the years of exploration:
playing, walking, and language-learning for toddlers

toddler development and learning to walk

From the time babies take those first tentative steps they are considered toddlers. They have outgrown the need to be carried and are finding their feet. Between the ages of one and 3 years your child will develop crucial skills that will lay down the foundation for learning and relationships in later life. Give your toddler plenty of time and attention - you'll be rewarded by watching them gain in independence and confidence as they begin to explore the world around them.


Walking is one of the most important milestones of childhood. Those first steps are the beginning of your child's transition from infancy to toddlerhood. Your child is learning to move around independently - to separate from and reconnect to you. It is important for you to find the right balance between holding on and letting go - encouraging them to head off on their own while protecting them from harm.

Initially your toddler's movements will be stiff and clumsy. As a rule, they will lift their knees high and step onto their toes first. They are often wobbly on their feet and cannot negotiate obstacles easily. Co-ordination improves as the brain develops and by 2 years of age a toddler's movements are generally more refined. Walking is now more confident with a heel-toe step and they may even be able to go up stairs! By 3 years of age children can usually jump, walk on tiptoes and stand on one leg for a few seconds.

improving the mind

Toddlers make giant leaps in their general understanding as well as their movement. One of the major advances occurs at around 1 year of age - the emergence of memory. You'll probably begin to see your toddler remember things from the past and anticipate familiar situations. From 12-18 months of age toddlers are usually able to recall another person's action and repeat it later on, meaning they can learn from what they see around them.

Playing is an important way to learn. From around 18 months of age most toddlers will imitate behaviour. They will bathe a doll or pretend to be driving their toy trucks. From 2-3 years of age children will develop more complex and imaginative play often involving quite complicated scenarios. At 2 they will play alongside other children but it is usually not until 3 years of age that they learn to play together.

Normally, toddlers are able to understand simple requests by 18 months of age. They begin to show interest in books and scribble on paper. By 2 years of age, toddlers are generally able to draw a vertical stroke and by 3 years they can copy a circle. Between 2 and 3 years of age toddlers will probably show interest in simple games such as jigsaw puzzles and matching coloured cards.

language development

Toddlers can understand language before they are able to verbalise themselves. From around 12 months of age the babbling of infancy transforms into the toddler's first words. Initially these early words will be difficult to understand such a "ba-ba" for bottle or "da-da" when daddy is around. By the age of 2, children will typically be able to say words more clearly, join two or three words together and start using pronouns such as "me" and "you". By the age of 3 most children have an extensive vocabulary and can hold a conversation!

emotional development

During the toddler years your child will begin to recognise and share their feelings. This is the time they learn to make their own decisions and gain independence from you. It can also be a frustrating time during which they have difficulty expressing their needs and desires. Boredom, frustration and anger are a just as much a part of growing up as curiosity and the joy of discovery.

These negative emotions can manifest as behaviour problems such as tantrums at around 2 years of age - the 'terrible twos'. Toddlers can be difficult. It is best not to argue with your toddler but give him some space until the storm has passed. Luckily this phase does not last forever and by 3 years of age most children have chosen a different way to express themselves.

It is most important that your children practise using the physical, emotional and verbal skills they have developed so it is vital for you to provide plenty of opportunity for your child to do so.

Seeing your child grow up into an individual is a wonderful experience. Try to enjoy it to its fullest.