This article was written in collaboration with Professor Daisy Chan, Chairperson, Chapter of Neonatologists.

Understanding Your Toddler’s Development

Your toddler is growing up quickly in front of you. Knowing what to expect and understanding your toddler better will make it easier for you to keep up with him/her well. Here are some developmental milestones1 you can expect2 from your toddler.


Toddler's development for movement
  • Catches or kicks a ball
  • Runs and jumps around
  • Dances to music
  • Walks up and down steps without assistance (initially two feet per step and later one foot per step)
  • Eats on his/her own using a spoon and pierce food with a fork, with some spillage. Allow your toddler to use whichever hand he/she prefers.

Activity Tip!

Create fun fine-motor skills challenges – for example, practise flipping the pages of a book one page at a time alone, building a tower of blocks up to 4 blocks high or arranged as a train, and replacing shapes through using eye-hand coordination or rolling a ball across the room.


Toddler's development for Social/Emotional
  • Notice when someone is feeling sad or troubled
  • Observe your facial expressions, tones, and reactions
  • Mimic adults and other children (be careful to not use swear words – remember, you are your child’s role model and first influencer!)

Activity Tip!

Find opportunities to have conversations with your toddler, for example, during playtime, or asking for help with safe activities such as folding clothes with your supervision. Such activities help foster a sense of belonging and collaboration with others and hence play a part in developing pro-social behaviour.


Toddler's development for cognition
  • Play with more than one toy at a time
  • Try to use knobs or switches on a toy
  • Engage in pretend play such as cooking with toy utensils, combing hair for dolls, etc.

Activity Tip!

Encourage your toddler to go on a “treasure hunt” at home, to find some toys you have placed around the space.


Toddler's development for communication.
  • Point to specific objects in a book or picture when asked
  • Communicate in two-word phrases (e.g. “Mama, more” or “So Dark”)
  • Share feelings (e.g. “Papa happy”)
  • Repeat words your toddler has heard
  • Get to know familiar body parts
  • Obey two-step instructions (e.g. “see if mummy’s phone is in the room, and bring it here.”)
  • Build up a vocabulary of at least 50 words, including labels for body parts, animals, fruits, shapes, colours, and vehicles

Activity Tip!

Go for a nature walk and tell your toddler the names of things you see.

Find out more about what to expect from your growing toddler here.

Feed Your Toddler Right

Feeding your toddler well at a young age is important, as many eating habits are developed during childhood. Here is how you can continue feeding your toddler for healthier growth.

From the age of 1, toddlers can eat the same foods as the rest of the family – and it is crucial to provide a healthy balanced diet with the different food groups so that your toddler can get all the nutrients needed. Read more about serving portions here.

Below is a sample daily menu for toddlers aged 1 to 2 years old.

sample daily menu for toddlers

Want more tips on feeding your toddler? Check this article out.

Get Moving!

Staying active is important for toddlers – it helps them develop their fine motor skills, and social skills, as well as build stronger muscles and bones, amongst many other benefits. It is ideal for them to spend at least 180 minutes in various types of physical activities. This is also a time when toddlers start to develop motor skills rapidly. You may observe reflexes and reactions from them, such as grasping, sucking, crawling, scooting and even getting startled. It is the best time for your toddler to get used to moving around!

To develop your toddler’s motor skills, you can get your toddler to move after every hour – for example, try placing toys on the floor to encourage him or her to stand up, walk over and stoop to recover objects placed further away. Do not be afraid to experiment – allow your toddler to explore a variety of activities! Here are some ideas on encouraging your toddler to be active, in fun and safe ways.

  • Take your toddler out and explore different play stations at the playground
  • Bring him/her outdoors to engage in sensory play such as sand play or picking up objects like leaves or twigs. If you have access to a pool, let your toddler test the waters by moving around.
  • Label what your toddler sees, and describe its shape, colour and function, in order to boost cognitive development.
  • Encourage your toddler to look, clap, reach or move about in response to sounds through talking, singing, rhyming, or action games such as peekaboo
  • Schedule time as a family to play together – this helps to instil positive attitudes and habits from an early age; it also gives you more opportunities to bond as a family!

Take Care of Your Toddler’s Teeth

Toddlers’ teeth are something to smile about indeed! Your toddler’s baby teeth should have mostly grown by now, and you will need to keep them healthy until their adult teeth grow out.

Adopt a Regular Teeth-cleaning Routine

Brush twice a day, with toothpaste recommended for toddlers and about the size of a grain of rice. You can help your toddler brush his teeth for about two minutes. When you feel that he/she can do it himself/herself well, you can teach him/her how to do it.

Clean Between the Teeth

When you see two teeth that touch, clean between the teeth. This removes food between the teeth and under the gums, and in turn, helps to stop cavity formation.

Watch Your Toddler’s Diet

Some food and drinks are not good for baby teeth – they include sugar-laden ones such as candy, cookies and soda. This is because sugar and acid can make the enamel of the teeth weak, increasing the risk of cavities. You don’t have to completely remove these from your toddler’s diet – limiting intake and regular teeth cleaning should be adequate to help these baby teeth last until new ones erupt.

Help Your Toddler Feel at Ease With Dental Check-ups

Going to the dentist can be scary, but with the right tips, you can put your toddler at ease! You can start to teach your little one about dental visits in a positive way. Toddlers constantly pick up vocal cues and body language, so before your visit, explain why you’re going – cheerfully. For example, you can tell your toddler, “We’re going to see our dentist friend today, and he’s going to help keep your teeth nice, clean, and healthy!”

Read more about some teeth-cleaning best practices. Here are some oral care resources.

Manage Screen Time

In today’s digitally fuelled world, it is inevitable that your child’s environment is surrounded by digital devices such as televisions, screens, and tablets. While these devices do bring along benefits for toddlers, it is still important to manage screen time. Toddlers between 18 and 36 months should have no more than 1 hour of screen time each day. Here are some tips on how you can establish ground rules so that your toddler can have a healthy amount of screen time.

Do Research on Games and Apps Before Letting Your Toddler Use Them

While there are thousands of apps and games around, all claiming to be educational, not all of them are. You can do some quick research on parenting sites, forums, or articles from educators and doctors on good apps for toddlers and preview them before sharing them with your toddler.

Turn off Screens at Least an Hour Before Bedtime

This gives your toddler some time to wind down properly and get a good night’s sleep.

Use Parental Controls To Limit Screen Time

Today, many devices come with settings to help parents monitor and control the amount of screen time their toddlers are exposed to. Once the time you’ve allocated is used up, your toddler will no longer be able to use the device.

Remember, No Means No

Your toddler, who has just started to find a voice, may kick up a fuss in the beginning. The key is to be firm about the boundaries, but your toddler will soon get used to it, and find something else for amusement.

More tips on screen time for toddlers under 2 can be found here.

Choose the Right Toys

Toys are important in a toddler’s developmentthey not only entertain these bundles of energy balls; they also enhance skills in areas such as communication, cognition, and motor skills. Toddlers of this age have good control of their hands and fingers and tend to like to handle small objects. Some toddler-friendly toys include:

Problem-solving Toys

Examples: blocks that snap together, compartmentalized containers to place different-coloured objects, puzzles (4 to 12 pieces)

Games That Allow Them To Play Pretend

Examples: Building blocks, construction sets, toddler-sized furniture, dress-up doll

Activity Kits That Encourage Creation

Examples: Paints, crayons, large paintbrushes, chalk

Picture Books

Examples: Books with colourful details, as well as interactive pop-up features.

Things That Enable Them To Use Their Muscles

Examples: Balls for kicking and throwing, tunnels with soft padding

Choose the toys with a kit that encourages creation
Choose picture books with colourful details
Choose toys that enable them to use their muscles

Tip: Always ensure that the toys are safe – for example, they should not be breakable or have sharp parts or splinters. They should also be easily cleaned. For more tips to make playtime safe for your toddler, read this article.

Your toddler will have his/her own character now, and he/she will be able to make some decisions on his/her own. This is yet another important milestone – and a crucial time to inculcate the right habits in your toddler.

Visit Parent Hub for more useful tips and guides to give your child a healthy start.

The article has been endorsed by the following representatives, listed in alphabetical order by institutions: A/Prof Tan Lay Kok (Obstetrics & Gynaecology, KK Women's and Children's Hospital), Dr Moira Chia Suyin (Consultant, Department of Paediatrics, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital), Ms Adeline Kooh Seok Koon (Asst Director, Nursing (Maternity), Mount Alvernia Hospital), Dr Angelia Chua (Family Physician Consultant, National Healthcare Group Polyclinics), Prof Lee Yung Seng (Group Director, Paediatrics, National University Hospital), Ms Susan Kok (Senior Asst Director, Nursing, Gleneagles Hospital, Parkway Pantai Group), Ms Helen Cruz Espina (Senior Lactation Consultant, Raffles Hospital Pte Ltd), A/Prof Yong Tze Tein (Head & Senior Consultant, O&G, Singapore General Hospital), Ms Fonnie Lo (Asst Director, ParentCraft Centre (Clinical) and Lactation Consultant, Thomson Medical Pte. Ltd).


  1. Important Milestones: Your Child By Two Years. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  2. Your toddler’s developmental milestones at 2 years.