It’s easy to see all of the skills Baby is gaining as you watch her walk – she might be starting to walk with a heel-toe gait, much more like an adult than her earlier steps. Her stumbles are probably getting more and more rare as she gets more comfortable with her own body.
What might be harder to spot, though, is how much her thinking skills are growing. There’s no real way to take a peek inside her brain, and see all the growth that’s going on in there, but there are external signs that show how much stronger and more mature her thinking has become. One of the biggest, and also most fun ways to take a look at that growth is to watch as she plays.
Specifically, imaginative play can show you a lot of growth in thinking skills. At first, when Baby played pretend, she probably acted out simple scenes, scenes she saw around your home every day, or both. A lot of the toys she used in pretend-play probably closely mimicked objects she recognized, too. These days, she might be focusing on more detailed play-pretend scenarios, but more than that, she might be using more obscure objects as stand-ins for the real deal – soup made out of rocks, a wand made out of a paper towel roll, or a napkin off the dinner-table as a cape.
Symbolic play like this is a sign that she’s developing the ability to think figuratively, instead of just literally. Figurative thinking is important for language development, creative thinking, and problem-solving as she grows.
Another way that her mental and emotional growth might start to show around this time is for your toddler to start to show a strong preference for one parent or caregiver over others – or, if she was already showing a preference, by switching that preference to a different parent or caregiver. This might not be the most fun stage of development, but it’s a strong sign that she is looking for chances to make choices, and to have some control over her life.
When Baby expresses her preferences around this time – whether it’s a preference for your partner to tuck her in to bed instead of you or a preference to not have to try another bite of spinach – listening to those preferences when you can helps to build her trust both in you and in her new communication skills.
Stands on tiptoe: All she needs to know now is how to pirouette! Baby’s ability to stand on her tiptoes is a sign of her growing foot- and ankle-strength, which she’s been developing since she started trying to walk, as well as her balance.
Starting to use one hand more than the other: Baby isn’t definitively a righty or a lefty yet, but she might be starting to use one hand more than the other often enough that you’re starting to get an indication of which one she’s going to be.
- Rebecca Parlakian and Claire Lerner. “From Baby to Big Kid: Month 25.” Zero to Three. Zero to Three, May 13 2016. Retrieved September 6 2017. https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/1255-from-baby-to-big-kid-month-25
- “Activities for Bonding and Learning from 24 to 36 Months.” Zero to Three. Zero to Three, April 18 2016. Retrieved September 7 2017. https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/1079-activities-for-bonding-and-learning-from-24-to-36-months.
- “Developmental Milestones: 2 Years Old.” Healthy Children. American Academy of Pediatrics, June 1 2009. Retrieved August 14 2017. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/toddler/Pages/Developmental-Milestones-2-Year-Olds.aspx.
- “Developmental Skills for Ages 2 to 3 Years.” Fairview Health Services. University of Minnesota, Amplatz Children’s Hospital. Retrieved September 7 2017. https://www.fairview.org/fv/groups/internet/documents/web_content/developmen_201009262104505.pdf.
- “Feeding: What to Expect From 24 to 36 Months.” Zero to Three. Zero to Three, February 16 2009. Retrieved September 6 2017. https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/154-feeding-what-to-expect-from-24-to-36-months.
- “Learning and Development: Young Children 24 to 36 Months.” Better Brains for Babies. University of Georgia. Retrieved September 7 2017. http://bbbgeorgia.org/childDev_24-36.php.
- “Play Activities for 24 to 36 Months.” Zero to Three. Zero to Three, February 17 2010. Retrieved September 7 2017. https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/169-play-activities-for-24-to-36-months.
- “Physical Activity for Your Child: Age 2 Years.” Lancaster General Health. Penn Medicine. Retrieved September 7 2017. http://www.lancastergeneralhealth.org/LGH/ECommerceSite/media/LGH-Media-Library/Documents/Services/Service%20Lines/Healthy%20Weight%20Management/Fact%20Sheets/Physical-Activity-Age-2.pdf.
- “Stages of Play from 24-36 Months: The World of Imagination.” Zero to Three. Zero to Three, February 26 2015. Retrieved September 6 2017. https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/315-stages-of-play-from-24-36-months-the-world-of-imagination.