Help your toddler develop physically

For toddlers, climbing, kicking, running and jumping become second nature. These activities also help kids get a better grasp on smaller hand and finger movements.

Sometimes toddlers seem like machines that are always in motion—digging into this, diving into that, moving, moving, moving.

Keeping up with all this activity can be taxing. But remember, the more your child moves, the more he or she learns and develops. Movement helps kids grow strong and confident. It even helps them communicate.

What to expect

The toddler years are a time when kids greatly expand their ability to control their bodies, notes the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Walking will become more natural. Turning corners, walking backward, and going up and down stairs on their own will become second nature. Running will be smoother and better coordinated.

Between the ages of 2 and 3, expect your child to slowly begin to master motion in a number of ways.

According to the AAP, he or she should be able to:

  • Climb more easily.
  • Kick a ball.
  • Pedal a tricycle.
  • Bend over without falling.

Learning with motion

You can help your child develop a wide range of physical skills and learn about the world through games and activities.

Physical play. Zero to Three suggests action games such as "Ring Around the Rosie" and "London Bridge." They're good ways for kids to move, sing and learn about how to play with others.

You can join in too. Offer a piggyback ride or help your child discover the thrill of a small slide.

Books, songs and games. Everything may seem to be about big, active movements right now. But your child is building up small muscles too. He or she is learning to use wrists, hands and fingers at this age, according to the AAP.

For example, toddlers often can turn single pages of a book, pull off shoes and unzip large zippers. Most love to push buttons, open boxes and take off lids.

You can help your child practice hand and finger skills with games and songs like "Itsy Bitsy Spider" and "The Wheels on the Bus," according to Zero to Three.

Arts, crafts and construction. Kids can build fine motor skills by using art supplies such as crayons, finger paints and modeling clay. Blocks and building sets with parts that fit together also help them fine-tune these skills, according to the AAP.

At this age, kids can draw both straight lines and open circles. And the towers they build might be six blocks high.

You may find that your child is more focused when drawing or building. His or her attention span is longer now than it was even six months ago.

And a little quiet time with some crayons or building blocks can be a welcome break from all that running, jumping and climbing.

Staying safe

Physical activity will often top kids' to-do lists. So your to-do list should start with keeping them safe and preventing injury.

For safety's sake, running and playing outside may be best, at least part of the time. Inside, walls, furniture and other obstacles can get in the way.

Just remember to keep a close eye on little ones. Their self-control is not likely to match their exuberance.

Reviewed 10/7/2022

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