Category Archives: Play To Learn

Speech & Language Development

Which Skills:  Speech, Language and Communication.

What are they?

Key areas of developing positive speech and language skills for toddlers are…Toddler storytime

Listening and attention:

Listening carefully and responding with relevant actions, comments or questions to what they hear.

While being engaged in an activity, learning to give their attention and respond to questions from others appropriately.


Following instructions involving several actions and ideas.

Being able to answer questions in response to ‘how’, ‘why’ or ‘who’ regarding experiences, events or stories.


Learning to show awareness of listeners needs and then expressing themselves effectively.

When talking about events, being able to use past, present and future terms accurately.

Why are they important?

To recognise and respond to many familiar sounds.

Understanding or comprehension of language, is crucial to developing effective spoken language skills.

Understanding comes before talking. Toddlers learn unfamiliar words very rapidly and are often able to use them to communicate.

Although, toddlers can easily become frustrated when they understand, but are unable to express what they want to say.

They use actions, sometimes with limited speech, that are mostly concerned with the ‘here and now’ (the present).

Grandfather with grandchildrenHow do you develop these skills and what are they commonly used for?

Toddlers talk in basic sentences and will often use a variety of questions, e.g. what, where, who?

Provide opportunities for toddlers to talk with other children and adults about what they feel, think, say and hear.

Encourage rhymes and repetition, use intonation when singing songs and telling or reciting poems and stories.

Talk about topics that interest your toddler, actively listen and respond to their opinions in easily understood language.

Introduce words and gestures which support two-way communication, to encourage the development of conversation.

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Social & Emotional Development

Which Skills:  Social, Emotional and Personal Interaction.

What are they?

Toddlers fishingThe social – emotional area of development in toddlers can be explained as early mental health. As a baby becomes a young toddler a sense of self-awareness begins to evolve.

A sense of independence and the ability to manage separately to others around them develops.

Although, learning to share, communicate and interact with others is an ongoing process.

Why are they important?

If toddlers experience loving relationships they will learn how to form positive friendships and manage their emotions.

This becomes especially important when learning how to cope with disappointment.

Through such supportive relationships, the capacity for building trust, compassion, empathy and the understanding of right and wrong (conscience) can flourish.

two girlsHow do you develop these skills and what are they commonly used for?

As toddlers become ever more interested with their peers and others, it is essential to support them to understand that others may have differing thoughts and feelings from their own.

This will help them to develop empathy – the ability to imagine what another is feeling – which is a fundamental part of a balanced relationship or friendship.

Some key areas to support and encourage your toddlers social and emotional development are…

Becoming a confident problem-solver by asking and answering questions. Encourage ‘why’!

Opportunities to play with peers, although at this stage your toddler may be more likely to play alongside others (parallel play).

At this stage toddlers begin simple pretend play, encourage attempts to imitate what role models do… pretend cooking, pretend driving or answering the phone.

Learn to understand and manage their emotions. This may manifest itself initially through temper tantrums as your toddler may not have the understanding or language skills to manage attempts at independence.

Clear, consistent boundaries are crucial at this time to enable your toddler to establish their position within their ‘world’.

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Gross Motor Development

Which Skill: Gross Motor: Large Physical Mobility.

What are they?Boy, Teddy, Steps

Gross motor skills are the movements that your child makes using their arms, legs and whole body.

Babies begin developing these skills when learning to hold their head up and managing move into a sitting position.

Once a toddler realises that they are capable of moving independently, they tend to be difficult to keep still!

Why are they important?

The large physical movements needed to develop gross motor skills are ones that your toddler will delight in accomplishing.

But this little whirlwind is on a creative journey and channelled into appropriate activities this constant movement can be an extremely important foundation for future growth and development.

How do you develop them?Boy & Pumpkin

Running, walking, standing, jumping, sitting upright for meals, all these activities will help to strengthen larger body muscles (core stabilising).

Encourage any type of ball play (catching, throwing, kicking) which also supports hand-eye coordination.

What are they commonly used for?

If the development of these physical skills is encouraged and supported this will give confidence to your child to continue safely attempting new experiences both indoors and outdoors.

Activities which include Gross Motor Skills

Pulling, pushing, crawling, marching, rolling, throwing, hopping or bouncing a ball.

Riding a scooter or bike, swimming, dancing or climbing will all benefit positive gross motor skills development.

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Fine Motor Development

Which Skill:   Fine Motor: Hand /Eye Co-ordination.

What are they?child & building bricks1

Fine motors skills are the movements that your child makes with their hands.

These movements are made using the small muscles of the fingers and thumb in coordination with the eyes.

Your child will have been refining these hand-eye developmental skills since starting to grasp onto items as a baby.

Why are they important?

As a toddler, fine motor skills will develop further as movement becomes more stable and independent.

These skills will become further integrated with the increasing development of social / emotional and cognitive skills.

How do you develop them?

Encouraging fine motor skills development in your toddler will give significant support for their ability to perform everyday tasks, as well as their future academic performance.

Age appropriate development of fine motor skills will have a positive impact on social interactions in family life and within peer relationships.

What are they commonly used for?Hand & crayons

To become increasingly efficient at using their fine motor skills capabilities your toddler will need to regularly practice a variety of different activities.

Activities which include Fine Motor Skills

Self care skills – Brushing hair, cleaning teeth, toileting. Using cutlery, opening lids on tubs and bottles or lunch boxes. Dressing – buttons, zips, shoe laces, buckles, belts.

Play/academic skills  – Bricks, puzzles, train tracks, sorting and matching beads or other small objects; IT use… mouse, stylus; colouring, scribbled, drawing, writing, scissors and cutting.

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Cognitive Development

Which Skill:  Cognitive: Thinking, Learning, Memory and Problem-Solving Skills.

What are they?

Toddler TrainsBasic cognitive skills are the ‘thinking’ and ‘knowing’ psychological processes involved in a toddler’s development.

They will develop these skills rapidly and build on them progressively thoughout their lives.

Some cognitive skill development will be related to a toddler’s genetic makeup, but most cognitive skills are learned.

Which means that learning and thinking skills can be improved with the right training and practice.

Attention: This enables your toddler to concentrate on one conversation or task for an extended length of time.

Memory: An important cognitive skill that allows a toddler to retain learned experiences and build a future base of knowledge.

Thinking: The ability to think includes the capability to reason out tasks and find solutions.

Why are they important?

Cognitive skills are the crucial skills which help children to process sensory information and eventually learn to evaluate, analyse, remember, make comparisons and understand cause and effect.

These skills are important to allow toddlers to begin to develop their own questions about the world around them

How do you develop these skills and what are they commonly used for?

Toddlers water sprayFor toddlers, this information is learned in many ways, through their senses of touch, taste, sound, sight, smell and also through language.

Preschool age children learn and develop these skills by listening, watching, playing, asking questions and doing things for themselves.

All these activities will help your toddler’s brain develop to understand more complex processes and thoughts as they grow.

This in turn will stimulate curiosity and imagination and encourage your toddler to try new experiences.

Play is crucial for positive toddler development and the wider range of activities the better.

Opportunities for both structured and free play will stimulate healthy cognitive development. This encourages confidence, self-esteem, problem-solving and the ability to work amicably with others.

These are vitally important skills which your child will need to succeed throughout their life.

Activities to encourage positive cognitive development…

Give your toddler choices, between 2 options… “Do you wear blue socks or red ones today?”

Sing together, listen to music at home or in the car. Encourage your toddler to remember the words.

Point out shapes and colours. Talk about colours, shapes and numbers throughout the day.

Count anything and everything! Indoors, outside, help your toddler to grasp the concept of numbers naturally during their everyday life.Toddler reading

Read books which highlight the alphabet. A is for…, B is for, etc. Also, sing the alphabet song, use letters and talk

Ask your toddler to identify every day noises… a dog barking, the washing machine spinning, a bird singing.

This will help your child to build up an understanding of the world around them.

Matching and sorting with everyday items is cost effective, educational and fun. “Can you find me 2 green apples?”, or “Can you find me 3 red crayons?”

Visit interesting places and ask questions. Even a trip to the shops can be an exciting adventure if you ask questions and prompt exploration.

Please Note:

If you need a hand or have any questions, feel free to leave them below and I will be more than happy to help you out…