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Toddlers in the Classroom: Checking Their Development

written by: Olive Estrella Coronado • edited by: Patricia Gable • updated: 10/18/2013

At a very early age, children must be carefully observed to check if they are developing normally and meeting the expected milestones. What developmental benchmarks are included in a toddler development checklist?

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    Perhaps some of your toddlers are still not interacting with their peers and refusing to stack blocks. Perhaps you notice that one of them often throws tantrums when he gets upset over a little thing. Or you may have been observing the scribbles he has been making on paper as well as how he grips a writing material.

    Which of these things are normal for their age? Which are out of the ordinary or suggest that he is somehow delayed in development? Parents and teachers alike must keep a toddler development checklist to evaluate a child’s progress.

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    Cognitive Development

    A toddler is already beginning to explore the world, constantly curious about things around him. He is therefore likely to be able to do or show the following already:

    • Has a handful of words in his vocabulary, and sometimes put words together to form some phrases like “you put"
    • Can point to body parts and some pictures he recognizes when asked
    • Can sort different items, such as cars and blocks, and also based on color, size, and shape
    • Match lids and stack blocks
    • Chooses a book or toy
    • Begins to think of or look for things that are not present, such as an item that was suddenly hidden
    • Sings simple songs and can utter three-word sentences in the latter toddler years
    • Starts to understand like things and opposite things
    • Learns to follow one-step and two-step directions
    • Can begin to answer questions already and carry on a simple conversation
    • Can already focus on one activity and start to play structured games
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    Socio-Emotional Development

    • Recognizes herself in the mirror
    • Always saying “no!" (This can be reduced by stating things in a positive way, instead of using this word too when talking to the toddler.)
    • Likely to throw frequent tantrums (You have to be patient and encourage him to use his words.)
    • Has a comfort object such as a doll he does not want to be separated from, or comfort habits like the twirling of hair or sucking of thumb (which he will outgrow eventually)
    • Shows bossiness and signs of wanting to be independent (which must be treated through negotiation)
    • Starts to play beside other children, and later on plays with them
    • Begins to imitate how others play
    • Shows aggressive behavior such as biting, hitting, and pushing (Do not overreach and punish; just make sure to let them know that such actions are not acceptable.)
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    Psychomotor Development

    • Can push and pull toys
    • Can use a fork or spoon, or perhaps both
    • Can stack blocks
    • Walks already and even begins to run in a later toddler year
    • Starts to go up and down the stairs with minimal guidance
    • Likes scribbling on different surfaces
    • Can turn pages of a book
    • Can learn to take off clothes, pull off shoes, and brush teeth
    • Washes and dries his hands by himself
    • Begins to kick a ball or throw a ball
    • Learns to jump a little
    • Can copy circles and make line drawings
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    Assessing and Overviewing Progress in the Classroom

    Keep your checklist within reach, so that you can constantly make quick notes about a child or tick off those milestones you have observed. If this is not possible because you may not have enough time or assistance in the classroom during class hours, then make it a habit to record anecdotes or go through the toddler development checklist about each student everyday after class.

    There is no need for formal assessments during this process. Just be observant at all times, whether you are conducting an activity or interacting with the children during free play time. However, if you feel that there are some items in the checklist that you are unsure about, you may allot some periods to informally assess the kids. For instance, while one is playing with blocks, you can check his fine motor skills and try to converse with him and ask him about what he is doing. Or you may approach a child with items to sort and make it appear like you are just playing together.

    In overviewing the progress of your toddlers, try not to be a mere observer. Rather, use the time you have as an opportunity to push forward their development without being forceful. For example, you can establish rules and keep repeating them and reminding kids about them as they go about their activities.

    You may also promote socialization and creativity through various activities that you choose to do in your classes. Improving your own knowledge about toddlers’ development can guide you in your actions, such as how to react properly when a child is lying, showing off his private parts to a classmate, or having a tantrum.

    References:

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