A toddler is a child 12 to 36 months old. The toddler years are a time of great cognitive, emotional and social development. Toddlers are so much fun, yet so challenging at the same time!o. Crawling vigorously, starting to walk, even talking a little, all emerge as your baby enters her second year.. Exploring the boundaries established by your rules and her own physical and developmental limits will occupy much of her time for the next few years. We have gathered most recent information from American Academy of Pediatrics, Office of Child Development, CDC and Triple P. Cornerstone will also provide a list of fun activities that you and your toddler can do together.

Physical Movement Development

By 2 years your toddler:
  • Walks alone
  • Pulls toys behind her while walking
  • Carries large toy or several toys while walking
  • Begins to run
  • Stands on tiptoe
  • Kicks a ball
  • Climbs onto and down from furniture unassisted
  • Walks up and down stairs holding on to support
By 3 years your toddler:
  • Climbs well
  • Runs easily
  • Pedals a tricycle (3-wheel bike)
  • Walks up and down stairs, one foot on each step

Fine Motor Development

  • Scribbles spontaneously
  • Turns over container to pour out contents
  • Builds tower of four blocks or more
  • Might use one hand more frequently than the other

Language/Communication Development

By 2 years your toddler:
  • Points to things or pictures when they are named
  • Knows names of familiar people and body parts
  • Says sentences with 2 to 4 words
  • Follows simple instructions
  • Repeats words overheard in conversation
  • Points to things in a book
By 3 years your toddler:
  • Follows instructions with 2 or 3 steps
  • Can name most familiar things
  • Understands words like “in,” “on,” and “under”
  • Says first name, age, and sex
  • Names a friend
  • Says words like “I,” “me,” “we,” and “you” and some plurals (cars, dogs, cats)
  • Talks well enough for strangers to understand most of the time
  • Carries on a conversation using 2 to 3 sentences

Cognitive Development

By 2 years your toddler:
  • Finds things even when hidden under two or three covers
  • Begins to sort shapes and colors
  • Completes sentences and rhymes in familiar books
  • Plays simple make-believe games
  • Builds towers of 4 or more blocks
  • Might use one hand more than the other
  • Follows two-step instructions such as “Pick up your shoes and put them in the closet.”
  • Names items in a picture book such as a cat, bird, or dog
By 3 years your toddler:
  • Can work toys with buttons, levers, and moving parts
  • Plays make-believe with dolls, animals, and people
  • Does puzzles with 3 or 4 pieces
  • Understands what “two” means
  • Copies a circle with pencil or crayon
  • Turns book pages one at a time
  • Builds towers of more than 6 blocks
  • Screws and unscrews jar lids or turns door handle

Social and Emotional Development

By 2 years your toddler:
  • Imitates behavior of others, especially adults and older children
  • Increasingly enthusiastic about company of other children
  • Demonstrates increasing independence
  • Begins to show defiant behavior
  • Increasing episodes of separation anxiety toward midyear, then they fade
By 3 years your toddler:
  • Copies adults and friends
  • Shows affection for friends without prompting
  • Takes turns in games
  • Shows concern for crying friend
  • Understands the idea of “mine” and “his” or “hers”
  • Shows a wide range of emotions
  • Separates easily from mom and dad
  • May get upset with major changes in routine
  • Dresses and undresses self

Development Watch

It is very important to remember that each child develops at his own particular pace, it’s impossible to tell exactly when yours will perfect a given skill. Try not to compare your toddler to the toddlers in your play group, at the park etc. The developmental milestones will give you a general idea of the changes you can expect as your child gets older, but don’t be alarmed if he takes a slightly different course. Alert your pediatrician, however, if he displays any of the following signs of possible developmental delay for this age range.

By 2 years your toddler:
  • Cannot walk by eighteen months
  • Fails to develop a mature heel-toe walking pattern after several months of walking, or walks exclusively on his toes
  • Does not speak at least fifteen words by eighteen months
  • Does not use two-word sentences by age two
  • Does not seem to know the function of common household objects (brush, telephone, bell, fork, spoon) by fifteen months
  • Does not imitate actions or words by the end of this period
  • Does not follow simple instructions by age two
  • Cannot push a wheeled toy by age two
By 3 years your toddler:
  • Falls down a lot or has trouble with stairs
  • Drools or has very unclear speech
  • Can’t work simple toys (such as peg boards, simple puzzles, turning handle)
  • Doesn’t speak in sentences
  • Doesn’t understand simple instructions
  • Doesn’t play pretend or make-believe
  • Doesn’t want to play with other children or with toys
  • Doesn’t make eye contact
  • Loses skills he once had


Toddlers love to play and have fun! There are so many creative ways to play and interact with your toddler. We have compiled a list of fun activities that your can do with your toddler.

  • Dusting, laundry and washing windows. So many parents work outside the home and struggle to find a balance between work and home with young kids. My kids helped me dust, get laundry in and out the dryer and wash windows with a vinegar/water solution.”
  • Together we talked about colors, sizes, shapes, etc. I got some things done and enjoyed “playtime” with my kids.
  • Blow bubbles in front of your toddler as he is standing.  Encourage him to pop bubbles by clapping between hands or by poking with his finger.
  • Grab a toy that your toddler can sit on top of as you bring her around your house or on the sidewalk. Your toddler has to stay on by holding a handle and using her legs.
  • Push her in a laundry basket or empty diaper box, OR have her push either with a few books inside to weight it down.
  • You can set up a mini obstacle course in your living room. Make pillow stacks to crawl over or lay a blanket over a table to make you toddler crawl under it.
  • Give your toddler their own drawer or box of “treasures.” These can be new toys from the dollar section or objects he would find interesting. Let them look through it and whatever they pull out you can use to play with. This is great if you use an empty kitchen draw especially when you are trying to cook dinner!
  • Create a new living space underneath a dining room table. Add in some pillows and his favorite toys to make it like their own house.
  • Chase your toddler around the room saying “I’m going to get you!” Let the anticipation of catching her build until you eventually catch them.
  • Set up empty water bottles to make bowling pins. Show your toddler how to roll the ball to knock down the pins.
  • Balloons are fun when they’re inflated and decorate a room, but they’re even more fun when you let them fly around the room. Instead of tying the end of the balloon, let it go and see it whoosh around the room. Let your toddler get it and bring it back.
  • Tape some contact paper (sticky side out) to your wall or window. Give your toddler a few different objects like cotton balls that she can use to throw or place onto the contact paper and watch it stick.
  • Make a little slit in a box to make it your toddler’s personal mailbox. Then put in junk mail that you get and let him tear it open.
  • Get a small water bottle and fill it with different objects. Let your toddler shake it around and discover glitter, pebbles and other objects as she turns it in her hand. Make sure the bottle is securely sealed and filled with age appropriate items.
  • Create a ramp. Let your toddler roll different objects down it to learn about how gravity works.
  • Save those oatmeal canisters and cut a slit in the lid.  Little guys love to insert the free paint sample strips from the hardware store!  Perfect time to “point out” the colors on the strips or help her count the strips in the canister.
  • Have some old hats lying around? Give them to your toddler, along with a non-breakable mirror from a dollar store, and she has an instant dress up kit! This is great for motor planning, (getting those arms over head to put the hat on,) and learning to recognize herself in the mirror!  It’ll be close to your child’s second birthday before she realizes she’s looking at herself in the mirror.  This is called “recognition of existential self.”  
  • Toddlers can help you “cook” a meal by tearing up a head of lettuce and placing the leaves in a bowl, or putting napkins on the table.
  • An inverted plastic bowl and an old wooden spoon make a great drum, too!
  • There’s no reason to spend a lot of money on a play kitchen for your toddler.  You can make a great one out of an old box and a sharpie marker.
  • Get some brightly colored objects, like bouncy balls, and place them around the living room. Then let your toddler walk around and try to find them. Don’t make them too hard to find though. Your toddler can count them out as she finds them too.
  • Get outside and put different sized balls on the ground. Set down a hula hoop and have your toddler gather the balls and put them inside the hoop.
  • Play chef and use measuring cups for your toddler to fill with cheerios. Then let him serve you the cheerios as a snack. He won’t understand the different measurements yet but scooping and dumping will be fun for him.
  • Find a large cardboard box that baby can play in. Place baby in the box and pretend she is in a race car. Make engine noises and pretend to turn the “steering wheel.” The more noises you make and actions you do the better.
  • Play with your toddler by naming different body parts and pointing to them. Let him identify which body part is which. You can name the body part first and have your toddler point to it or you can point to a body part and have him name it. Either way, he is learning while having fun.
  • Have a dance party with your toddler. Put on some upbeat music and dance with him around the house or outside. My favorite kid CD is Rhinoceros Tap by Sandra Boyton.
  • Bring new life to stories by making sound effects. Someone’s stamping their feet in the story? Pound your feet on the floor. A wolf is howling? Give it your best howl.
  • Shaving cream and finger paints. You can tape paper to the kitchen table or use big cookie sheets let your toddler get messy.
  • There are lots of ways to play in water on a hot day besides a kiddie pool and a sprinkler.  Fill a dishpan with water dyed with a few drops of edible food color.   Your toddler will have a ball painting the driveway using a clean paintbrush!

The Terrible Two’s

With the tantrums, demands and testing limits that often accompany a toddlers second year of life, you may wonder, "what happened to my delightful baby?"  Rest assured that the "terrible twos" are a normal part of your child's development.  Toddler's brains are still a "work in progress" when it comes to thinking about others' needs and feelings.  That's why they don't truly understand the value of sharing until late into year two.  Impulse control and expressive language are still underdeveloped which explains why a toddlers often hit, bite or throw things when angry or frustrated.  Their demands to for exactly three chicken nuggets on their favorite blue plate is your toddler saying, "I need to feel in control to learn about how I impact the world."

"With loving guidance, healthy boundaries and a lot of patience, this turbulent period in your child's life will pass.  There are many strategies to help to make this challenging time easier on both of you. Your therapist will help you choose ones that are the best fit for you and your family.

Here are some examples from the Triple P Website:"

  • Watch your toddler while they are playing independently, praise them when they are behaving well.  Ex “Cooper you are playing nicely with your trucks.”
  • Don’t always make a big deal of everything.
  • Not all behaviors have to be addressed.
  • Toddler proof your home. Having to say no don’t touch a hundred times a day can make you and your toddler exhausted and frustrated.
  • Have plenty of toys and activities available. A busy toddler will have less time to get into trouble. Reminder it does not need to be an expensive toy my boys loved cardboard boxes and they often dragged each other around the house while sitting on a blanket.
  • Use clear and specific instruction. Stop kicking me.
  • Ignore whining or crying. Praise them when they stop.
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