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Developmental Themes

In order for children’s brains to develop in the best possible way, parents and other child care providers should try to focus on activities that support these developmental themes.

Media and Infants and Toddlers

Previously, the American Academy of Pediatrics had recommended that children under the age of 2 should not be exposed to any screen media; however, this policy was revisited in 2015, at which time the AAP removed this limitation, and suggested that parents set media limits for their children based on the individual child.

Sleep is an important part of an infant’s life, and can be easily woken by a noisy TV. Toddlers typically start to walk between 12 and 15 months, and begin scribbling between 15-18 months.
By 7 months of age, infants can communicate in nonverbal ways. Infants will also start to imitate spoken language around this age through babbling, and picture books assist in acquiring new language through the repetitive nature of pointing and labeling by a parent. Toddlers will speak their first word around 12 months of age, and will slowly build to using between 50 and 100 words by age 2.
Infants can tell the difference between patterns, colors, sounds, and facial expressions. As a result, parents should engage in activities that encourage infants to see, touch, and hear different things. Toddlers should be further encouraged to interact with objects in their physical environment, and imitate what they see in the world around them.
Play is incredibly important at this stage – from infants reaching for objects on a mobile, to toddlers grasping sticks for a toy drum, every play activity infants and toddlers participate in helps them gain muscle control, balance and coordination. Setting play boundaries is particularly important for toddlers who will often endeavor to try out activities that can be dangerous. Parents need to emphasize consistency when it comes to where and with what their toddlers play.
Infants depend on their caretaker to meet their needs, and they can experience primary emotions of anger, joy, interest, fear, disgust, and surprise. Parents should encourage attachment by meeting these needs in order to build a sense of trust. Toddlers experience the first stages of autonomy and separation when they learn to walk, and parents should encourage active exploration. Toddlers may also experience feelings of separation anxiety at bedtime, and may need a special blanket or toy to function as a transitional object in a parent’s absence.
Although there is a large market for “baby” videos (including television programs, DVDs, and other video content) aimed specifically at children under the age of 2, there is little scientific evidence to support the idea that these products are effective. Evidence suggests that infants and toddlers will learn more from a parent interacting with a child than from watching a video, and children under the age of 2 who watch excessive video content can possibly develop poorer language skills.
Parents will help lay the foundation for their infant or toddler’s language skills by reading to their child. As well, parents who engage in shared reading spend more time bonding with their child. Parents should ensure that the books they read are aimed at infants and toddlers, and do not include any images that may frighten their child.
Introducing music to an infant or toddler is an excellent way to encourage their brain development. Research shows that music can help infants develop language skills. As with print media, ensure that the music is appropriate for infants and toddlers.
In concordance with the APP’s recommendation, the Center recommends that parents set limits based on the individual child.


Developmental Themes Source: Kliegman, R. and W.E. Nelson (2011). Nelson textbook of pediatrics. Philadelphia, PA, Elsevier/Saunders.