sippy cups and napsWhat's out: Sippy cups
What's in: Look, Mom, no lid!
Ready, or not? Your child may be able to use a cup as early as 9 months. Signs he can try: He watches you intently when you use a glass, is able to keep food mostly in his mouth when he chews, and makes "raspberries."
Some experts say drinking from a cup early on may help kids develop the oral skills they need for speaking. Plus, using lidless cups means they'll mainly drink during meals and snacks; that's healthier than all-day sipping.
Here we go! Start by giving him a couple of tablespoons of water in a plastic cup. Help him learn to put it to his mouth and tip it, and praise him when he gets in even a few drops. Very gradually, increase the amount, and move on to other beverages.
If you need a lidded cup for outings, use small cups with pop-up straws. They require more sophisticated mouth movements than sippy cups.
What's out: Naptime (sorry!)
What's in: Quiet downtime
Ready, or not? Sometime between 3 and 5, your child will be getting enough sleep at night to make any napping during the day unnecessary. How much sleep is enough? About 11 solid hours per night, as long as he also seems well rested during the day. Most kids will be psyched to give up the nap -- they hate to think they're missing anything.
Here we go! After several hourlong power struggles, Heather Mansberger of Portland, Oregon, finally accepted that 2½-year-old Katelynn was no longer a napper. "We decided she didn't have to sleep, but she had to play quietly in her room alone." Katelynn, now 5, still enjoys a quiet period each day. "We both get a break and some much-needed downtime before launching into the dinner, bath, and bed routine," Mansberger says.
High chairs and cribsWhat's out: High chair
What's in: Booster or big-kid chair
Ready, or not? At 18 months to 2 years, your toddler may squirm in her chair, impatient about being confined. Her size is also a factor. When her legs are too long to sit comfortably on the high chair's footrest or you have to squeeze her to fit into the chair, it's time to switch seats.
Here we go! Turn your child's high chair so it's facing the table (instead of you). If the high chair is low enough, take off the tray and push the chair right up to the table. In a week or so, switch to a booster seat, says Lynn Marotz, Ph.D., coauthor of Health, Safety, and Nutrition for the Young Child.
Concerned that you won't be able to keep her at the table? "Don't battle her on this," says Marotz. "Her attention span for meals is about fifteen minutes, and she needs much less food than when she was a baby. Respect that and let her leave the table when she says she's done."
What's out: Crib
What's in: Big-kid bed
Ready, or not? "Around age two, your child may throw his legs over the crib rails or actually climb out," says sleep coach Kim West, author of Good Night, Sleep Tight. Kids who climb over and slide down can break little arms or collarbones.
If your child seems content in his crib, though, keep him there until as close to age 3 as possible. Before that age, it's hard for him to understand bedtime rules.
Here we go! Heidi Miles of Gig Harbor, Washington, moved her son to a big-boy bed when he turned 2. "Brendan was tall for his age and very agile, so a tumble out of the crib was inevitable if I didn't make the move," she says.
After a few nights of sleeping with his new box spring and mattress on the floor (a smart way to ease the transition), Brendan didn't miss his crib. And Miles's motherly instincts were spot-on: "After dismantling the crib, I read the label and discovered Brendan was taller than what it recommended for safe sleeping!"