Baby Photograph

Learning and Development:
Toddlers 12 to 24 Months

Photograph of ToddlerDuring this period a child's motor skills develop at a rapid rate. Everything seems attractive and worth touching, smelling, and tasting. Toddlers are full of energy, active and curious. A great change that occurs between 12 and 24 months is the child's ability to begin to express him/herself. Find out more about developmental milestones and learning goals associated with brain development for young toddlers one to two years of age in each area below:
Physical | Cognitive/Language | Social/Emotional | Self-Help | Environment

Physical

Characteristics

  • Learning to walk; always on the move
  • Learns to squeeze, slide, push and pull objects
  • Depth perception and ability to focus on near and far objects increasing
  • Holds pencils or crayons to scribble
  • Climbs steps one at a time
  • Throws and retrieves objects
  • Most children are not ready for toilet training until after 24 months of age

Learning Goals (Brain Development)

  • Begin to develop hand/eye coordination
  • Develop self-confidence as motor skills improve
  • Learn by discovering and through trial and error

Suggested Activities/Materials

  • Time for walking, climbing, dancing, etc.
  • Playing with puzzles, blocks, stacking and nesting toys, lacing materials, etc., to develop fine motor skills
  • Playing with musical instruments
  • Finger painting, using crayons, and large markers
  • Playing catch with a ball
  • Dump and fill activities
  • Riding cars and other toys with no pedals

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Cognitive/Language

Characteristics

  • Can follow simple directions, names familiar objects, understands relationships between objects
  • Clearly sees cause-effect relationships
  • Increasing desire to experiment and explore
  • Develops speaking vocabulary; two-word sentences common
  • Plays with sounds, asks questions, imitates speech of others
  • Enjoys repetition

Learning Goals (Brain Development)

  • Find meaning in events, objects and words
  • Begin to understand concept of parts and wholes
  • Learn the importance of the written word
  • Vocabulary development

Suggested Activities/Materials

  • Books, pattern making materials, matching and interlocking toys that can be taken apart and put back together
  • Shape or color sorting toys
  • Matching cards, smelling jars
  • Introduce sand and water play, other sensory activities (with close supervision)
  • Expand on children's words, play word games, read, sing, use gestures to communicate
  • Flannel board stories, records, tapes, nursery rhymes, puppets
  • Realistic pictures of animals, people and familiar objects to draw their attention and encourage conversation
  • Encourage exploration, maintaining safety

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Social/Emotional

Characteristics

  • Experiences stranger anxiety, and looks for caregiver's response in uncertain situations
  • Imitates others' behavior
  • Has simple interactions with others but prefers to play beside other children
  • Tests limits, strives for independence
  • Egocentric, does things for self and claims everything ("mine")
  • Temperament becomes more obvious
  • Limited ability to express frustrations may result in negative behaviors (biting or tantrums)

Learning Goals (Brain Development)

  • Develop identity and sense of self
  • Realize self is separate individual from caregivers and environment
  • Develop more independence

Suggested Activities/Materials

  • Provide multiples of popular toys, materials so children don't have to wait
  • Create opportunities to make choices (store playthings at child's level)
  • Help child sort their feelings by naming the times child is scared, angry or proud
  • Praise appropriate behavior and set limits consistently
  • Allow time for dramatic play (dress up clothes, dolls, etc.)
  • Nurture child verbally and non-verbally (hugs are helpful!)
  • Listen carefully and with interest to what child says, expanding on child's message
  • Model good behaviors

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Self-Help

Characteristics

  • Still working on self-feeding with fork/spoon and drinking from cup
  • Can finger feed easily
  • Begins to want to do things independently (Feeding, dressing)

Learning Goals (Brain Development)

  • Develop self-esteem, independence and positive attitude
  • Develop fine motor skills

Suggested Activities/Materials

  • Allow child to feed self, selecting appropriate foods
  • Sit with child during meals and encourage conversation
  • Provide child-size eating utensils and cups with lids
  • Allow child to practice independence, being tolerant of mistakes
  • Show child how to clean up after self, praising child when child does clean up

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Environment

  • Classrooms should contain a sleeping area, eating area, play area, and diapering area, as well as bathroom
  • Play area should be divided into a quiet area with books, areas for dramatic play, manipulatives (blocks, puzzles), large motor area for active play, and art/music. Toys and play equipment should be accessible to teach children to make choices
  • Outdoor area should include shady and sunny areas, with resilient ground cover. Infant/toddler swings; climbing structures and areas for sand play should be available
  • Individual attention, close supervision, and responsive caregiving are critical to future development. Caregivers should wash hands often. Always wash hands before meals and snacks and after each diaper change

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