What should my TODDLER be learning?
Ever wonder what it is your Toddler should actually be learning? Are you wondering what you can do to help develop these important developmental milestones? Along with the many arts & crafts, I share for Toddlers on our Instagram page, I also share lots of activity and play ideas to foster and develop the important skills your Toddler will be learning at 12 – 36 months old.
Often children don’t even realize they’re learning when engaged in play, but really there are so many hidden learning opportunities in simple activities, self-directed play & socialization. As your Toddler gets older, it is likely they can detect when an activity is for a specific purpose. Thankfully, there are so many ways to hide the learning, especially if you’re working on a particular skill. The trick is making learning fun & focusing on following and discovering new interests.
Today I am covering some of the basic Toddler Milestones in Fine Motor Skills, Gross Motor Skills, Self-Help Skills, Social-Emotional, as well as Language & Communication. These fundamental milestones will give you an outline of what to look out for and help your child develop over their Toddler years.
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Fine Motor Skills
Fine Motor is the use of the small muscles in your hands and fingers. Learning & practicing these skills at a young age play an important part, as they will enable your child to become more independent when manipulating objects as well as helping with later skills such as scissor use & learning to write.
Fine Motor Milestones (Toddler 1 – 2 years)
Point with pointer finger
Scribble with a crayon
Picks up small objects using a pincer grasp (thumb & pointer finger)
Stacks 2 – 3 blocks
Holds crayons & pencils with full fist
Holds and drinks from cup independently
Fine Motor Milestones (Toddler 2 – 3 years)
Thread large beads onto string
Begins to cut with scissors
Draw straight lines & circles
Begins to draw detailed pictures
Begins holding crayons with thumb & fingers
Self-feeds using utensils
Put on some item of clothing with help
Stacks several blocks
Paints with wrist action
Uses one particular hand consistently in most activities
Activities that involve scooping & transferring are perfect for Toddlers. I love these activities because they are quick & easy to set up, and you don’t need any special equipment. These activities can be as simple as taking some small bowls, pouring jugs, spoons, etc & combining them with either water or dry ingredients from the pantry, such as rice, pasta, beans, split peas etc.
I recommend setting these activities up on an activity tray set on the floor with a large white sheet. From the time I introduce these activities I gradually but firmly established a rule of “it stays in the tray or it goes away”. With constant encouragement & reminders, this rule is often well instilled by 18 months old.
The white sheet collects any of the supplies that may have come out of the tray. I recommend using a white sheet, so the rice/pasta/beans/peas etc can be easily seen by your Toddler when it’s time to pack away. I always encouraged the children to help me pack away the materials when they’re finished playing.
Activity Tray I highly recommend these Activity Trays – we use ours for EVERYTHING!
You may recognize these fun tools that we use often! Perfect for developing those Fine Motor Skills.
Handy Scoopers – Practicing scissor skills without the worry about blades.
Gross Motor Skills
Gross Motor is the movement & coordination of large muscles in your arms, legs & bodies, such as running, walking, jumping, etc. Other Gross Motor Skills include Hand/Foot Eye Coordination through ball play – throwing, kicking, catching.
Gross Motor Milestones (Toddler 1 – 2 years)
Throw a ball
Uses ride on toys
Kick a ball forward
Paints with whole arm movements
Squat down to play
Carry objects whilst walking
Gross Motor Milestones (Toddler 2 – 3 years)
Stand on tiptoe with support
Stand on one foot, momentarily
Walk on tiptoe
Jump with both feet together
Climb up and down ladders
Start riding a tricycle using pedals
Catch a ball with arms bent
You can provide opportunities to help your Toddler practice and develop these milestones by spending time outdoors exploring and playing at a playground, attending playgroups/Toddler gym classes or simply being active outdoors. You can also incorporate practicing some of these skills into your daily routine. Toddlers love mimicking adults moves – making a game of practicing these skills is a great way to encourage your Toddler to reach these milestones. A game could be as simple as two-feet jumping over a strip of masking tape on the floor or walking on tiptoes together to a specific location.
Self Help Skills include; Self Feeding, Dressing & Grooming, Personal Hygiene & Toileting, Chores & Packing away toys. You can help develop these skills by having a routine in place. With your routine, set easy to follow instructions, offer (limited) choices, be a good role model and remember to praise and offer support!
Self Help Milestones (Toddler 1 – 2 years)
Feed self a snack (finger food)
Explore/Imitate teeth brushing
Explore how to put on/take off shoes
Begin to use utensils
Explore drinking from a cup
Clean face and hands with a damp cloth (with help)
Wipe up spills (with help)
Help pack away toys
Put dirty clothes into basket
Play alone for 10 – 30 mins
Explore how to dress self (with help)
Self Help Milestones (Toddler 2 – 3 years)
Play alone for 15 – 45 mins
Choose outfit (limit options)
Dress self (with help, especially buttons & zippers)
Pour themself a cup of water from a small jug
Help set the table for a meal
Wipe up spills
Help make own bed
Pack away toys
Explore taking shower alone (supervised)
Possibly starting toilet training
Social-Emotional skills take many years to develop. At 1 – 3 years, your Toddler is still learning to build relationships and interact with other people. They’re beginning to understand their emotions and learning to communicate with others.
Social-Emotional Milestones (Toddler 1 – 3 years)
Recognize self in mirror
Smile & make faces at self in mirror
Share a piece of food
React to changes in daily routines
Begins to engage in more parallel play (plays next to rather than with)
Understands and responds to words & commands
Starts showing an awareness of their own, & others feelings
Some ways to support your Toddler Socially & Emotionally include;
Acknowledging, describing & labeling emotions
Providing security through consistency
Encouraging your Toddler to explore and try new things
Discussing daily happenings
Allow opportunities to make choices
Demonstrate & role model empathy and social skills in yourself
Providing opportunity for social interaction with other children and adults– parks, play dates, playgroups, etc
Language & Communication
Toddlers understand much more than they can say; once they can understand you, they will be better able to communicate with you. First words are often labels – people, objects, animals, etc.
Language and Communication Milestones (Toddler 1 – 2 years)
Recognizes their name
Follows and understands simple instructions
Points to show you something
Points to some body parts when asked
Learns new words frequently
10 – 30-word vocabulary
Imitates animal sounds
Combines two words together
Puts together 1 – 2-word questions
Attempts to communicate by babbling
Begins to show a sense of humour
Language and Communication Milestones (Toddler 2 – 3 years)
Has a word for almost everything
Puts 3 – 4 words together when communication or asking for something
Talks to other children and adults
Starts to understand differences in meaning (go/stop, in/on, big/little, up/down)
Speech is understood by familiar listeners
Understands time concepts
Answers simple questions
May stutter on words
200 – 400 word vocabulary
Uses short sentences
Some ways to support your Toddlers Language & Communication include;
Talk while doing things and going places
Expand on words, adding adjectives; “Big, yellow truck!”
Introduce new vocabulary by reading books
Practice counting; counting fingers and toes, counting steps, etc.
Ask your child questions that require a choice (Would you like to wear your pink dress or your blue dress?)
Investment Toys for Toddlers
Magnatiles are a must-have investment piece for your Toddler. These magnetic tiles will grow with your child/ren. Miss14months isn’t quite sure what to do with them, however, they’re a favourite with Miss2, Miss3 & Mr4. Even Mr6, Mr10 & Mr12 love creating all sorts of buildings, robots, vehicles, life forms, etc with the Magnatiles. I must admit – even I find myself lost in the world of Imaginative Play when the Magnatiles are out.
Another investment piece we love that will grow with your Toddler is TEGU Blocks. Tegu Blocks have magnetic sides. The creative possibilities are endless. I have found these to be a great Collaborative Play resource for my 2 & 4-year-olds. While Mr4 is fairly tolerant of Miss2, there are often times of frustration, when Miss2 tries to play & ends up knocking over Mr4’s impressive block space shuttle! Tegu solves that issue with these magnetic blocks – Miss2 can heavy-handedly play & collaborate with Mr4, teaching them problem-solving skills by working together.
Play Food is another resource that will grow with your Toddler as they become increasingly interested in Imaginative Play & their attention span begins to increase. Investing in quality Play Food will mean it will last beyond their Preschool years. These Healthy Play Food options are great for instilling healthy eating habits in your Toddlers too. I introduced Play Food to Miss(now)2 when she was around 17-18 months old. She especially loves using the knives to cut in between the velcro pieces.
Be sure to follow us on our Instagram page to find arts, crafts & activity ideas to foster & develop these milestones.