Development through Play: Toddlers
What to expect in your Toddler's Development
Now your little one has become much more mobile, they’ll want to explore the world around them – usually by running away from you! As their thinking skills develop, toddlers become more curious, while a growing imagination introduces creativity and pretend play.
12 to 18 Months
Between 12- 18 months, your toddler’s cognitive abilities will have advanced since babyhood; not only are they taking in sensory information, they are starting to think more about it too. For example, they will soon fully understand that just because they can’t see an object, it doesn’t mean it isn’t there – this is known as object permanence and can begin as early as four months. A fun game at this age is to play hide-and-seek with a soft toy, then help your child find it.
Don’t worry if your child prefers to play alone, as at this age, their social skills will not be advanced enough for them to handle sharing. Child-led play is good for confidence, so try and give your child easy access to toys that they can enjoy without your help.
Music and dancing is popular with this age group – following the movements is great for strengthening the arm and leg muscles that are still developing (known as gross motor skills), while repetitive songs help with language learning and listening skills.
They will be starting to improve their grip and hand movement (known as fine motor control), allowing your child to express themselves through art, scribbling with crayons or splatting with paintbrushes. This lets them explore different materials and colours, while supporting the fine motor control needed for writing later on.
Your child is likely to become increasingly fascinated by the world around them, and taking your child outdoors gives them the chance to observe people, animals and vehicles. Toys and books that reflect familiar experiences can be popular too, such as toy cars or farm animals.
18 -24 Months
At 18 - 24 months, children are beginning to know what they want, but…can’t….quite…communicate…it. This, as well as their inability to regulate their feelings, leads to frustration and frequent tantrums. They are likely to seek comfort through a familiar soft toy or cuddle blanket; this self-soothing is an important part of their emotional development.
This is an exciting time for speech development, as there is an explosion of language; first words will become clearer and your little one may start linking a few words together. The more you talk to your child, the more they will experience language – for example, singing and reading together, or describing things you see and do.
Gross motor skills are beginning to mature and can be encouraged with active play, such as using ride-on toys. These build confidence for learning to ride a bike later on, promote exercise, and are great fun too!
Your toddler’s fine motor control will continue to improve, so they will start being able to operate toys and books with buttons or flaps, build larger structures from blocks, and draw more detailed pictures. They will also start to think more about what they want to draw, and the colours and materials they want to use – in this way, your child can express themselves through creativity.
Their growing imagination means your child will also begin to show an interest in fantasy play. They can turn any object into a prop – for example, a plastic bowl can turn into a hat – but role play toys can encourage imaginative play too. Children love copying adults, and pretend versions of kitchens and phones allow them do this. As your child becomes interested in playing with others (at around two years-old), pretend play becomes very important for developing social and communication skills.
This post was written by Anna Taylor