Children experience a rapid increase in their physical, social and cognitive abilities after they are one year old. They are able to move around, and are more aware of themselves and their surroundings. As a result, they show greater independence, begin to assert themselves, show defiance, and imitate others. They can form simple phrases or sentences and follow simple instructions. They recognise the names of people and objects, and spend a lot of time observing their parents and other adults around them. Therefore, it is important for parents and caregivers to set good examples for toddlers to follow. Let’s look at five things a toddler should do by way of attaining cognitive milestones.
- Imitate actions and words of adults: For toddlers, imitation is the key to learning. By imitating adults, they learn a vast array of skills. In fact, it is critical to the development of their language and social skills. But toddlers do not mimic every action of their parents or imitate the actions immediately. In fact, imitation is the result of observing actions or words, processing the information, trying to copy the behaviour and, finally, practising it.
- Communicate: A toddler starts speaking real words instead of babbling. He can name familiar objects, point to people or things when you ask him, speak in two-word phrases and vocalise his needs, and understand and follow simple commands. He also learns to say ‘yes’ and ‘no’.
- Develop Self-awareness: Towards the end of the second year, a toddler achieves self-awareness. She develops into an individual who has likes and dislikes, and interests. Self-awareness establishes a toddler as an independent person.
- Show increase in attention span: A toddler’s attention span depends on his developmental age. By the time a toddler is 15 months old, her attention span is usually about one minute and she can be easily distracted by any new activity or event. When she is 19 months old, she can sustain her attention for approximately 2–3 minutes. And by the time, she is 24 months old, although she can easily get distracted by sounds, she can still focus her attention for 3–6 minutes. However, keep in mind that attention span can be affected by activity, illness, hunger or other such issues.
- Learn through exploration: A toddler starts learning at a tremendous pace. He learns by exploring his surroundings and listening to and observing adults. By around 18 months, he can recognise objects at home like the telephone or spoon, point to body parts, build towers of 6–7 blocks and follow two-step directions.
Cognitive development is specific to each toddler. Many factors influence cognitive development, including genes, prenatal events and the child’s environment. However, if your toddler doesn’t do basic activities like pointing to objects or following simple directions, it may be a warning sign. In such cases, a visit to your child’s paediatrician may be essential.
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