Toys help toddlers experiment and explore basic thinking strategies.

The Development of Toddler Thinking Skills

by Lee Grayson

You may wonder what possesses your toddler to put a hand on a hot stove burner, but the bright colors of the coils appeal to a toddler in the tactile stage of learning, which is all about touching everything to collect information. Watching your child explore the world helps you see how your toddler learns, but having a general calendar helps make your child's mental development understandable.

1. Development Study

Children develop thinking skills from birth. Most scientists and medical professionals studying children and thinking skills believe the basic building blocks used as adult thinkers develop from birth through age 5. By age 5, most children have the ability to understand basic sequences and general facts about time. These skills build from birth through age 4.

2. First Year

Children generally know their names and are able to recognize and say the names of family members and pets by their first birthdays. Toddlers in this stage also begin to focus on words for objects, including toys, and explore language by babbling and speaking sounds to recreate patterns resembling adult language. You might not be able to understand a word of the babble, but the chatter is a learning experience. Encourage your child with facial expressions and encouraging answers, as though you actually have a clue about the conversation.

3. Second Year

Your child begins make-believe play and sorting toys and objects by color and shape during the second year. Encourage development by giving crayons to your toddler to experiment with scribbling -- an early start for writing skills. Don't forget to buy plenty of large pieces of paper or you'll end up with wall art. Children who are 2 typically understand the clues to find hidden objects and understand basic movement. They can associate active verbs with actions. You'll hear "No!" used frequently, but in a way not typically used by adults. Toddlers use the negative to discourage information they can't understand.

4. Third Year

Your 3-year-old toddler has the ability to copy shapes, name some colors and ask the "why" question to better understand the world. As annoying as the "whys" are, answer as many as you can. Your child knows the concepts of the same and different at this age and is interested in complex stories involving imaginary play. Your toddler also begins to understand the time of day and how this influences what you and your toddler do during these times. Kids learn nighttime means jammies and bed, for instance, while daytime means different clothing and activities.

5. Collecting Information

Helping your toddler develop thinking skills means taking time to read stories and supplying picture books for playtime. Exposing your child to new experiences builds thinking skills. Trips to the library to select picture books and excursions to the grocery store help develop thinking abilities. These experiences outside the house help your child develop mental links to what you do at home. Travel also helps your toddler to create imaginary situations to explore with toys and books, such as creating a meal with your pots and pans on the kitchen floor -- just like at a restaurant.

About the Author

Lee Grayson has worked as a freelance writer since 2000. Her articles have appeared in publications for Oxford and Harvard University presses and research publishers, including Facts On File and ABC-CLIO. Grayson holds certificates from the University of California campuses at Irvine and San Diego.

Photo Credits

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