20 Effective And Developmentally Appropriate Practice Activities For Toddlers Aged 1 To 3 Years

In the earlier article, we gained an understanding of the 27 developmentally appropriate practices for physical development. In this article, let’s understand the 20 developmentally appropriate practice activities for toddlers aged 1 to 3 years, and also look at their cognitive development.

In this article:

  1. To understand the Developmental Milestones of Physical development from 1 to 3 years
  2. To understand the concept of Cognitive Development and appropriate practices from 0 to 6 months
  3. To gain knowledge of the Developmentally Appropriate practices involved for both Physical and Cognitive development
  4. To apply the knowledge gained to real life situations

Physical Development Milestones in 1 to 2 Year Old Toddlers

Children at this stage are becoming more and more independent, and tasks involving balance and eye-hand coordination are emerging. Some typical milestones seen are:

  • Able to lift things while standing up
  • Can walk backward
  • Can climb stairs walking single step at a time
  • Running and jumping on both the legs
  • Move to music
  • Colour
  • Scribble
  • Turn door knobs or handles

Developmentally Appropriate Practices for 1 to 2 Year Old Toddlers

  • Encourage the child to be responsible for their toys and things, folding small clothes, pulling out the clothes, choosing their toys, etc.
  • Play along walking forwards and backwards
  • Make simple obstacle course with pillows or soft toys encouraging hopping and jumping
  • Provide safe colours, scribbling pads, to encourage colouring and scribbling
  • Introducing musical instruments to achieve fine muscle coordination
  • Playing games involving like running and jumping, and planning organised games

Also Read | 13 Powerful Cognitive Development Activities for 6 Month Olds

Physical Development Milestones in 2 to 3 Year Old Toddlers

Children are always building on their earlier skills and are becoming more proficient in activities that require coordination and speed. By this age, children generally can:

  • Run in a coordinated direction
  • Able to jump in one position
  • Kick, catch and throw objects in a definite direction
  • Can draw circles
  • Able to hold crayon in between thumb and fingers

Developmentally Appropriate Practices for 2 to 3 Year Old Toddlers

  • Organise games involving hopping, running, jumping, catching and balancing
  • Yoga, simple exercises, gymnastics and swimming, cycling, scooters, bat and ball games, playing games with rules, tracing lines, curves, and so on
  • For fine motor development, paper folding, stringing with small beads

Physical development is one of the most important areas of development and planning developmentally appropriate practice activities for toddlers to enhance their overall development is a great responsibility. After having understood one area of development let us try and understand cognitive development.

What is Cognitive Development?

Cognitive development can be understood as a construction of the thoughts or the process of thinking which involves constructing ideas, imagination through memory, problem solving, creative thinking and making decisions from birth to adulthood.

Cognitive development is all about how a child thinks, perceives and understands his or her surroundings by exploring as well as from inherited factors. The aspects involved with cognitive development are:

  • Information processing
  • Memory
  • Intelligence
  • Language development

Initially, it was considered that cognition developed in infants only when they started talking or were able to understand language. But with decades of research, it’s been proved that cognition happens right from birth and cognitive processes are actively happening as a child explores and learns from surroundings.

Cognition has been studied from various perspectives. Intelligence tests were used to determine the intelligence of a child. Cognition was believed to be inherited and cannot be changed. However, behavioural researches including a Swiss Psychologist named Jean Piaget changed the whole concept of cognition.

Also Read | 27 Developmentally Appropriate Activities for Infants

Importance of Cognitive Development in Toddlers

Right from the moment a child is born, skills such as reading language, vocabulary, number concept begins to build which are a part of cognitive development.

A child’s cognitive development is a precursor to later success the child will experience in later life. A child without these skills can fall back in school leading to not being able to perform as its own peers.

After having understood in brief the concept and importance of cognitive development, lets understand the developmental milestones and the developmentally appropriate practices required for the same.

Developmental Milestones in 0 to 3 Month Old Infants – Cognitive

During the first 3 months, the development is centred at exploring the surrounding through the sense and trying to learn more about the body and surroundings.

At this time babies are usually able to see:

  • Objects closer to the eye can be very clearly seen
  • Any moving objects, moving faces, the baby is able to focus on it
  • Taste buds are very sensitive
  • Able to differentiate between pitch and volume
  • Able to see colours
  • Babies can respond with facial expressions

Developmentally Appropriate Practices for 0 to 3 Month Old Infants – Cognitive

  • Showing bright coloured picture books and talking about the pictures in the book
  • Engaging the baby with conversations during its awake times
  • Hanging a mobile to the crib or placing toys around the baby
  • Singing songs and action rhymes
  • Playing imitation games

Developmental Milestones in 3 to 6 Month Old Infants – Cognitive

  • The ability to perceive is still developing and starts growing stronger
  • Able to recognise faces familiar to them
  • Recognise and respond to others’ facial expressions
  • React to familiar sounds and voices
  • Appearance of social smile can imitate facial expressions

Developmentally Appropriate Practices for 3 to 6 Month Old Infants – Cognitive

  • Peek-a-boo games
  • Making facial expression easy for the baby to imitate
  • Intro sounds and textures
  • Encouraging cooing and babbling
  • Talking about the objects around the baby
  • Introduce the baby to mirrors


Understanding about the developmental milestones and the 20 developmentally appropriate practice activities for toddlers aged 1 to 3 years is very important for not only early childhood educators, it is equally important for parents and caregivers too.

The above given guidelines are only to provide the basic idea of preparing activities. Ideally, the early childhood educator, parent or caregiver should build on it by being creative in planning a variety of activities for their child.

Also Read | 4 Best Play Activities to Promote Holistic Development and Learning

Disclaimer: The content in this page and across this website are for informational and educational purposes only. In case of any concerns about your child’s growth and development, please contact your professional child healthcare provider.