How to encourage your toddler’s development through play

Being a toddler is hard work. They are developing rapidly and one of the primary ways they learn at this age is through play.

As they move through the toddler phase their play develops and changes and they will start to spend a lot of time engaged in role playing.

It’s a phase

Your toddler will have already gone through a range of developmental phases. They will have been working on developing their eye-hand coordination through reaching, grasping and learning to hold things. They love to repeat the same action and to put things in and out of containers – and into their mouth. As they get older they start to learn about cause and effect and like to make things happen – pushing a button and watching a toy pop up will be a favourite. They will also have been learning to pick up small things, point and ask questions.

Toddler development

As your baby becomes a toddler they will focus on working out how things go together and how they can make things work and then your older toddler will go from primarily being a solo problem solver to being a much more active, social, imaginative, and creative little person.

The importance of role play

From around 18 months you will notice your toddler will start doing pretend or role playing. They think they are just having fun but in fact they are developing a whole range of skills. As they act out scenarios they are developing their:

  • creativity and imagination
  • problem solving
  • empathy, emotional development and social skills
  • communication and language
  • physical development

Through role play, they also develop confidence and a sense of freedom as they pretend to be anything or anyone they like.

little tikes

Supporting your child’s development

There are many ways you can support all aspects of your toddler’s development through play. They are working out how things work and how they fit in to the world around them, and learning at an incredibly rapid rate.

Choose carefully

Toys that do everything don’t allow experimentation, discovery and imagination. You can help spark pretend play by providing some toys that help get them started.

Little Tikes pride themselves on being experts in letting kids dream big! Little Tikes products are known for providing durable, imaginative and active fun in a wide variety of toys, including sports, ride-on’s, sandboxes, sand and water play, climbing frames, slides, playhouses, and more. The best part is that as your family grows, the hours of creative fun Little Tikes provides can grow with you.

Enhance their play

Add to your child’s play rather than dictating it. You might need to get them started by letting them choose what to play with and then add on to what they are doing. Or create a fun scenario using the props you have available to you and then let them take over.

author robynWritten by Robyn

Robyn creates content on Kidspot NZ. Her hobbies include buying cleaning products and wondering why things don’t then clean themselves, eating cheese scones with her friends, and taking her kids to appointments.

Favourite motto to live by: “It’s just a phase.”


  1. SarahBlair 03/01/2020 at 5:34 pm

    Kids are always learning and play is the best way to do it, I love to get my kids toys that use imagination. Its so much easier to learn while you are having fun with it!

  2. Alezandra 02/01/2020 at 11:26 am

    We call it imaginative play and yes this is the best way of hitting development milestones by encouraging their imaginative play. Little Tikes are good but give them a box or a stick and see their creativity soar.

  3. candyjanenz 29/12/2019 at 8:10 pm

    I think that learning through play is so important for children. It is great to look at what they enjoy e.g. water, dinosaurs, music and use that to your advantage by doing play activities through things they enjoy. My boys are so different with one loving movement, ribbons and music and the other one loving dinosaurs, cars and duplo but they can learn the same things through different activities.

  4. Shorrty4life1 27/12/2019 at 5:34 pm

    When my children were little they mostly enjoyed building thing’s from towers to the biggest marble race at kindy with mum before she had to run away. And also messy play between water and dirt. Anything to get messy splash around and have fun.

  5. Micht 23/12/2019 at 7:03 pm

    My little one i love playing pretend and in each item she picks up from a toy to a piece of food, she is able to see patterns, shapes and other cool things… its her imagination taking flight.

  6. MuddledUpMolly 21/12/2019 at 9:10 am

    Loads of great ideas here and so many great things that our three year old and future toddler would love to try out. I am all about encouraging children to make their own fun and actually play without the need for constant adult intervention. For my own childhood us kids just got to it so I aspire for my own children to play in the same way.

  7. dawnblyth 20/12/2019 at 7:24 pm

    Lots of free play happens in our house, and majority of the time led by our children. We find in our house if we, as the adults, continue to come up with the ideas, the children start to rely on those ideas and their idea making skills diminish. We love going outside, kicking a ball around, riding our bikes and exploring playgrounds.

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