Physical Development

If you think your toddler’s first year flew by, you won’t believe how fast the second one will go. With rapid motor development, this is when your rascal’s busy body will make you laugh, keep you on your toes, and even drive you nuts.

12 TO 18 MONTHS
The first six months of your little one’s second year is the time when they start exploring and engaging with the world, embarking on a new, incredible stage of development. Key motor developments you’ll see here are:

  • Mobility: Some of the major gross motor skills your tot will master include crawling to standing, cruising to walking, and tackling stairs to kicking a ball.
    How to encourage it: Spend time outside to walk, run, and freely explore.
    Useful toys: Pushing, pulling, or riding toys.
  • Squatting: Between 12 and 18 months, instead of bending down to pick things up, they’ll start squatting on their haunches – and even remaining there to fiddle with an object.
    How to encourage it:  Show them how to bend their knees to squat.
    Useful toys: Small toys, lined up on the floor so your toddler can practise.
  • Climbing: Once your little one realises that they can get on top of things, they’ll climb anything. Prevent accidents by anchoring furniture to the wall, and protecting your little one from reachable yet dangerous spaces, like stoves and stairs.
    How to encourage it:  Provide opportunities to climb, like mounds of pillows and blankets, or toddler-friendly playgrounds.
    Useful toys:  Climbing frames or small jungle gyms.
  • Fiddling: Whether it’s your keys or your make-up bag, your toddler wants to fiddle with everything. Not just because they look interesting, but because you use them, so they want to use them too.
    How to encourage it:  Give your tot an old set of keys, or a purse that you can fill with everyday objects.
    Useful toys:  Puzzles, books, art supplies.

18 TO 24 MONTHS
Just when you thought your toddler couldn’t get any busier, they pass the 18-month mark and launch into hyper speed. The motor skills you’ll notice are:

  • Running: If your toddler can walk, it won’t be long before they can run. You won’t believe the progress they make in a few months.
    How to encourage it:  Chase your tot and let them chase you back.
    Useful toys: Balls
  • Independence: From around 18 months, your toddler will become determined to do things for themselves.
    How to encourage it:  Schedule more getting-ready time, to allow your toddler to master new skills.
    Useful toys: Everyday items like toothbrushes, kitchen utensils, etc.
  • Fine motor skills: Small thumb, finger and wrist movements improve after 18 months; supporting many future milestones.
    How to encourage it:  Encourage more difficult tasks like dressing, ‘cooking’, scribbling, and stacking.
    Useful toys:  Blocks, puzzles, and art supplies.

Boys vs. girls
While girls and boys reach most of their milestones at similar ages, there are some differences. For instance, girls’ imitating, potty training and fine motor skills may develop faster, while boys are more active and figure out the laws of motion sooner.

No matter where your tot’s at though, they’re an individual. If they don’t fit into ‘normal’ toddler development, that’s okay. But contact a professional if you’re concerned.

Download our fun and educational activities to support important physical skills for toddlers from our Games and Activities for Toddlers page.