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He May Be Big, But He's Still a Baby

Tall toddlers often get treated like they're older than they are

by Daycare Disher  |  2137 views  |  5 comments  |        Rate this now! 

Have you ever mistaken a 2-year old child for a 4-year old?

I have several friends with children who have always been off the charts in the height department (usually boys). I remember one of my friend’s frustrations over the fact that “people expect too much from him. They don’t realize he’s 2." For example, if he was crying a in a supermarket, she would receive disdainful looks from fellow shoppers; it seemed as if they assumed that he was too old to be acting like a baby, when in fact he was a baby. Worse, they were critical of her for “allowing” him to behave like that. Even family members and close friends sometimes expected him to behave the age he looked instead of the age he was. This tended to result in them having less patience with his many questions, more frequent crying, difficulty doing things for himself, etc. They were also less careful about about giving him inappropriate toys and certain foods.

Such problems are particularly difficult if a toddler is very articulate. I know another child who is 2-years old and taller than my 4-year old. He is extremely bright and well-spoken. As a result, he fits in very well with older children, even though many children his age are still engaging in predominantly parallel play (playing side by side rather than with other children). I know that I sometimes have to remind myself that he’s only 2, but I’ve noticed that the older children assume he is older as well. They don’t understand why he enjoys imitating them, why he does not totally understand the concept of sharing (not that they have mastered it either), or why he still wears diapers. They repeatedly argue about who is “bigger” because, to the older children, “older” and “bigger” are the same thing. Meanwhile, my little guy just wants to be told he’s a big kid.

To the judgmental shoppers out there I say this: The next time you see any child throwing a giant fit in a store, mind your own business. Maybe that child is not the age he or she appears to be. And, regardless of their age, if you are a parent, please remember the times that you were in the same situation. If you don’t have children or are some poorly evolved father who has never taken his child shopping, most definitely save the attitude until you have walked three feet in that mother’s shoes. She is probably embarrassed and does not need to compound her troubles by seeing you shaking your head and rolling your eyes. Be kind.

And if you know a few tall toddlers, please remind yourself that they are new here!

About the Author

I am a family daycare provider and regularly update my blog at My goal is to provide tips that will help parents to make informed decisions when choosing a daycare for their children. I also hope to provide valueable information to daycare providers.

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5 comments so far...

  • This is a great point that I've never seen someone observe in writing before. I have known a couple of people whose kids were in this category, and the parents found it extremely frustrating!!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Diane on 21st February 2008

  • I have the same "problem" as Nataly. My oldest is often mistaken as older. Even I have to remind myself at times of how little she is (she's 3, still a baby). She used to be a lot taller than she is now (though she has outgrown her size 4 underwear, YIKES) so I'm hoping it will even out.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Mandy Nelson - Dandysound on 20th February 2008

  • So glad you wrote this. My daughter is really tall and is also very articulate and talkative. She is constantly being mistaken for a 5 yr old and while mostly it's funny, sometimes it's annoying and awkward. Like when she was with some older kids on the playground and I had to help her climb a structure. One of the moms said, wow, she still can't do that?

    Ok then.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Nataly on 19th February 2008

  • My step-daughter is 8 and in 2nd grade. She has always been tall for her age. She's the tallest girl in her class.

    Anyways, she spent the weekend with her mom and also ended up seeing her step-sister's half-sisters. Anyways, one of the girls is older than my sd, but is shorter than her step-sister whose 5. My response: "Height doesn't equal age. Eventually those other people will hit their growth spurt and might end up taller than you!"

    I know that when my step-daughter was 5, (that's when I met her) she definitely looked like she should be 6 or 7 but she couldn't read and she wasn't in kindergarten. So everyone thought she was slow, but really she was just younger than she looked.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Jenni on 19th February 2008

  • I had a friend whose two girls were *extremely* petite. People were constantly assuming them to be younger than they were. My friend (smart woman) realized that this worked in her girls' favour: "People are so amazed that they speak so well! They're so well-behaved! Aren't they just so SMART?!!?"

    Of course, they weren't. Well, yes they were cute and well-behaved and articulate, but not exceptionally so! They were simply 4 and 6, not 2 and 4, as people thought.

    "Can you imagine how much worse it would be," said my friend, "if they were two but looked four??"

    Which is precisely your friends' problem, and they have my sincere sympathy! The only encouragement I can offer is that, as they get older, the size differential will make less and less difference, year by year.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by MaryP on 19th February 2008