Six Essential Skills for Toddlers
Toddlers are constantly learning. Whether it’s through play, interacting with friends, or simply watching their parents, they are learning and building skills. Here are six skills in particular that are integral to your toddler’s success as they progress through preschool and elementary school. Each child is different, but, with the help of your support system of family and friends, these skills should be developed between the ages of 18 months and 3 years.
- How to communicate
Language will, of course, start out slowly, with just a word or two. Eventually, this will develop into full sentences. Body language is included in communicating with others, so keep in mind that you are setting examples for your child in all of your interactions. Some activities to do with your toddler to build language skills are using puppets, going outside together, and – possibly the most important – reading. As toddlers are better able to express their wants and needs through language, they’ll build a sense of confidence.
- Motor skills
Nobody expects a toddler to have perfect control of their body, but you can help them develop their big muscles (gross motor skills), which help with balancing, walking, jumping, running, climbing, and more by letting them play on the playground and getting out in nature. This will eventually help with the development of the small muscles and fine motor skills. Complex tasks like zipping, buttoning, and scribbling can help develop these skills.
- Social skills
Skills like taking turns, listening, and using manners (which includes greeting people and saying please and thank you) can take a while to master, so modeling these behaviors is very important in developing them. It can help to role play situations such as how to take turns or be patient and play games to practice listening skills.
- How to get their brains thinking
Doing activities with children like singing simple songs and nursery rhymes teaches them how to play with words, recognize patterns, and develops rhyming and rhythm skills. Exposure to books can be very beneficial – children will learn to recognize letters and pictures and start identifying concepts of print. Later on, they’ll start recognizing alphabet letters, words, and numbers around them.
- How to use their imaginations
Pretend play and reading books contributes a great amount to developing the imaginations of toddlers. Provide play materials that foster imaginative play and play along with your little one to develop it even further.
- How to control their bodies and minds
Self-regulating skills include focusing and paying attention, controlling emotions, and managing their thinking, behavior, and feelings. Unlike skills like jumping or sharing, these can take a lot longer to learn. Though they won’t have them mastered until they are much older, it’s good to start learning these skills at a young age. Games like Red Light Green Light and Simon Says are great for teaching listening and following directions skills. Model the behavior you want to see and praise it when you see your toddler demonstrate it. Keep in mind that they can’t focus their attention for very long, so be sure to have reasonable expectations.