Five ways playtime helps your toddler develop

Your toddler's gross motor coordination develops rapidly at this stage, so provide play opportunities to hone them.
Your toddler's gross motor coordination develops rapidly at this stage, so provide play opportunities to hone them.  

Once your baby has mastered walking, they enter the 'toddler' phase. And with this amazing advance in their physical development (proficient walkers will soon learn to run, climb, throw and kick!) comes the emergence of characteristics such as a desire for independence and an insatiable curiosity.

Here are some ideas for play opportunities that build on the cognitive, social and physical skills your child established as a bub.

Pretending

By toddler age, your child's capacity to imagine has grown and they may take great delight in acting our pretend-play scenarios with you. This can take the form of real-life role play (e.g. pretending to keep house), or dramatic play with make-believe (e.g. pretending to be dinosaurs or fairies).

Pretend-play toys (like a toy kitchen) or props from around the home (like cushions used to build a fort, or a box that can work as a car or plane), will foster this form of play, which also develops their social self.

Thinking

Toddlers are curious about how things work, so encourage play that challenges them to problem-solve. For example, the blocks and stacking cups they bashed together and knocked down as a baby may now be used with greater skill and intention. They might discover that if they deftly balance the blocks, they can form a tower, or when they stack the cups in ascending size order, they don't topple over.

Simple puzzles and shape sorters also offer problem-solving opportunities, as well as refining your toddler's fine motor and hand-eye coordination, as they attempt to place each piece or 3D shape in the right hole.

Talking

While the age at which children learn to talk varies greatly, many toddlers start turning baby-babble into first words. All the language they absorbed in their first year of life now translates into attempts at speech. Books of 'first words' are a great way to reinforce the words your toddler has learnt – listen to their attempts and repeat back the words they are trying to say.

Introducing basic instructions as you go about your day, such as 'Sit down please' or 'Pick up the brush' helps build their comprehension skills. Singing songs together, or making funny noises, will also entertain your little one. 

Riding and pushing

Ride-ons are perfect for toddlers because they've developed enough balance and coordination to stand and sit astride them, and later move their 'vehicle' using their feet (either along the ground or using pedals). Try toddler scooters, low ride-ons, or a first trike.

Similarly, pushing a wagon or toy lawn mower is a chance for your toddler to explore and practise coordination, as well as satisfy their desire for independence.

Moving

Your toddler's gross motor coordination develops rapidly at this stage, so provide play opportunities to hone them. They can really embrace movement now that they're stable on their feet!

Outside, your toddler may enjoy learning to kick or throw a lightweight ball, chasing bubbles as you blow them, or using a spade to dig in the sandpit.

Inside, they may love music play, including dancing to the beat and using musical instruments and dancing props, such as scarves. Music is also a chance to develop your toddler's auditory skills.