The first three years of life are very significant. This time is considered the “critical period for brain development”. One of the critical skills to develop is movement.
Toddlers start to explore the world around them, do some things independently, and improve their coordination.
These activities encourage the development of a child’s motor, communication, and language, cognitive, and social, and emotional skills. In this article, we’ll talk about a toddler’s motor development, and how to help your kids develop this particular skill.
What Are the Developmental Milestones for Toddlers 1-2 Years Old?
During their first year, your child is expected to be able to sit alone, stand up alone, and start to walk. Their fine motor skills also develop as they start to grasp small things, transfer objects from one place to another, and throw things away.
At 2 years old, they love to explore the world! They constantly climb and open and close drawers. They start to run, jump, and learn to kick a ball.
In terms of fine motor skills, they start building blocks, holding crayons, and scribbling. They can also turn the pages of a book one at a time, open jar lids, and even open doorknobs.
It is completely normal for toddlers to explore their environment. It’s necessary for their motor and brain development. At this age, their brains are “wired” to explore their surroundings. They need to move around.
What Can Parents Do To Promote a Toddler’s Motor Development?
Promoting your child’s motor development shouldn’t be so hard! Here are some things you can do.
Be there for them.
Enjoy playing and truly being present with your kids. Remove distractions. This is a great time to keep mobile devices away.
Encourage open-ended play.
Demonstrate to your toddler how to play. Allow them to follow their imagination and be creative.
Give age-appropriate toys.
At some point, your toddler will break something. They’re not being naughty when they break objects! Avoid giving your toddler objects that are easily broken or torn apart. Also, avoid toys that can be choking hazards.
Encourage them to explore.
According to the World Health Organization, a child must be active at least three hours a day, spread throughout the day. Allow toddlers to safely explore their environment. You can do this even from the comforts of your own home.
Provide a safe space for them to explore.
Give them a safe space to explore around, where they can walk, run around, and touch things. It’s important to “toddler-proof” your home.
Do not reprimand your toddlers for doing things that are normal for their age.
Running around, not sitting still, or touching things is normal toddler behavior. We should not reprimand or scold them for doing such things because this might hinder their overall development.
Research shows that allowing our toddlers to explore will not only improve motor development but their overall brain development as well.
Can Walkers Promote Motor Development in Toddlers?
Baby walkers are devices that help infants or toddlers, who cannot walk yet, move from one place to another. In the Philippines, walkers are a must-have for children so that they can learn how to walk.
But do walkers really work? Or are they causing more harm than good?
In 2018, the American Academy of Pediatrics called for a ban on the manufacturing and sales of baby walkers in the USA. The AAP conducted a study on Infant-Walker Related Injuries and found that there have been an estimated 230,676 infants, below 15 months old, who were treated for walker-related injuries, and most of them sustained head and neck injuries.
Furthermore, the same study concluded that baby walkers can further delay the motor development of toddlers, and can affect their normal gait patterns and posture in early childhood.
Instead of using baby walkers, you can just allow your toddler to “cruise”. Cruising is the act of standing and walking while holding on to furniture to support themselves.
How Can Parents Develop Their Toddler’s Fine Motor Skills?
Fine motor skills involve the use of small muscles that control the movement of our hands, fingers, and thumb. This is a very important skill that must be developed in early childhood because this will enable our kids to complete important tasks such as writing, feeding themselves, buttoning their shirts, or zipping their pants.
Here are simple activities that you can do with your toddler that will help them develop their fine motor skills:
- Do simple puzzles.
- Let them play with building blocks or string large beads to improve their eye-hand coordination.
- Let them draw.
- Develop their hand strength by doing squeezing activities. Examples of these are squeeze toys or even a wet washcloth, then ask your toddler to squeeze the water out of it.
- Let them play with “open-ended” toys.
Beware of Choking Hazards
Parents must be aware of the toys that they give to their toddlers, especially if it’s too small. They could accidentally swallow these tiny objects which can result in choking.
A very simple tip to help parents recognize if an object is a choking hazard or not is by placing this object inside a toilet paper core. If the object fits easily inside the toilet paper core, then it’s a choking hazard. So the next time you play with your toddler, try giving them toys or objects that do not fit inside the core so you know it’s safe.
“Red Flag” Signs To Watch Out For in a Toddler’s Motor Development
While it is understandable that children reach developmental milestones at different ages, you should consider paying your pediatrician a visit if your child displays any of these signs.
Red Flag Signs at 12 months old
- Not eating solid foods.
- Unable to crawl on all fours.
- Unable to grasp or hold small things like finger foods.
- Not pulling to stand
- Unable to sit upright in a child-size chair
Red Flag Signs at 18 months old
- Not walking
- Not standing alone
- Unable to stack objects
- Not scribbling
Before 3 years old, a child should be able to:
- Walk unassisted
- Run, Jump, Climb
Although developmental milestones have been set for each age, it is wise for parents to remember that every child is unique and that they will progress at their own pace. Avoid comparing your kids to other children and just let them enjoy their childhood.
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