12 - 18 Months


Infants and toddlers are holistic learners, which means that although one activity may primarily target one developmental area, all domains are “at play.” When you are targeting motor development, your presence and connection with your baby also inevitably target social/emotional development, your words develop your child’s communication, and the concepts you discuss and problem-solving your baby is doing develop cognition. The more you interact with your baby, the more your baby learns!

These activities are all meant to be interactive, and should be supervised by a fully present adult.


developmental domains


+ Cognition

Your baby enjoys exploring objects in different ways to understand their properties. She is starting to associate familiar objects with their function - e.g., a spoon is something you put in your mouth when eating, a brush is something you put in your hair.

When your baby shakes or bangs an object, she is experimenting with concepts such as weight, texture, etc. Give words for the objects, their properties & her actions!

+ Communication

It's easy to ask our little ones to label objects or people in pictures or in the environment. Consider shifting the focus of the activity to make it more communicative - so you are both part of the activity.

Point out objects that you notice, and take turns as you would in any conversation! This is more likely to capture your child's attention for a longer period of time, as it is more natural engagement and interaction (vs. a testing scenario).

+ Motor / Sensory

When young children are able to choose what and how to play with objects around them, they are more likely to explore their environment. In a safe environment with interesting options, they are able to reach, move and explore!

Provide your baby with safe play spaces on the floor to explore and investigate his environment so he can roll, crawl, walk & stretch, & limit the use of equipment that restricts your baby’s movement.

+ Social / Emotional

Research suggests that young toddlers around 18 months pay attention to emotions directed at them, as well as emotional information directed at others, using both kinds of information to make decisions and inform their behavior.

The way you speak to your child and to family, friends, & acquaintances guides her behavior. Calling attention to the feelings of others, in front of you, in pictures or books, gives your child an emotional vocabulary!


bring this information to life

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+ Musical Experiences

  • Sing a song with hand motions, allowing your baby to watch the movement and listen to the words (and link the two!)
  • Offer a drum (“actual” or DIY such as a laundry basket) and imitate your baby’s rhythms, taking turns as you would in a conversation.
  • Offer your baby a mallet (or wooden or metal spoon) to play percussive instruments, laundry baskets or pot tops!

+ Literacy Experiences

  • Wonder aloud about what might happen next while reading a book with your baby, modeling how you might make predictions.
  • Lift the page once you’ve read it, and pause expectantly, encouraging your baby to help you turn it.
  • Attach a label on different drawers or bins, as a way to familiarize your baby with print in the natural environment. You might add a picture of the type of object within.

+ Sensory Experiences

  • Go on a “nature walk” and talk about the texture, color and size of natural materials you see - spider webs, rocks, leaves, feathers, etc.
  • Use a paintbrush or old toothbrush to paint the sidewalk, outdoor deck or driveway with water
  • Practice transferring small food items (beans, blueberries, cereal or even water) from one bowl or plate to another.

+ Visual Supports

  • Find images of people (in books, magazines, printed images from web search). Make up a simple story about what happened, & what they might do next
  • Turn the lights off & shine a flashlight on an object in the room. Say it’s name, and something about what it’s for/how it’s used.
  • Find shape sorters, puzzle pieces, blocks, toys or pictures in the same category & offer to your baby