As your baby turns into a toddler, you will start seeing a massive growth in key development areas. Find out if your toddler is on track and what you can do to boost their skills.
The toddler years are a whirlwind of exploring, discovering and learning, and your child will be developing a huge range of new skills to prepare them for life as a pre-schooler.
The key skills that your child will be developing between the ages of one and four years old fall into six categories – verbal, creative, cognitive, interactive, physical and fine motor skills. All of these are important for ensuring that they’re well prepared for the next stages of childhood, so if you have any concerns about your child’s development in any area, you should talk to their doctor. You can also use our toddler growth tool to check that your child’s weight is within the expected range.
To make it easier to see the skills that your toddler should be learning, developing and eventually mastering, we’ve put together a set of child development checklists covering their development between the ages of 12-18 months, 18-24 months and 2-4 years old.
“The toddler years are a whirlwind of exploring, discovering and learning, and your child will be developing a huge range of new skills to prepare them for life as a pre-schooler”
DEVELOPMENT BETWEEN 12-18 MONTHS
Welcome to one of the busiest child development stages! Your one year old is growing fast and you may be wondering where that little baby went! It’s amazing how quickly toddlers start to pick up and develop new skills during this child development stage. Between 12 and 18 months, it’s likely that your little one will start to speak and learn to walk – two huge development milestones that you’re likely to remember forever!
Here’s an idea of the skills that your 12-18 month old will be developing during their first year:
- Understands common phrases
- Understands simple directions
- Speaks single words
- Experiments with simple two or three word combinations
- Hasn’t yet developed an understanding of creativity
- Enjoys sensory experiences such as water play, texture books, music or toys
- Uses whole body to engage and explore – especially hands and mouth
- Becomes curious about the world around them
- Starts associating words and sounds with objects
- Starts using objects in the right context
- Imitates your actions
- Is developing problem solving skills
- Your child is the centre of their own world – they don’t yet understand that other people don’t think the same as they do
- Begins to recognize their own feelings
- Is aware of others
- Progresses from crawling to walking
- Able to stand alone
- Can push and pull
- Starts learning to dance and climb
- Starts learning to pedal
Fine motor skills
- Starts developing control over hands and fingers
- Enjoys exploring with hands – banging, shaking, stacking or pressing buttons, for example
- Able to pick up an object
- Able to grasp a crayon and scribble
- Starts developing hand-eye coordination
Ways to help your 12-18 month old develop their skills:
- Read lots of books to your child and point to and discuss the pictures.
- Encourage your child to copy your actions – clapping or waving ‘bye bye’ for example.
- Get into the habit of pointing out things you can see in the world around you.
- Provide your child with a variety of musical instruments to discover.
- Play interactive games like ‘peek a boo’.
- Help your child to stack a set of stacking cups (and knock them down!).
- Put objects on the ground for your child to pick up.
- Encourage your child to practice walking, stepping up and going around obstacles.
- Point to different parts of the body and name them.
- Hide a toy under a cloth for your child to discover.
“The key skills that your child will be developing between the ages of one and four years old fall into six categories – verbal, creative, cognitive, interactive, physical and fine motor skills”
DEVELOPMENT BETWEEN 18-24 MONTHS
As your child continues to tick off their child development milestones, it’s likely that you now have a walking, talking toddler on your hands! As they approach their second birthday, they’ll now be developing those skills further – building a bigger vocabulary and learning new physical skills like running, rolling and jumping. Your child will also be starting to understand that other people have feelings that are independent to their own – one of the biggest interactive child milestones.
Take a look at our toddler development checklist for an idea of what skills you can expect to see emerging before your child turns two:
- Understands and says hundreds of words
- Still developing their pronunciation skills so may need a familiar adult to translate
- Answers adult questions more readily
- Can speak in short sentences
- Continues to scribble and may draw straight lines
- Develops an interest in music and movement
- Develops an interest in pretend play
- Starts to recognize their own reflection
- Learns to sort objects into groups
- Starts to discover cause and effect
- Starts to understand and manage their own feelings
- Starts to understand that other people have feelings too
- Learns to follow two-step instructions
- Explores different ways of getting around – rolling, running and jumping, for example
- Improves their balancing skills
- Learns to roll and kick a ball
Fine motor skills
- Able to move their fingers independently
- Carries out more complex tasks such as holding cutlery or scribbling with a crayon
- Continues to develop hand-eye coordination
Ways to help your 18-24 month old develop their skills:
- Play chase with your child and encourage them to run away.
- Sit on the floor and roll a ball back and forth between you and your child.
- Encourage your child to stack a tower of blocks (and then knock them down!)
- Provide play dough for your child to create different shapes with – a ball and a snake, for example.
- Play a game of ‘one for you, one for me’ to introduce your child to the concept of sharing.
- Play ‘what’s in the box’, where your child tries to remember what items you just hid from view.
- Ask your child to try to match different sized lids to the right pots.
- Ask your child how you should use an object such as a hairbrush or ball.
DEVELOPMENT BETWEEN 2 TO 4 YEARS
This is the age that you’ll watch your child tick off all those important toddler milestones and turn into a curious pre-schooler who is able to have conversations and play with others. You may even see those very first friendships forming.
Toddler development charts can give an indication of the skills that your toddler should be mastering before they reach school age, so use our child development checklist as a guide:
- Able to listen to and understand conversations, stories, songs and poems
- Learns lots of new words
- Able to name some body parts
- Communicates in simple sentences
- Improves their pronunciation
- Enjoys music, movement and dramatic play
- Draws shapes – or even letters – on paper
- Begins to make connections between the shapes they draw and the world around them – a circle for a face, for example
- Starts to understand the concept of time – soon, now and later, for example
- Starts to sort objects by attribute such as shape, size or color
- Understands the concept of size
- Knows his own age and is able to show it on fingers
- Becomes curious about the world and asks lots of questions
- Gains independence and is starting to build friendships
- Learning to manage his emotions
- Understands the emotions of others
- Learning to show sympathy to others
- Improves running and climbing skills
- Able to catch a large ball
- Able to balance on one foot
- Able to walk in a line and move quickly around obstacles
Fine motor skills
- Develops more complex skills such as threading and using tweezers
- Able to get dressed without help
- Able to form letters on paper
- Able to use cutlery in a simple way – stabbing with a fork or scooping with a spoon, for example
- Develops hand-eye coordination
Ways to help your 2-4 year old develop their skills:
- Ask open-ended questions that don’t have a yes or no answer, to encourage your child to think about their response.
- Talk to your child about what happened during their day.
- Repeat and expand on what your child says to develop their vocabulary. For example: “Yes, it’s a ball. It’s a little red ball.”
- Provide your child with a variety of musical toys and art materials such as crayons, paper and play dough.
- Use character voices and gestures to make reading to your child a more engaging, dramatic experience.
- Help your child to complete simple puzzles and play memory games using flashcards.
- Play a sorting game where you help your child to categorize objects by their different characteristics.
- Encourage your child to make friends. Arranging play dates can help them get used to concepts such as sharing and playing games together.
- Give your child lots of opportunities to be active. Active games such as throwing a ball through a hoop are great fun and will help to develop physical skills and hand-eye coordination.
Remember, while child development charts and checklists can give you an idea of the things the average child will be able to do, all children are different. Some toddlers develop quicker in some areas and slower in others, and there may be certain skills that your toddler struggles to pick up. This is not normally cause for concern, but if your child is considerably far behind the expected skill level you should speak to their doctor.