Toddler Milestones

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Understanding and Thinking

Right from birth, children are aware of their surroundings and want to explore them. As your child plays and interacts with the people and objects around him, he learns about his body, his home, and the world around him.

Below are some of the typical developmental milestones for “cognitive skills” (thinking and understanding). After each age group, you can find some “red flags” that might indicate a concern.

Please also see Communication Skills for more information about early development because they can often tell us a lot about cognitive development in children under 2 years of age.

Between the ages of 1-2 years, your child will:

  • Recognize herself in the mirror
  • Begin to say ‘no’ to bedtime and other requests
  • Enjoy dancing to music
  • Imitate adults’ actions and words (e.g. chores)
  • Understand words and commands, and respond to them
  • Begin to match similar objects
  • Recognize and find familiar objects in storybooks with some help
  • Understand the difference between “you” and “me”
  • Feel proud when doing things independently

Red Flags for Cognitive Development (2 years)

If you notice some of the following things by the time your child is 18-24 months old (2 years), you may want to talk to your doctor, or to another health professional such as an Infant Development Consultant, speech-language pathologist or an occupational therapist.

  • He doesn’t understand the function of common objects (e.g. “find something you can eat”, instead of “find a cookie”)
  • She doesn’t imitate other people
  • He continues to mouth toys, or is only interested in feeling or watching toys instead of playing with them
  • She constantly moves from one activity to another and is not able to stay at an activity for brief periods
  • He requires constant attention to stay at an activity

Between the ages of 2-3 years, your child will:

  • Understand simple stories
  • Respond to simple directions
  • Name some objects in a book
  • Group objects by category (e.g. animals, clothing, food)
  • Play pretend with dolls or stuffed animals
  • Stack rings on a peg in order of size
  • Put together simple puzzles (3-4 piece inset puzzles)
  • Identify herself in a mirror, saying “baby” or her own name
  • Tell others what he is doing
  • Learn to count “1-2-3”

Red Flags for Cognitive Development (3 years)

If you notice some of the following things by the time your child is 3 years old, you may want to talk to your doctor, or to another health professional such as an Infant Development Consultant,  speech-language pathologist,  or an occupational therapist.

  • She is not interested in pretend play
  • He is not able to do basic categorization (e.g. “find all the toys”, “find all the clothes”)
  • He doesn’t understand the function of common objects ( e.g. find something you cut with)
  • He continues to mouth toys, or is only interested in feeling or watching toys instead of playing with them
  • She constantly moves from one activity to another and is not able to stay at an activity for brief periods
  • He needs constant attention to stay at an activity or finish something
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