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Development Tracker Ages 1-2

Research shows that if children start school with a strong set of attitudes and skills that help them ‘learn how to learn’, they will be better able to take advantage of educational opportunities. While some learning skills come naturally to children, others can be developed through a supportive environment.
One-year-olds are in the act of discovering the world. They enthusiastically use their senses to purposefully explore everything they can. They find pleasure in causing things to happen and in completing basic tasks. They also enjoy sharing interesting learning experiences with adults, and may use gestures and simple sounds or speech to ask adults questions.
Since language skills are still developing, one-year-olds rely more heavily on nonverbal, physical strategies to reach simple goals.
Initiative, engagement and persistence
  • Indicates preferences nonverbally or with simple language (e.g. points to an apple and pushes banana away).
  • Focuses attention on interesting sights or sounds, often in shared experiences with adults (e.g. sits on father's lap looking at a picture book).
  • Shows pleasure in completing simple tasks (e.g. drops clothes pegs into a bucket and smiles and claps when all are inside).
  • Increasingly tries to help with self-care activities (e.g. feeding, undressing, grooming). When reading with adults, may want to hold the book or try to turn the pages. Collects information about the world using the senses.
Curiosity and eagerness to learn
  • Actively participates in a variety of sensory experiences (e.g. tastes, touches, pats, shakes).
  • May seek information from adults by pointing to an interesting object, and then giving a questioning look, making a vocal sound, and/or saying a single word. In the second half of the year, children will be able to combine words to ask simple questions; for example, says, ‘What that?’ or ‘Who coming?’).
  • Shows physical and vocal pleasure when exploring objects and other things. Finds pleasure in causing things to happen (e.g. picks up bells and rings them, then smiles broadly when each one sounds different).
Reasoning and problem-solving
  • Tries a variety of physical strategies to reach simple goals (e.g. when a cart gets stuck while being pushed through a door, child turns the cart a different way and tries again).
  • Uses gestures and (towards the end of the year) simple language to get help when stuck. For example, extends arms toward grandfather and says, ‘Up Up!’ when trying to get into large chair.
  • Discovers aspects of the physical world using early language skills and purposeful exploration with the senses (e.g. turns a plastic bucket over and over, raising and lowering the handle thoughtfully).
Invention and imagination
  • Pretends one object is really another with simple physical substitutions (e.g. picks up a wooden block and holds it to the ear like a phone).
  • Uses objects in new and unexpected ways (e.g. puts saucepan on head, laughs uproariously).


One-year-olds recognise different qualities in music, and respond with their whole bodies to rhythm, beat and melody. Their interest in art is focused on the sensory exploration of art materials, such as paint and clay.
The options for art projects at this age are limited by a one-year-old’s undeveloped hand dexterity. Children this age make an important developmental leap by beginning to pretend during play, often by imitating adult movements.
  • Reflects the overall mood of music (e.g. claps hands and moves body to a happy-sounding song).
  • Enjoys making own music and noise (e.g. shakes a maraca, mimics the sounds that adults make).
  • Uses musical sounds to aid in communication prior to the advent of language (e.g. babbles in a sing-song manner).
  • Explores musical instruments to see how they work (e.g. shakes bells, bangs piano keys).
  • Begins to understand that sounds and music affect behaviour (e.g. can be startled by loud music, comforted by a musical stuffed animal).
  • Uses senses to explore what art materials can do (e.g. scribbles with jumbo crayons, uses fingers to swirl finger paint or shaving cream, squeezes oily moulding dough).
  • Takes pleasure in exploring the textures of art materials (e.g. finger paints with abandon, squeezes playdough through fingers and squeals).
  • Explores basic art tools and materials (those that do not demand great manual dexterity) to see how they work (e.g. scribbles with chalk, finger paints on a tray, makes crayon dots on paper).
  • Shows a preference for particular textures and art experiences (e.g. delights in squeezing soft doughs).
  • Responds to music with full body movements (e.g. holds adult’s hands and sways to music).
  • Uses body to communicate needs before language skills are developed (e.g. extends arms upward and toddles toward an adult to indicate a desire to be picked up).
Dramatic play
  • Plays interactive games with adults to explore concepts (e.g. learns that objects are still there when they aren't visible by playing peekaboo).
  • Uses gestures to communicate feelings and actions (e.g. blows a kiss and waves bye-bye).
    Relates to dolls and stuffed animals in real ways (e.g. holds and burps a baby doll, sits stuffed animals at the table for lunch).


One-year-olds continue to build a foundation for language. They absorb the language around them and are steadily building their vocabularies. They understand common phrases and simple directions used in routine situations.
They have great difficulty with pronunciation, and familiar adults almost always need to ‘translate’ for others. During this year, communication skills typically progress from vocalisations (grunting, cooing, playing with sound) and pointing to speaking single words and experimenting with simple word combinations.
Receptive vocabulary (words recognised when heard or seen)
  • At 12 months, understands 50 words; at 15 months, 120 words; at 16 months, 170 words; at 18 months, 200 or more words.
  • Between 12-15 months, acquires about one word every other day. During a ‘spurt’ between 16-23 months, children typically acquire one or two words per day.
  • At 12-14 months, learns words when adults name objects that are nearby or in hand. By 14-15 months, points to objects further away for adults to name.
  • Vocabulary words include many nouns (names of things), some verbs (e.g. kiss, kick, open, sleep), some descriptive words (e.g. cold, full, all gone, broken), some pronouns (e.g. he, me, mine) and some location words (e.g. down, in).
Language comprehension
  • Understands a few common phrases used in routine situations: ‘Do you want more?’ ‘Give me a kiss’ and ‘Let's go bye-bye’.
  • Understands simple directions used in routine situations: ‘Stop that’, ‘Spit it out’, ‘Please hold still’, ‘Sit down’ and ‘Stand up’.
  • Understands only the simplest explanations in routine contexts.
Speech sound perception
  • Perceives individual speech sounds in native language. Is less able now than at six months of age to discriminate individual sounds in other languages, and this sensitivity will continue to decrease.
  • Distinguishes between commenting and questioning intonation (patterns of pitch changes in speech), and between a positive and negative tone of voice.

Expressive/productive vocabulary (words used when speaking or writing)
  • At 12 months, the average child says up to three words and may also communicate by grunting, nodding, pointing, and so on. At 15 months, the average child says 14 words. At 16 months, about 40 words. At 18 months, about 68 words. At 23 months, about 200 words.
  • Over- and under-extends meanings. For example, a child calls a cow ‘horsie’ or does not use ‘shoe’ to label footwear that is not a common shoe (i.e. boot or sandal).
  • From 12-24 months, words are rarely spoken correctly in the adult manner. Has great difficulty with pronunciation. Parents and caregivers almost always need to ‘translate’ for others.

Grammatical development
  • Up to about 18 months, children express themselves with single words, using different vocal sound changes to show what they mean. Around 18 months, children typically experiment with combining words to form phrases and sentences. Such communications consist of a few words, and are lacking parts of speech. For example: ‘Mummy sock?’ for ‘Is this Mummy's sock?’ ‘Daddy go’ for ‘Daddy is going bye-bye’.


One-year-olds make dramatic physical progress, typically moving from crawling to running by about 20 months. They hold their hands out to the side or poke their bellies out for balance. Their gait is a bit awkward and clumsy, and falls are common.
They use their new mobility to push and pull toys, dance and climb. One-year-olds also improve in hand and finger coordination, but skills at this age are still immature, so they fumble and drop objects frequently.
Motor skill development
  • Progresses from crawling to ‘cruising’ (moves on feet from place to place while holding on to a support) to walking by 15 months, and runs by 20 months.
  • Kneels, creeps up stairs (walks up them by the end of year two), and pushes and pulls toys (e.g. toy lawnmower, train with pull-string).
  • Locomotor skills can be stimulated by providing an open area where balls, push and pull toys, wagons and other equipment encourage free movement. Also, by providing low climbing structures, ramps and steps.
  • Around the 13th month, can pull self up to a standing position. Learns to move hands and body off of the support and stand alone by the 14th month. Steadily improves balance through cruising, then walking (by 15 months), and running (by 20 months). Gait is a bit awkward and clumsy, and falls are common.
  • By 15th month, can typically bend down from a standing position and pick up an object.
  • Can maintain balance while sitting and manipulating toy. Also, can stay balanced in a kneeling position while rotating head.
  • Can grasp and release a ball. By the end of the year, can kick a small ball forward.
  • Skills related to tracking a ball can be stimulated through watching a mobile as an infant, and as a toddler through activities that encourage the tracking of moving objects (e.g. following the path of bubbles blown in the air by parents).
  • Explores various ways to move body (e.g. climbing, dancing).
  • Many children this age have a keen interest in tiny particles, such as crumbs. They may use their ‘pincer’ grasp (thumb and forefinger working together) to pick them up and bring them to mouth. (A few children can use their fingers in this way to pick up small objects when they are eight months old, but many aren't able to accomplish this until nearly 15 months.)
  • Makes progress in abilities to use hands and fingers effectively, but skills at this age are still immature, and children fumble and drop objects frequently.
  • Children use their hands to experiment with objects by turning them in all directions, banging them, and bringing them to the mouth. They enjoy feeling different textures (e.g. bricks, walls, tile, wood, twigs, rocks, water).
  • During the second year, children are typically able to scribble with oversize crayons on a large sheet of paper taped down to a table. Often, children this age shift drawing and painting tools from hand to hand and draw strokes.
  • Can use a spoon and fork. Handles a cup well with minimal spilling. Feeds self crackers and other finger foods.
  • Is able to turn the pages of books and magazines, but may not turn them one at a time.
  • Claps hands.
  • Can build a block tower of six cubes.
  • Can put rings on a peg.
  • Early in the year, children start to push their feet into their shoes and their arms into their sleeves. Over time, they are more actively involved in dressing and undressing (e.g. removes pants with elastic waistband, takes off shoes).

Health status and practices
  • Depends on grown-ups for most aspects of care.
  • May be able to put on and/or take off one article of clothing. Pushes arm into sleeve and foot into shoe.
  • Tries to brush own teeth, but requires adult follow-up.
  • Resists nail trimming.
  • Around 20 months old, may stay dry for longer periods of time and begin to have bowel movements at predictable times each day. May also become curious about the bathroom habits of others. Can learn to wash and dry hands.
  • Driven to explore. Typically doesn't take into account hazardous circumstances.


The significance of social and emotional development is seen in every area of a child’s life. A child will have a strong foundation for later development if she can manage personal feelings, understand others’ feelings and needs, and interact positively with others.
Differences in social and emotional development result from a child’s inborn temperament, cultural influences, disabilities, behaviours modelled by adults, the level of security felt in a child’s relationships with adults, and the opportunities provided for social interaction.

One-year-olds are just learning to recognise and manage their feelings. They experience a wide range of emotions and get upset when they are tired or frustrated. They may also respond to conflict by hitting, biting, screaming or crying. One-year-olds seek autonomy and may say ‘No!’ to adult suggestions or insist that they ‘Do it byself!’ Then, moments later, they might cling to an adult's leg or ask for help.
Emotional development
These are emotional development signs you can expect:
  • Shows pleasure when familiar adults are nearby. Has developed close attachments with parents and other frequent caregivers; uses these relationships as a secure base to explore (e.g. digs in the sandpit but runs back to dad for a cuddle from time to time).
  • Knows own name. Uses ‘my’ and ‘me’ often, and with pride; for example, says, ‘MY mama!’ Shows beginning signs of self-consciousness (e.g. hides behind a chair and looks ashamed after breaking an ornament).
  • Is keenly observant of others’ emotional reactions. Checks parent’s facial expressions (e.g. considers climbing up a ladder at the playground, but first looks back at mother's face for encouragement or warning).
  • Experiences a wide range of emotions (e.g. affection, frustration, fear, anger, sadness).
  • Tends to express and act on impulses; has tantrums when tired or frustrated. With adult help, begins to use strategies to control emotional expression (e.g. goes to get teddy bear or another comfort object when upset so she can calm down).

Social development
These are social development signs you can expect:
  • Is aware of others. Enjoys exploring objects with adults as a basis for establishing relationships (e.g. plays peekaboo over and over again with grandmother).
  • May make simple overtures to familiar children (e.g. looks for and smiles at children at the shops, offers a toy or hug to another child whether or not the gesture is welcome).
  • Shows ‘contagious distress’ when others are unhappy (e.g. at child care, starts to cry when she sees another child crying).
  • When a conflict occurs with another child or adult, she often acts out physically or emotionally (e.g. another child grabs Sara's shovel, so she pushes the child and screams). Calms down when an adult helps resolve the conflict.

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