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Toddler Cognitive Development

by Lisa Walker, studioD

You are amazed at how much your baby has learned during the first year of her life, but you haven't seen anything yet. Between the ages of 1 and 3, your toddler will astound you with her brain's rapidly expanding abilities. As these cognitive skills develop, you might even think you have a little genius on your hands.

Grouping Objects

Between the ages of 1 and 3, your toddler will start recognizing and grouping objects by their color, shape and size. Child-development experts at PBS say children begin matching objects around 1 year, and the Ask Dr. Sears website says this develops into learning basic colors and numbers from the age of 2. You can help speed this development with toys such as shape sorters and simple puzzles. You can also make up games. For instance, try to find all the red cars or purple flowers in a favorite book. This is a good time to introduce new words for shapes, such as "square," as well as basic numbers.


Your baby will have tried to imitate your actions from a young age, but the American Academy of Pediatrics says from age 1, this will gradually develop into more complex pretend play. He will start by acting out basic real-life situations such as serving cups of tea or putting his teddy bear to bed. These scenarios will gradually become entire make-believe stories. Encourage his imagination with props such as dress-up clothes, pretend grown-up items, toy characters and playhouses.

Understanding the World

Your infant was only aware of her own little world, but as a toddler, she is discovering there is a lot more going on out there. At some point in her third year, she will realize that face in the mirror is actually her, according to PBS. She will be aware that you are "mom" and that other people exist, such as "firefighters" or "nurses." Her environment is expanding, and she will start to grasp the fact that the grocery store is where you buy food and the park is where she goes to play. This is a good opportunity to plan some day trips to the museum, beach or zoo so you can indulge her fascination with the world.


You may have been singing nursery rhymes to your child for a while, but your toddler will soon start to chant them back. At first, he will just make noises that resemble the familiar rhythms and tunes. Gradually, he will start to recite the words. His capability to remember things really takes off between the ages of 1 and 3, according to the AAP. You will notice he knows the names of characters and even what happens next in his favorite stories. He will recognize familiar people in his life and start to mention people like "Daddy" and "Grandma" even when they are not there.

About the Author

Lisa Walker began her journalism career in local newspapers. She later joined Teletext to work on its website and analogue and digital TV services. Walker spent time as a qualified childminder whilst raising her own two children and now enjoys a career writing and editing for various websites, including parent website Surreymummy.com.

Photo Credits

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