Active Play at 12 – 24 Months
Sometime around one year of age babies master walking, and active play takes on a whole new dimension. Toys they can push or pull top the list of one-year favorites. Toddlers love to climb on small slides or play structures. The kitchen becomes a world of wonder for curious toddlers. Stacking and nesting cups and containers will keep toddlers busy. Language ability grows at an amazing pace during this year. The toddler’s ability to understand words and phrases develops more quickly than their ability to talk. Playing together can give baby a chance to practice listening and responding to your interactive questions. As toddlers’ talking abilities increase they become easier to reason with. As you practice active play together, you and your budding conversationalist can point to and name all there is to see around you. Toddlers also love to make noise, so get used to things being a little louder around the house. Riding toys is a new area for toddlers both indoors and outdoors. Towards age two, toddlers grow more assertive in their active play. Toys that are just like “grown-up” things, such as child-size furniture, help toddlers feel they have a special place of their own. The older toddler will also begin to plan ahead and figure out puzzles and shape sorting games. As imagination blossoms, they will begin to build towers and other projects. Water play, whether in the tub or outside with a bucket, also becomes a toddler favorite.
Gross Motor Development
In the first part of this year, baby will master the art of walking. This will progress into running (and falling), stepping up stairs, jumping, and eventually climbing toy ladders and riding toys. Babies will also develop throwing and catching skills. Here are some ways you can promote these gross motor skills through active play:
- Ball play is an all-time toddler favorite. Start off with sitting and rolling the ball back and forth. As baby’s walking improves, he will learn to bounce the ball and eventually play throw and catch.
- As baby’s balance improves, kicking the ball around with mom or dad is lots of fun.
- Have a daily dance party to your favorite music. Clap and sing along with your toddler as she gains rhythm and learns to dance.
- Toy instruments are perfect for the older toddler. Make music together with rattles, drums, flutes, xylophones, and whistles.
- Push toys, such as pretend lawn mowers, vacuums, and shopping carts are great ways for your toddler to improve balance and help you around the house.
- A small indoor play slide will help your active toddler learn climbing and balancing; with you close by for any slips or trips.
- Toddlers love to walk around and gather toys into a bucket. Add in a fun “clean up” song to your active play to get your child used to cleaning up his toys.
Fine Motor Development
Developing hand skills allows toddlers to engage in more challenging activities. Babies will begin to skillfully hold and drink from a cup. This will progress into feeding themselves using their fingers and eventually a spoon. Stacking containers and blocks becomes a favorite skill to master. Scribbling and coloring is another fun skill that will begin this year. Here are some ways you can help promote fine motor skills through active play:
- Filling and dumping container active play is a hallmark of the toddler years. Small colored balls, blocks, shapes, and a bucket are just the thing to keep baby busy for hours.
- Baby’s own kitchen drawer is a great way to keep your toddler busy and close by. Sets of cups in graduated sizes that stack or nest together and containers with tops should fill the drawer.
- Toddlers will learn to match shapes and sizes. Help your baby discover how to put different shapes through the various holes in a simple shape matching toy.
- Stacking cups and blocks is active play that will intrigue baby for hours. Sit with your baby and watch the tower grow as his hand coordination improves.
- Water play is a great way to enjoy some fun together. Either outside or in the bath, a variety of cups, containers, water wheels, and strainers will allow a child to test the properties of water. These toys also work great in the sandbox.
- Mealtime becomes more fun for everyone as baby is better able to feed herself and drink from a cup. Learning to use a spoon with skill and balance is a good exercise for little hands.
- Activity books provide numerous little flaps and hidden surprises for curious fingers. Sit and read each evening together. Keep baby’s interest focused on the book by prompting him to “turn the pages” as you go.
- Introduce your toddler to scribbling and coloring with crayons. Sit with your child and join in the creative fun to make sure she keeps it on the paper.
Social and Cognitive Development
Throughout this year toddler’s social interactions and behaviors will blossom. Babies become more involved in daily life around the house. Their growing ability to think through and solve problems will allow baby to work puzzles and shape games. Growing toddlers will want to practice active play in more one-on-one games with adults, such as hide-and-seek and early pretend play. Here are some ways you can promote your baby’s social and cognitive skills through active play:
- Add some active play to those long car rides with a car seat activity toy. Your imaginative toddler will enjoy “driving” around with you.
- Older toddlers show more interest in daily activities around the house. Involve a favorite doll or stuffed animal to help baby cooperate with tooth brushing, hand washing, and other day to day skills.
- Your toddler can now understand size relationships. Help your child figure out how to stack cups or blocks from biggest to smallest.
- Your toddler will enjoy more interactive games with you, such as hide and seek and pat-a-cake. Take time everyday to “be a kid” with your child.
- Hide some favorite toys and go on a “treasure hunt” together.
- The older toddler will become a pro at simple puzzles. Engage your baby frequently in this mind-and-finger-stimulating active play activity. Foam shapes and puzzles are also great in the bath.
Hearing and Language Development
Toddlers’ understanding of various words and phrases will progress dramatically. Their first words will grow into a larger vocabulary throughout the year. Some kids will even begin putting words together into simple sentences. Here are some ways you can promote your baby’s hearing and language skills through active play:
- Any active play session can be a lesson in language. Verbalizing objects and actions, such as “Where’s the ball?” and “Push the button,” out loud to your toddler as you play will help her word skills grow.
- Toddlers are proud when they learn to point to and name parts of their face and body. Use a favorite doll or stuffed animal to add more fun to this learning game. Mirrors are also perfect for this activity.
- Learning animal sounds is easy for toddlers. Picture books, stuffed animals, and finger puppets are great tools for teaching. Echo baby’s sounds to reinforce her creativity.
- As you go through your day together, point to and name objects for your baby. This continued input will reinforce baby’s learning.
- Reading to your toddler is an excellent way to stay connected and help your baby’s language skills grow. Play the point and name game as you turn through the pages together.
Learn some great play tips for toddlers after they reach age 2!
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