Development Skills Every Toddler Should Have

Is your toddler on track? Check if he's mastered these major developmental skills. 

Toddler Asian Girl Eating With Spoon By Herself
Photo: Mindy w.m. Chung/Shutterstock

Foster coordination.

Your toddler’s ability to stack blocks on top of each other shows that her body and brain are working in tandem. It takes hand-eye coordination and fine motor control to manipulate the blocks correctly, along with an understanding of cause and effect. Set aside an area in which she can practice building. Also stock your house with shape sorters, nesting cups, and peg puzzles, which help develop many of the same skills.

Encourage language building.

When your child strings even two words together, he’s trying to engage you in a conversation. The more you talk to him, the larger his vocabulary will be, so try to expand on his thoughts. If he says, “Mommy shirt,” respond, “Yes, this is Mommy’s shirt. It’s red and has a stain on it, doesn’t it?” When you read a book together, point to the words as you say them, use sound effects to enhance his interest in the story, and ask questions about what you’ve read after you finish (even if he can’t answer them).

Develop dexterity.

Using utensils at every meal helps your child practice an important skill and fosters independence. Although it’s messier than when you feed her, giving her a spoon or a fork helps her grasp the significance of mealtime and encourages her to imitate what the big people at the table do. You can also have her try to put on her shoes and unzip her coat by herself.

Build imagination.

If he’s progressed from making random dots and squiggles to actively choosing colors and attempting to draw shapes and the things he’s thinking about, that’s great! This shows that he’s planning and stretching his imagination. Instead of letting him play alone with Play-Doh or crayons, you should sometimes join in on the fun. Ask him, “What are you making?” or “May I color with you?”

Teach active listening.

Completing a two-part task (like when you ask her to pick up a toy and put it in the bin) means that your child’s listening skills and memory have advanced by leaps and bounds. Before asking her to do something, make sure you have her attention. Use simple language and help her learn the difference between prepositional words such as in, on, over, under, and through: “This cup is on the table; this carpet is under the table.”

Sources: Jenn Mann, Psy.D., author of Superbaby: 12 Ways to Give Your Child a Head Start in the First 3 Years of Life; Claire McCarthy, M.D., a pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital; Diane Paul, Ph.D., director of clinical issues in speech-language pathology for the American Speech-LanguageHearing Association.

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