Power of Play - Learning through play at every stage (12-24 months)

Based on content from ZERO TO THREE®: National Center for Infants, Toddler and Families.

Movers & Shakers (12-24 months)

Possibilities for play grow by leaps and bounds for your young toddler. She learns to communicate better with gestures, sounds, and words. She also learns to stand on two feet and walk forwards and backwards - even run, jump, and climb. And she"s using her fingers and hands to play with and explore objects in more complex ways. Children also have preferences for how they like to explore. Some like lots of action. Others prefer more calm, quiet play. Watch and you will see the activities your child enjoys.

Toddlers are also entering the world of make-believe. They go from imitating what they see in "real life" to using their imagination. Whether in the sandbox, in the bath, or on the kitchen floor, children use their bodies and minds to learn how this big, exciting, complicated, and wonderful world works.

Close-up: Figuring it Out

Kira, 20 months, is busy with her shape sorter. When her dad, Marcus, sees that she is starting to get frustrated, he gives a little help by putting his hand on hers. "Let"s turn the yellow square this way." In it goes. "Yea!" says Kira as she claps her hands, clearly pleased with her accomplishment. Marcus encourages her to try some more, "One blue circle and one green triangle to go." Kira picks up a square, shows it to her dad, and says "boo." Marcus agrees, "Yes, that"s the blue circle." Kira successfully drops it in. "Good job," says Marcus, "how about a triangle?" But, Kira is ready for something new. She leaves the shape sorter and gets a book. "Are we done playing with shapes?" asks Marcus. "Okay, let"s read about animals." Kira cuddles up with her dad and opens the book.

As Kira and her dad play, she is learning about:

  • colors, numbers, and shapes as dad names them.
  • communication and new words as she and dad talk together while playing.
  • imitation as she copies what dad says and does.
  • hand-eye coordination and problem solving as she learns how to make the shapes fit into their spaces.
  • self-confidence as she masters a new skill.
  • the joy of reading as she and dad explore books together.
  • building close relationships as she experiences the pleasure of sharing her discoveries with dad.

Playtime for Young Toddlers

Running, Climbing, and Action Games

Oldies but goodies like "Ring Around the Rosie" and "London Bridge" encourage children to move, sing, listen, take turns, and cooperate. The park, playground, and back yard offer chances to run, climb, and play with other children. On a rainy day, try creating an obstacle course indoors.

Let"s Do It Again.and Again.and Again.

Through repetition, toddlers figure out how things fit together and work. They might fill and dump a pail over and over to learn about full and empty and in and out. They may want you to read the same book, and sing the same song, night after night. This kind of repetition helps children know what to expect. This gives them a sense of security and control over their world. It also helps them master new skills, which boosts their self-confidence.

Name That Tune

Now that your child can imitate words and melodies, he"ll love to sing songs and have you read books with rhyming words. Words are easier to learn when they rhyme or are put to music. See if your toddler knows the next word in the song by pausing before you sing it. Dance to the music. This is a wonderful way to exercise those arms and legs and to experience the joy of movement. Offer musical instruments so he can make his own music, too.

Busy Hands

Young toddlers love to make things work. They use their hands and fingers for pushing buttons, opening boxes, and turning pages. This allows them to do everything from getting the music box to play their favorite song to exploring a treasured book. Many children also like to finger paint, color, play with play dough, or squeeze water out of a sponge.

Q & A

Q: I love that my 18-month-old wants to play with other toddlers, but there always seems to be a battle over a toy. How can I help her share?

A: Sharing is a skill that takes a lot of time and practice to develop. Most young toddlers do not know how to share. It may seem like your daughter should share because she can do other things, like understand "no" and follow some directions. However, young toddlers do not yet have self-control. And, they are still learning about the feelings of others. You can help her learn to share over time by playing turn-taking games and also by modeling how you share things with her.