From One to Two Years Old: What Your Child is Learning When You’re Not Looking

The second year of life is one full of many changes for every child. Even when parents aren’t looking, the littlest ones are learning every second, from taking in all the sights and sounds of daily life to learning fine motor skills and more, these early years are key in setting the tone for healthy development and a lifelong love of learning.

For Hand Eye Coordination

At this age, kids start to shift in how they play with toys. While their first mode of play is generally confined to throwing toys or haphazardly banging them against cribs or the like, as they transition from their first to second year, motor skills begin to develop, children are likely now able to move small pieces around, and can scribble with a pen or pencil.

Introduce blocks, or cars or trains they need to pull to help your child develop these skills further or very simple puzzles—all these toys that require hand-eye coordination and dexterity enable children to practice fine motor skills. Great for developing brains and setting the stage for writing and drawing in the years to come.

Encourage coloring, whether by getting a set of markers and a coloring book, or an app like Coloring Book for Me & Mandala, which allows kids to use the same skills, but on a mobile device for easy cleanup.

Social and Emotional Development

By 18 months, most kids start to become aware of their environment. For example,

children start to show a preference for familiar people and may be afraid of strangers. By two, children typically start playing near other children and will be exploring a sense of identity as they begin recognizing themselves in the mirror.

While children in this age group are too young to play with each other, fostering very simple activities like filling a box with sand or toys, as a team can lay the groundwork for building relationships to come. Older children who can include little ones in play may also prove to be an asset in helping their younger friends learn about being a friend.


Children typically start increasing their vocabulary during this time, making major strides in learning pronunciation of names, objects and how to express needs and wants effectively. While taking the world in and being exposed to different objects is great for development, activities, like reading to your child each day, and asking them to identify objects, pets, people and more, is key to developing these skills.  

Playing music or singing songs with your child is a great way to incorporate new words into their internal dictionary, allows for practice saying words without feeling like they are being tested. Plus, music can also prepare kids for more formal learning later one, as per this article from PBS.

Physical Development

Sure, it may just look like play, but all that running, crawling and climbing is essential to your toddler’s development. Activities like transporting toys around, bending over and getting up, kicking a ball and so on, all are these really critical activities that stimulate the ability to learn and grow.

And kids need a lot of physical movement each day – according to the National Association for Sports and Physical Education, they should get at least an hour and a half of physical activity, including a half hour of adult-led activity.