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Toddler Brain Development

By the time the toddler turns three, the brain will weigh 80% that of an adult’s and it will have twice as many connections. Increases in weight are the result of brain cells growing larger and the development of connective pathways between them.

Physical development

In the second year, most toddlers can climb on and off furniture, ascend and descend stairs, throw or kick a ball, brush their teeth with help, catch balloons and chase bubbles.

Hand-eye coordination is still developing but most toddlers can build a tower of five blocks, use both hands to unscrew stacking barrels and steer a ride-on vehicle. They can also take off their socks and shoes.

In the third year, toddlers can balance on one leg for a few seconds, stand on tiptoe, scribble circles and keep the colouring on the page.

Language development

In the second year, toddlers may produce four or five word sentences, respond to simple instructions such as “Sit down” and “Give me your cup”, name objects, express their likes and dislikes, and make animal sounds such as ‘moo’ and ‘baa’.

By the end of the second year, toddlers recognise when something is wrong for example, calling a cat a dog. They may point to objects using the words ‘look’ and ‘see’, follow a short story and name at least six body parts. They may understand up to three hundred or more words, say about one hundred words and combine them to make phrases.

In the third year, toddlers soak up new words at a phenomenal rate. They begin to understand abstract concepts such as ‘sooner’ and ‘later’ and opposites such as ‘big’ and ‘small’. They can also hold a conversation and ask questions.

Emotional development

Toddlers experience a wide range of feelings and emotions in the second year. Although they can be awkward, aggressive and impatient, they can also empathise with the feelings of the people closest to them.

Shyness is common in the second year. Girls tend to be shyer than boys but this could be the result of social conditioning. However, toddlers can also be very self-contained and independent.

In the third year, toddlers gain more control of their emotions. If they have developed a strong attachment to a loving adult, they will cope better with stress and conflict than in their second year.

Social development

Milestones in the second year, toddlers may play alongside other children but they will fiercely protect their toys. Bouts of anxiety in new social situations are common.

In the third year, toddlers begin to cooperate with other children and there may be some materials shared. Although relationships may be short-lived, they may start to single out a friend who has made an impact. They also become more aware of gender differences.

Imaginative development

Imagination develops at about 30 months when toddlers use objects such as toy cars and plastic animals in pretend play. They may cuddle their teddies or dolls that have tears or holes to make them feel better, ‘read’ pictures in books, and imitate the actions of adults and older siblings.

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