Child Development Activities for Infants and Toddlers

Note: Always be sure to choose safe toys and activities for your infant and toddler. Supervise them closely. They are very curious and can easily try to explore unsafe objects or places. Your home visitor or teacher can give you more information on home safety.

Social and Emotional Development

How children show trust

When you talk to and respond to infants and toddlers in consistent ways they learn to trust the adults around them and learn their world is safe and predictable. This trust that very young children begin to experience shapes their relationships throughout their lives.

0-3 months
Respond to your infant's cries. Hold and snuggle your infant.
3-9 months
Play hide and seek or peek a boo. Talk to your infant, even from another room or from across the room.
8-18 months
Respond to your toddler's need for comfort. Remove things that scare your toddler. Allow your child to explore himself in a mirror.
18-24 months
Follow your child's lead. Practice daily routines – bedtime, tooth brushing, baths. Help your child wash his hands.
24-36 months
Allow extra time for your child to dress himself. Encourage your child's individuality. Enjoy what your child can do well!

How children express who they are

Infants and toddlers learn who they are and how to express their individuality from a very early age. Families' beliefs and practices and values establish the child's sense of themselves.

0-3 months
As you talk to your infant during changing and feeding talk about the feelings they are expressing. (You are so hungry. You are so happy today. You don't like feeling wet but you'll be dry and comfy soon)
3-9 months
Respond to your infant's smile with a smile and happy voice.
8-18 months
Label your child's feelings. "You are happy." Hold, read, sing to your child daily. Laugh and smile at your child.
18-24 months
Calm your toddler by picking her up, touching, talking to her.
24-36 months
Show your toddler you are aware of her feelings. Remind her to use words to express her feelings.

How children act around other children

Children are very interested in other children from the time they are very young infants. Their relationships with other children and adults are shaped by their personality and experiences.

0-3 months
Look into your infant's eyes when feeding, talking, changing, playing with her. Talk about what will happen next.
3-9 months
Pick your baby up when they lift their arms to you. Talk about what you can both see as you look around.
8-18 months
Label your child's feelings. "You are happy." Hold, read, sing to your child daily. Laugh and smile at your child.
18-24 months
Listen and respond to your toddler's "stories". Encourage them in conversations with you.
24-36 months
Provide opportunities for your toddler to play with other children at the park, Head Start or with friends.

Communication and Language

How children understand and communicate

Infants learn to understand what is said to them and learn how to give messages. Babies communicate by smiling, crying, cooing, babbling and moving their bodies. Learning language is a natural process that develops as children listen to those around them. Language skills vary a great deal from child to child. Some speak early, some speak later. They begin to look at and explore books and are interested in stories, songs and other language.

0-3 months
Talk to your infant as you feed and change him. Imitate his cooing and movements.
3-9 months
Direct your infant to notice things "Look, there's daddy. You found daddy." Use gestures along with words. Shake your head and say "yes".
8-18 months
Talk out loud to your baby throughout the day. Use words to describe what he is doing. Use new words over and over. Point to things or pictures in books and talk about them. Combine easy words like "bye bye" with the words and gestures.
18-24 months
Give simple two part directions. Use words that describe things or express action. Allow your child to choose books to read. Read them over and over. Ask simple questions. Encourage him to sing songs or chant with you.
24-36 months
Ask your child to tell you where something is, who someone is, talk about what happened. Repeat the correct form of an incorrectly pronounced word or incorrect sentence but do not correct the child's speech. Ask questions as you read books together.

Cognitive Development

How children explore and figure things out

Infants and toddlers learn about their world as they explore by looking at, touching, tasting, listening to and feeling everything around them. They learn how things work and how to solve problems.

0-3 months
Encourage your baby to touch and play with her bottle or toys. Talk to your baby about things in their world.
3-9 months
Move things back and forth for your baby to watch. Provide chances for your baby to find, grasp and hold things.
8-18 months
Play turn-taking games. Provide toys and experiences that encourage your baby to solve problems. Hide toys for your baby to find.
18-24 months
Have toys your child can use to move or make sounds. Keep toys at a special place. Ask the child to get them or put them away. Count things. Name things.
24-36 months
Talk about matching and match socks, toys, other objects. Point to and talk about small details in books. Play hiding games with people or objects.

Physical Development

How children move their bodies and use their hands

Infants and toddlers gain more control over their arms and hands and leg and feet as they mature. They need safe places to move freely and practice all these new movements.

0-3 months
Play patty cake or this little piggy or other word games while gently touching your baby. Allow her to move her legs and arms freely. Place a rattle or toy in her hand.
3-9 months
Change your baby's position frequently throughout the day. Provide time for the infant to be held in a sitting position. Rock your baby.
8-18 months
Sing simple songs and move your baby with the music. Provide balls and other soft objects to throw. Make your home safe to explore.
18-24 months
Have riding toys, balls to kick. Jump with your child. Have materials they can hold and use to draw. Dance with your child to music.
24-36 months
Have toys for catching and throwing. Put measuring cups and toys in the bathtub. Walk backwards, tiptoe, stand on one foot together.