By Raising Children Network
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Your toddler can move around independently but has yet to learn when or how to stop. For parents, having a toddler means creating a fun and safe environment for exploration.

What to expect

Your toddler will probably:

  • begin to show a preference for using the left or right hand, although this preference might not be fully settled for several more years
  • be able to turn doorknobs, between 2-3 years
  • be able to walk up and down stairs using alternate feet, between 2-3 years
  • be able to hold a pencil in a crude writing position, between 2-3 years
  • be able to screw and unscrew jars and lids, between 2½-3 years
  • be able to run easily by around three years
  • start to dress and undress independently
  • be able to eat independently with a spoon and fork, and drink from a cup
  • be managing toilet training by three years
  • rapidly develop hand and finger skills, between 1-2 years of age.

Your child will probably want to test all the limits, climbing as high and running as far as possible. Your child is also running at full speed into life and might need help to calm down. You can prevent the falls and bumps that are common at this age.

As your toddler heads towards being a three-year-old, coordination increases, and your child develops more physical control. This is a time of constant movement – running, jumping, climbing and kicking. Walking is now the heel-to-toes grown-up style, rather than the legs-apart style of a new walker.

Your toddler will enjoy using you and other familiar grown-ups as a play gym at this age, especially if you get down on the floor and play together.

Play ideas to encourage movement

Some ideas include:

  • push-and-pull toys from eight months
  • any music that gives your toddler the opportunity to try moving to the beat
  • simple songs and rhymes that let your toddler copy actions
  • ride-on toys from 12 months
  • playground equipment from 12 months
  • different-sized containers to help your toddler practise fine motor skills by putting small containers into larger ones
  • puzzles and large Lego
  • soft balls to roll and toss and kick
  • outdoor play in parks, backyards, at the beach – anywhere that your toddler can safely toddle, run and explore – to practise motor skills.
If your child is not running smoothly by 36 months, or shows little interest in exploring actively, it would be a good idea to consult your health professional.
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  • Last Updated 11-03-2010
  • Last Reviewed 02-11-2009
  • Berk, L. (1997). Child Development, 4th Ed. Massachusetts: Allyn & Bacon. 

    Child and Youth Health South Australia (1996). Practical parenting 1-5 years. Melbourne: ACER.

    Manning-Morton, J., & Thorp, M. (2003). Key times for play: The first three years. Philadelphia: Open University Press.