Toddlers exploring a playground.

Toddlers are in between being a baby and a child. The term is generally descriptive of their mobility. Someone at toddler age is generally learning to walk, but not very steady yet. Little ones of this age are mobile and curious. So, they are at special risk from things in the home. They can move, get around and have a fairly amazing ability to get into things, and the curiosity to go looking and trying out new things. They taste things, so are at risk from poisons. In order to develop properly, both motor and mental skills, they need to be able to move around and explore, but they need to be kept safe in the process. What looks amusing to the older residents in the house is important learning for the toddler.

The toddler phase usually starts at any time between one to two years old. It lasts until about three years old. They often wish to do things themselves or more independently than they are able. It is important to let them try and learn, but they will get frustrated. Between the frustration of not being able to do what they want and annoyance with adults that cannot wait, this can be a time of many temper tantrums. Todders have short attention spans. You can use this to your advantage intentional distractions can be very useful.

Fun explorationEdit

Toddlers generally like to check out different sensations bright, primary colors, contrasts between soft and fuzzy, smooth and slippery, different smells and sometimes different tastes. A toddle can be amused by stepping back and forth between two different ground textures for quite awhile for instance, stepping between grass and sidewalk or tile flooring and carpet. And because they are just toddlers and rather unsteady on their feet, this exploration takes a great deal of concentration.

Although toddlers often like being around and playing next to other children, their play is not very structured or interactive with other toddlers. They're more likely to focus on adults or older children.


Like father, like son. A toddler "helping" to vacuum the carpet.


Toddlers enjoy being read to which helps prepare them for reading. They also benefit and learn better language skills, if you speak and sing to them. Toddlers may not be able to speak, but they can often understand quite a bit. Part of the reason that their ability to speak may lag behind their ability to understand, is the motor ability, so some people teach toddlers baby sign language so they can communicate better. There is research indicating that this is a critical time period for learning languages.

Toddlers will often enjoy simple puzzles and building toys like blocks.

They also like to role play with toys that let them do activities similar to the ones they see adults and older children doing. This includes taking care of dolls, using toy phones or even toy versions of adult chores. Sometimes by carefully considering the activity, you can engage toddlers in actually helping with a simple chore like putting toys into a box or dusting low items. Keep in mind that toddlers tend to have a short attention span, so they may change activities. For instance, after helping to put away a few toys, they may start playing with the next toy. Smile1 This kind of play can lead eventually to real help with family chores and activities, so even if it's not very helpful at this stage, you might want to encourage it.

For littler toddlers, dancing or moving to music is fun. Older toddlers and small children enjoy songs with accompanying movements. Some examples are pat-a-cake, itsy bitsy spider or heads, shoulders, knees and toes.

Victor loves to climb

Step stool


Toddlers are quite creative and can figure out ways to get to things that were not a danger to them as babies. A toddler may be barely able to walk, but can still manage to move a chair or stool, climb it, continute the climb using a sink, counter or drawers and through these techniques put themselves into serious danger. They can get into medicine cabinets and while child-proof safety caps may slow them down, it can take only a few minutes for a toddler to go from a room where he or she was safely playing to the laundry room and the cleaning supplies, to get them open and to taste what may be a poisonous chemical.

Cribs, playpens and safety gates are some of the ways we try to keep a small child safe while unattended for a short time. It is necessary sometimes that the caregivers be able to do other important tasks, like making meals, going to the bathroom for short times that may leave the toddler unattended.

See the safety article and baby safety checklist for additional suggestions.

Bits and piecesEdit

Toddlers usually think that the glass with the higher level of liquid has more. So even though the glass has a smaller diameter and actually has less juice in it, a toddler will think it has more when the height of the liquid is taller.

Toddlers are fascinated by people and animals that are different from what they are used to seeing babies, doggies, people with glasses or facial hair, people with coloring skin, hair, eyes different from what they've seen in their homes.



National Institutes of Health

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