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Four Areas of Development in Toddlers

by Erica Loop

As your child moves out of infancy and into the toddler years, she is growing and developing at a rapid pace. Gone are the days of wondering what she is thinking and having to carry her everywhere. Now that your little one is a full fledged toddler she is making strides in all four developmental domains -- cognitive, social, emotional and physical -- and seems more and more like a big kid rather than a baby.

Cognitive Development

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children website, by the time they are 2 years old most toddlers have the cognitive skills to solve basic problems by thinking instead of simply doing. They also have basic memory and recall abilities and can understand relationships between different items or objects. This means that your toddler will most likely have the cognitive ability to sort basic geometric shapes such as squares and circles into categories and even understand time and sequence concepts such as before and after. Keep in mind that while your toddler is certainly growing his cognitive abilities, he isn't ready yet to think in a critical or analytical manner and may confuse reality with fantasy at times. For example, he may not understand that Dora isn't a real person in the same way that his friend Jane is.

Social Development

Although toddlers aren't quite as interested in socializing as preschoolers and older children are, they are building the basics of this key developmental domain. The child development experts at PBS Parents note that during the second year of life toddlers are becoming more aware of others and are beginning to establish actual relationships. By 2-years-old, many toddlers will begin to play alongside other kids, engaging in parallel play. During parallel play the toddler may show awareness or interest in the other toddler, but will not typically interact with her. During this time your toddler may not have the pro-social skills necessary to always exhibit appropriate or acceptable behaviors such as sharing or taking turns. This may result in physical aggression such as biting or hitting. While this may seem troubling, by the time your toddler moves into the preschool years she will develop the social skills to interact in a more sociable manner, especially when proper behavior is taught and modeled at home.

Emotional Development

Emotional development often goes hand in hand with development in the social arena. For example, your toddler's inability to completely self-regulate his emotions may cause social skirmishes among peers on the playground when he can't seem to share a toy or wait his turn for a ride on the swing. According to the experts at PBS Parents, most older toddlers --those over the age of two -- can recognize feelings, such as angry, scared or happy, and label them.

Phsyical Development

Your toddler is developing both gross, meaning large, and fine, meaning small, motor skills during this stage of childhood. As an infant, your child lacked the ability to move around much. During the toddler years she is up on her feet, walking and running around. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, by the time they are 2 years old, most toddlers can walk unassisted, stand on their tiptoes, walk up and down stairs with some help or support and even kick a ball. When it comes to fine motor development, your toddler is showing increased eye-hand coordination and will start to scribble with crayons or markers and build with manipulatives such as blocks.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

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