Physical Activity

Look up boundless bundles of energy in the dictionary, and maybe you'll see a picture of your very favorite one-year-old — shoving toys in her mouth, crawling across the floor to chase the dog, taking every item out of the bottom drawer in the bathroom, and ripping every tissue out of the box. Even if they can't walk, toddlers don't stop moving. While it may seem as though you don't need to direct your child to move, there are ways you can help him learn through active play.

The first things you need are realistic expectations about what physical skills a one-year-old has and what he doesn't. For example, one-year-olds can't do any of these things:

• Hop and skip

• Walk backward

• Throw with any aim or accuracy

• Jump

• Catch

One-year-olds can, however, try to do all of these things, and they will try if they see you doing them. Whatever you play with your child, treat her as an equal in terms of respect, if not skill. Accept her intellectual ability and praise her for trying and for playing. This is a good time for you to have fun because of the effort being made rather than any achievement. The point, after all, is to have fun.

In addition to spending time in active play with your one-year-old, you should also try to engage her mentally with the world around her. You can do this in any kind of everyday situation, such as when you take a walk, go to the grocery store, meet with friends, or go to the zoo. You can point out objects and note their colors or names. You could say, for example, “See the blue bird?” or “The rubber duckie is yellow!” You shouldn't expect her to know these things or to be able to communicate them to you, as much of the feedback she gives you will come not from understanding but from rote memorization. But in a year or so, she'll be able to make connections and understand what yellow or a duck really is.

Learning should be fun at this age. In fact, it shouldn't really be considered learning as much as exposure. Whether it's playing, looking at animals, reading a book, or taking a walk outside, what your child experiences at one is more significant to her development than what she communicates to you about her understanding. At this point, she is absorbing more than she is able to express.

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