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On the Move - Stage-based booklet on development (12-24 months)

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

Ready, Set, Go! (12-24 months)

Toddlers' sense of independence and self-confidence grow as they progress from standing to walking and running. The more they move, the more they learn. Watching your toddler's actions will help you know what she is discovering. She learns about size and shape as she sees that she can fit her body into one cardboard box but not another. She learns about up and down on the swing. Movement helps toddlers' budding imaginations blossom. By imitating activities they see going on around them, toddlers expand their understanding of the world. For example, they may march around banging a drum like the musicians in a parade.

Toddlers also use their bodies as a tool for communicating with and relating to you. They start with simple gestures, like pointing. By 15 to18 months, their movements will become more complex. For example, your child may take your hand, walk you to the family room, and point to the shelf where his favorite book sits. By the time your child is 24 months old, he will be a great communicator, learning many new words and phrases to add to his gestures. When you join your toddler's adventures and engage in lively discussions with him, you are building a strong bond with him and nurturing his self-esteem.

Q & A

Q: My toddler seems to need to be in constant motion. I, on other hand, prefer quiet activities like reading and doing art projects. What can I do to keep both of us happy?

A: You've taken the most important first step, which is to acknowledge the difference and to appreciate that neither your way nor hers is right or wrong, just different. There are several things you can do to respect both your styles. Support what she prefers by, for example, letting her stand for a diaper change or getting down from her highchair when she's finished eating. Create a safe place in the house where you don't have to constantly chase after her. Invite other active toddlers over to play. You can also join in your daughter's play without being so active yourself! Clap out a beat as she runs around the yard. Make a cape out of an old sheet and color it in together. Then tie it around her and watch her prance like a flying horse, flutter like a butterfly princess, or leap around like a superhero.

Movement activities for you and your young toddler

Move & Grove

Encourage your toddler to use her body and move freely to any type of music. Watch how your child moves and what types of music she prefers. Children this age often do not change their movements to match the music, but rather will respond to their own internal rhythm.

Describe your Child's Actions

Describe the details of your child's actions as he dances to the music. "Look how you are bouncing your body to the beat. I see how you like to bob your head up and down when you dance." This not only helps him learn new words but also instills a sense of pride that his actions are noticed!

Set Up an Obstacle Course

Create a course that encourages your toddler to use a variety of skills. Set up boxes that she can crawl through, pillows that she can climb on, and blocks that she can run around. Young children enjoy using their bodies in different ways. Place yourself somewhere near or partially hidden within the course to add an element of surprise and fun. Doing the course over and over again also helps your child learn to organize her actions to reach a goal.

Engage in Finger Play

Songs like The Itsy Bitsy Spider and The Wheels on the Bus can help develop the use of fingers and hands (fine motor skills). As she grows, these skills will help her learn to write, button a shirt, and tie a shoelace.