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Toddler Developmental Milestones, and How to Help at Home

Toddler Developmental Milestones, and How to Help at Home

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Updated on Aug 27, 2013

The trying and terrific toddler years are upon you! Your baby is growing up and there are so many milestones to celebrate. Parents often wonder and worry about if their child is on track with his growth and development. What should an 18-month-old be able to do, and how can you foster his development?

Michelle Reetz, previous Professional Development Coordinator for the Arapahoe County Early Childhood Council in Colorado, and current full-time mom of twin toddler girls, suggests the following activities to help foster toddler development using items from around the house."I have found that the best toys at this age can be simple things found around the house.  We keep diaper boxes that become large blocks for building.  We use empty food boxes (such as a cereal box) and collect “treasures" around the house or outdoors.  How fun it is to see what we have found!  Lastly, the Tupperware cupboard is a place to explore different sizes, colors and shapes.  My kids love to try to match the lids to the containers.  I can get dinner made and the kids are nearby!" 

Developmental milestones vary depending on the source, so we've listed just a few for you to explore. Keep in mind that every child is different and will master skills at different rates, so don’t panic if your child is unable to perform any of the following tasks. Listed below each milestone are a few activities you can do with your child to help him practice each skill.

Cognitive Development

Knows and can point to body parts.

  • Ask your child to touch his nose, tummy, foot etc.
  • Sing "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" with your child.

Will start to play pretend.

  • Provide your toddler with dolls and stuffed animals as well as familiar objects such as play food and dishes.
  • Have a small box of costumes available for your child to play with. Hats, scarves, skirts and capes can provide for lots of imaginary fun.

Social and Emotional Development

Enjoys copying other people’s actions.
  • Play a game of “Mommy Says” and have your child copy your actions like this: “Mommy says, touch your toes, mommy says turn around.”
  • Make faces at your child and watch him make the face back at you.

Engages in “parallel play” rather than playing with other children, plays alongside them.

  • Invite children over to play. Although they may not play together, children learn from listening and observing one another.
  • Most social development comes from adults at this age, so snuggle, cuddle and giggle with your little one often!

Language Development

Can understand 10 times more than the words he can speak.
  • Read, read, read to your child every day. Choose books with colorful pictures and just a few words on the page. Read storybooks to your child as he plays, even if he does not seem to be listening, he is hearing language patterns and vocabulary.
  • Talk to your child all day long. Explain everything that you do and point out anything he may not know the name for.

Can understand and follow 2 step directions such as “go get your coat and bring it to me.”

  • Give your child small tasks to perform that involve two steps. You may have to repeat the directions a few times at first, but he will get the hang of it with practice!

Motor Development

Can stack 4 blocks.
  • Practice stacking blocks or other small objects.
  • Use toys such as Legos, large stringing beads and puzzles to help develop motor skills (be sure the toys you choose have large pieces and are not choking hazards for your toddler).
Can draw or scribble well.
  • Provide paper and crayons or markers for your child. Large toddler sized crayons are easiest for small hands to manipulate and markers are even easier for beginners. (Use washable ones, just in case!)
  • Provide stickers for your child to add to his pictures. This activity will also help foster your toddler’s motor development.

Play is a child’s work and providing your toddler with a few basic toys such as blocks, puzzles, books and dolls will give them most everything they need to successfully master developmental milestones. Add in a few items from around the house and your interaction and playtime will be both fun and educational. Enjoy your time with your little one and delight in every milestone he masters!

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