adult reading book with toddler in lap

Developmental Themes

In order for babies brains to develop in the best possible way, parents and other childcare providers should focus on activities that support the following areas of development:

Physical Development

Sleep is an important part of an infant’s life, and can be easily disrupted by a noisy TV. Toddlers typically start to walk between 12 and 15 months, and begin scribbling around 18 months.

Language Skills

By 7 months of age, infants can communicate in nonverbal ways and will start to imitate or mimic spoken language through babbling. Parents can assist their infants in learning new language  by pointing and labeling words and illustrations in picture books. Babies will speak their first word around 12 months of age, and by age 2, toddlers will have a vocabulary of about 50 to 100 words.

Cognitive Development

Infants can tell the difference between patterns, colors, sounds, and facial expressions. Parents should provide opportunities for their baby to see, touch, and hear different things. Toddlers should be encouraged to interact with objects in their physical environment, and act out what they see in the world around them.


Play is incredibly important at this stage. Every play activity infants and toddlers participate in helps them gain muscle control, balance and coordination. This includes everything from infants reaching for objects on a mobile, to toddlers grasping sticks for a toy drum. Setting play boundaries is particularly important for toddlers who will often want to try out activities that can be dangerous. It is important for parents to set up a safe place for their toddler to play with toys they know and enjoy.

Social/Emotional Development

Infants depend on their caretakers to meet their needs, and parents should encourage attachment and a sense of trust by meeting these needs. Toddlers experience the first stages of independence and separation when they learn to walk, and parents should encourage their active exploration. Infants can experience feelings of anger, joy, interest, fear, disgust, and surprise, and toddlers may also experience more complex emotions, such as separation anxiety at bedtime. A special blanket or toy can function as a transitional object in a parent’s absence and provide comfort.

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 has since been revisited, and the AAP now suggests that that parents set media limits for their children based on the individual child.

Television and Movies

Although there is a large market for “baby” videos (including television programs, streaming services, 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.

Print Media

Parents can both bond with their child and help lay the foundation for their infant or toddler’s language skills by reading to their child. Parents who read with their child  are spending quality bonding time together and helping to increase their child’s vocabulary and boost their child’s own ability to read later on in life.  Parents should ensure that the books they read are written for 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.

Social Media, Video Games, and Mobile Media

In accordance with the AAP’s recommendation, the Digital Wellness Lab recommends that parents set limits based on the individual child.

Developmental Themes Source: Behrman RE, Kliegman R, Schor NF, St. Geme JW, Stanton B, Nelson W. (2020). Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. Philadelphia, PA, Elsevier, Inc.

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