What Your Child Learns from Play

What Do Toddlers Learn from Play?

Playing with balls and blocks teaches your child about how the world works. But a toddler's interests will go beyond putting toys (and everything else he can get his hands on) through their paces. When he takes your cell phone and jabbers away (just like you do!), you'll know his play has reached a new level -- taking on certain tasks and roles of the important people in his life. Between 18 months and 3 years, pretend play is mostly about imitating, whether kids are mimicking parents in their daily routines or characters and plotlines they see on TV shows. But eventually the make-believe plots will come from the kids' imagination, accompanied by improvised props and costumes. And when your child substitutes a banana for a phone (usually between ages 2 and 3), you'll know he's capable of symbolic thinking. Why is this so important? It means he's developing the ability to think abstractly, laying the groundwork for reading, math, problem solving, and other skills that are so important for success in school and beyond.

Age-Appropriate Play Activities: 1 to 2 Years

  • Take your toddler on a nature walk. Let him fill a pail with the leaves, twigs, and pinecones he sees along the way.
  • Create a photo album with portraits of people he loves or different animals, vehicles, or foods. Then encourage him to name each one.

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