Play and Your Toddler
Play by Age
Each toddler is unique and will develop at his or her own pace. However, the following are general guidelines of what you will notice at different ages.
6‑12 Months: Explorers
During this time, your toddler will use her or his body to make discoveries. Your toddler will begin to sit up, crawl, pull up, and grab for everything within reach. Your toddler will start to understand cause and effect. She or he will also search for things that have become hidden—that may include you, as you go into another room. You will find yourself talking to your toddler more and more as you begin to hear her or his first words. Your toddler will be busy dumping, stacking, and pouring. This is a good time to give your toddler balls, sturdy toys on wheels, blocks, nesting toys, rattles, and bowls of different sizes.
12 to 24 Months: Movers and Shakers
Between 12 and 24 months, your toddler will go through big changes. Once your toddler can walk and talk, play will become more complex. Your toddler will be able to handle smaller toys as his or her coordination improves. You will see your toddler’s imagination develop. Your toddler will copy the things she or he hears and sees.
You will also see your toddler’s personality by the type of play she chooses. Does your toddler prefer quiet play or active play? Does your toddler tend to focus for quite a while on a single task, or do many tasks at the same time? At this age, your toddler will still not be able to play with other children (co‑operative play). However, your toddler will be able to play beside other children (parallel play).
This is a good time to give your toddler balls to chase and later to kick and throw. It’s also a good time for toys to push, such as pop‑up toys, or sit and‑ ride toys.
24‑36 Months: Social Butterflies
Between 24 to 36 months, your toddler will become sociable and want playmates. Gradually, your toddler will develop the skills to play with another child. Make sure you are nearby to help your toddler solve possible problems when playing with other children.
Your toddler will also show much more imagination. Encourage imaginary play; join in and expand the play with questions. This is a good time to supply dress‑up clothes and props.
For more suggestions, see Leap BC's guide Move with Me from Birth to Three.