Toddler development is real work!

Toddler's Development Checklist

by Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell

Looking over a toddler development checklist that roughly covers the second and third year of life may seem daunting when you read about all of the skills your little one will work to master. It may appear as if toddler development is all work and no play. But work and play are essentially one and the same for a little one. Now that your toddler is off and walking and has a few words under his belt, he has bigger and better goals to achieve, and the sooner the better as far as he's concerned. After all, he's got an entire world to explore!

Verbal and Cognitive Skills

Once the first word is let out of the gate, there's no stopping your child's ever-expanding language skills. "Mama" and "Dada" are top words among 1 year olds. You may hear the occasional "uh oh" if your tot spills her juice or sees you drop an object. A 1 year old typically waves bye-bye and shakes her head no, notes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A 12 month old likes to imitate you by "talking" on a toy phone or "reading" to you from a favorite book.

A 2 year old can say at least 50 words and can utter a two-word sentence that only Mom and Dad can understand. Following two-step instructions such as “Pick up your doll and put her on your bed," and pointing out a fish, dog or rabbit by name in a picture book are among the highlights to look forward to in the second year of life.

Social and Emotional Skills

One minute a tot in the second year of life won't let you out of his sight and the next minute he's running off in the name of independence, points out, a website published by the American Academy of Pediatrics. His relatively new walking skills have given him a leg to stand on as he gives autonomy a trial run. "Pat-a-cake" and "Peek-a-boo" are favorite games to play with you.

A 2 year old is feeling less anxiety when he's not by your side as he becomes increasingly aware that he's an individual in his own right. Defiance, mood swings and temper tantrums are the dark side of the newly discovered fact that he's a separate individual. The typical 2 year old likes pretend play and isn't particularly interested in playing with other kids.

Motor Skills

A 1 year old can pull herself up to stand, uses furniture to help her walk and may even take a few steps without assistance from you or the coffee table. By her second birthday, a confident toddler is walking alone, running a little, kicking a ball and standing on tiptoe. She may even walk up and down stairs holding your hand, which as a cautious mother you may find preferable to the railing.

Picking up small objects is a struggle for a 1 year old, but it will become an easy task by the middle of her second year. Turning the pages of a book will be a breeze for a 2 year old. Playing with clay to make shapes can keep a toddler entertained, at least long enough to fold a little laundry.


Toddler development doesn't take place in a vacuum. Your little one needs your support. Your job goes far beyond cheering in the bleachers. Assuming the role of coach will provide non-stop learning with consistent guidance, support and encouragement. You must also act as a teacher to help him learn basic skills such as the alphabet and numbers so they won't be foreign concept once he enters preschool.

About the Author

Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell is a broadcast journalist who began writing professionally in 1980. Her writing focuses on parenting and health, and has appeared in “Spirituality & Health Magazine" and “Essential Wellness.” Hellesvig-Gaskell has worked with autistic children at the Fraser School in Minneapolis and as a child care assistant for toddlers and preschoolers at the International School of Minnesota, Eden Prairie.

Photo Credits

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