Your toddler's development

Your toddler’s constantly learning: moving in new ways, controlling hands and fingers and finding out about other people. He or she is growing quickly and getting more and more independent. Here are some tips on how to help your tot learn, practice and develop their first movement skills. You might also like to check out our section called Playing for play time advice.

Information for children aged 12 to 24 months

Information for children aged 25 to 36 months

Getting moving: 12 to 24 months

Your toddler’s learning to move in new ways, so they can...

  • get around on their own – crawling, shuffling and then walking
  • walk backwards
  • pull a toy around
  • carry a big toy when walking
  • bend down to pick something up and stand up again without holding on – though it’s a bit wobbly sometimes
  • start to run
  • stand on tiptoe
  • kick a ball
  • walk up and down stairs.

You can help by...

  • Understanding that the world is an exciting place when you are growing up — your tot can't wait to find out more about it.
  • Making sure surroundings are safe and that you keep an eye out for your tot as he or she won't yet have a sense of danger.
  • Realising that going to the shops is a real adventure — your tot may want to climb up steps or stop to climb on a wall. You will need to have patience and share in the excitement.
  • Helping your tot develop physical skills — for example, by standing a short distance away and letting him or her walk to you or by helping him or her come down the stairs safely.
  • Giving your tot toys and other things from around the house that allows him or her to practise new skills.

Hands and fingers: 12 to 24 months

Your toddler’s learning to control hands and fingers, so they might…

  • pick up tiny things like crumbs between fingers and thumbs
  • grasp toys (but find it hard to let go)
  • try to put blocks on top of each other
  • scribble with a crayon or a marker.

You can help by…

  • Providing lots of healthy finger foods, so your tot can feed him or herself.
  • Giving your little one a spoon to hold during meal times – even though it’ll probably result in a mess.
  • Taking your time when you dress your tot, and letting him or her put both arms through the jersey’s sleeves!
  • Not growling your tot if he or she scribbles on the wallpaper. Calmly show your tot where to find pieces of paper in the future.
  • Providing blocks so your tot can try to build a tower (and playing alongside him or her)

Higher learning: 12 to 24 months

Your toddler’s figuring out basic concepts, so they might…

  • help you while you are trying to dress them in the morning
  • use one thing as something else – so a banana can become an impromptu phone
  • recognise themselves in a photo
  • start to like being around other people
  • want to be like you or a brother or sister
  • push, hit or bite in moments of frustration.

You can help by…

  • Giving your tot simple but real jobs to do.
  • Playing games of pretend, but not taking over.
  • Letting your tot be around you as you do things (and setting a good example to copy).
  • Showing your little one family photos and talking about each photo.
  • Letting your tot have friends around to play – but don’t expect them to understand the concept of sharing. You will need to provide two toy cars!
  • Understanding that if your little one lashes out it’s because they have strong feelings. Try showing your little one better ways to get what they’re after.

Your toddler’s development 25 to 36 months

Your toddler’s learning to move in even more ways, so they can…

  • climb on a chair to reach something high up
  • walk up and down stairs – putting a foot on each stair
  • kick a ball forward and throw it overhand
  • balance on one foot for a few seconds
  • sit on a small trike.

You can help by…

  • Making the home safe so that your tot can explore things.
  • Taking your tot outdoors (perhaps to the park) so that he or she can run, jump and climb.
  • Going swimming with your tot – and keeping a close watch while your tot’s in the water.
  • Holding your tot’s hand as he or she goes up and down the stairs.
  • Putting on some music and dancing to it with your tot.

Your toddler’s learning finer hand and finger movements, so they might…

  • turn the pages of a book one at a time
  • build a tower of more than six blocks
  • hold a pencil and draw straight lines (as well as scribbling in circles)
  • screw and unscrew lids
  • sort objects by shape and colour

You can help by…

  • Reading to your tot as much as possible.
  • Providing blocks to play with and paper to draw on.
  • Letting your tot use a spoon and fork if he or she wants to.
  • Getting your tot to help you with food preparation – washing fruit, snapping green beans or pouring milk over cereal.
  • Using jars and bottles with safety caps if there’s anything dangerous in them.

Your toddler’s grasping more complex ideas, so they might…

  • play pretend games
  • copy adults and other kids
  • throw a tantrum in moments of frustration
  • want to play with other kids
  • begin to have strong likes and dislikes for toys, colours and playmates.

You can help by…

  • Playing pretend games with your tot.
  • Staying calm during the odd tantrum – and calmly explaining afterwards that there are better ways to act.
  • Being patient when your tot smears your favourite lipstick all over his or her face – it’s fun to copy your routines.
  • Letting your tot join in family meals, so that he or she can learn to enjoy eating with other people.
  • Arranging for your tot’s playmates to come over to your house, so that your little one can learn about taking turns and sharing.

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Last updated: 22 August 2013