How to Encourage Toddlers’ Movement, Social Skills, and Language Development

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Watching toddlers develop is a fun and exciting period. Hours of tummy time, crawling, and scooting have all helped little ones’ bodies grow while acquiring strength and coordination skills.

But throughout toddlerhood, there are a few new movements, in particular, to watch out for:

Walking is, of course, the most notable milestone of toddlerhood. Although many children walk before age 1, be careful not to rush little ones into walking if they’re not ready. Most children take their first steps between 13 and 18 months, and even around 20 months falls within acceptable norms. When the time is right, it will happen. As time goes on, toddlers will fine-tune their gait and develop control over their body movements, leading them to tackle challenges such as walking in the sand or across a playground.

Jumping may seem like a superhuman accomplishment for your little ones, but it’s also a signal that they’re on the right track in terms of strength and coordination. The average little one takes flight around 2.5 years old, and watching other children jump and play is a motivating factor for kids to accomplish this skill. Once they do, a new world of play opens up.

Reciprocal stair climbing is another feat of independence, one that usually occurs between ages 3 and 4. Because it involves working the muscles in their hips and trunk in unison, little ones may use a rail until they develop more efficient, coordinated gross motor skills. This is a good sign, and their strength and balance will continue to improve.

As previously indicated, the impact of consistent play alongside peers is a huge factor in developing children’s social skills and self-confidence. At this stage of the game, toddlers’ language skills aren’t fully developed, so they use movement as a form of communication, making it essential in building their social skills.

Just as important as play, however, is your encouragement as a parent. To help little ones, first determine a movement they find difficult; then, serve as their guide while you practice that movement privately together. When you’re standing beside them, kids often feel safer and more willing to try new things. And once children master a skill, they will be more than happy to show it off to their friends.

Try creating your own in-home obstacle courses. Stepping over items such as toys or using couch cushions as stepping-stones are both great ideas that aid in balance and coordination.

Or you could try jumping on a mattress. Yes, you read that correctly. Jumping challenges tiny muscles and allows kids to improve their balance, strength, and coordination. Plus, it’s fun! Rather than a bed, opt for an old mattress or even a child’s mattress, placing it on the floor in a padded area.

Engaging your little ones in movement is important and easy — as long as you’re willing to provide guidance and get creative. So get out there and help your kids have the time of their lives.