It might look like just child's play, but toddlers are hard at work learning
important physical skills as they gain muscle control, balance, and coordination.
Each new skill lets them progress to the next one, building on a foundation that leads
to more complicated physical tasks, such as jumping rope, kicking a ball on the run,
or turning a cartwheel.
Toddlers always want to do more, which can motivate them to keep trying until they
master a new skill, no matter what it takes.
Take advantage of your toddler's natural desire to keep moving. Even at this early
age, kids establish patterns of activity that carry through the rest of childhood.
So an active toddler is likely to remain active later.
Playing and learning are completely natural for toddlers, so mastering physical
skills should be fun and games for them. Parents should give toddlers many opportunities
to practice their developing skills while providing supervision so they stay safe
while they learn.
In addition to these physical accomplishments, toddlers are developing in other
ways. Provide opportunities for yours to explore, ask questions, use his or her imagination,
and practice fine motor skills, such as stacking blocks or coloring.
Here's a guide to the physical skills toddlers are working, by age:
Early Toddler Skills (12-24 months)
pulls/carries toys while walking
stoops and gets back up
begins to run
kicks a ball
holds railing going up/down stairs
Older Toddler Skills (24-36 months)
balances 1 to 2 seconds on one foot
bends over easily without falling
kicks ball forward
both feet on step going up/down stairs
starts to pedal tricycle
throws ball over head
How Much Activity Is Enough?
For children 12-36 months old, current National Association for Sports and Physical
Education (NASPE) guidelines recommend this much daily activity:
at least 30 minutes of structured physical activity (adult-led)
at least 60 minutes unstructured physical activity (free play)
As a general rule, toddlers shouldn't be inactive for more than 1 hour at a time,
except for sleeping. That's a lot of work for parents and caregivers, but a lot of
much-needed activity for toddlers.
Encourage your toddler to be active, and remember how much he or she is learning
along the way.