Toddlers are amazing little human undergoing rapid transformations, in every possible way. Within the first five years of life, the brain grows faster than it ever will again. These little sponges are constantly absorbing information. For infants and toddlers, the learning process is synergistic, each new skill they attain facilitates the development of more skills.
Skill development moves so fast during the toddler years, it is hard to predict exactly what will come next. Young brains blossom rapidly, they learn to speak and their motor abilities grow stronger. Between the ages of one and five, cognitive, social and emotional skills develop at unprecedented speeds.
Coordination, balance and motor skills
As infants transition into toddlers they have better balance, they gain more confidence in their abilities and want to try out their new skills. By holding onto surrounding objects, bending down to pick up toys, running, jumping and playing, young children learn how to move. As they advance their fine motor skills, they typically start handling grasping writing and eating utensils.
During the toddler years, kids begin to use words to express their needs and desires. By the age of two most kids have learned to use small words and short phrases to communicate with others. At this point, they know names, terms for body parts and objects they see every day. One big milestone is learning how to use the word “no.” This is a major step toward independence. Most toddlers take a liking to the word, so much so that many parents are eager for them to expand their vocabulary.
With language skill development also comes the ability to follow basic directions and answer questions.
Socialization and emotional development
The next step in toddler skill development is the ability to socialize and relate to others. It is common for toddlers to laugh or cry when people around them are laughing or crying. They do so without understanding why, or what is happening.
As they get older and mature, they understand better how these reactions are brought on by feelings. Kids further develop their language skills to communicate those feelings through words. Additional toddler skills that follow include:
- Finding how to deal with conflict and disappointment
- Showing empathy for those who are hurt or sad
- Developing patience
- Making new friends
- Following set rules
What if my child is not reaching his/her toddler milestones at the expected time?
Typically, there is no need to be alarmed if your child takes longer than other kids to develop language or motor skills. Every toddler is different and this isn’t a contest. However, if you suspect that something is not quite right, don’t hesitate to discuss your concerns with your child’s pediatrician.
After your child’s first birthday, take a brief assessment by asking yourself the following questions:
- Is your toddler able follow simple instructions, such as, “please toss the ball to me”
- By 15 months old, is your child trying to walk?
- Can he/she handle finger foods?
- By 16 months, has your toddler spoken any words?
- When spoken to, does your child make eye contact?
- Is your toddler able to imitate basic tasks, such as putting his hand on his head?
If your toddler has failed to accomplish one or more of these tasks, it may be time to contact your physician for an evaluation.