Skip to Main Content
Cognitive Development Activities for Toddlers

Cognitive Development Activities for Toddlers

Here are some simple cognitive development activities for your toddler and you to try that encourage how your toddler moves and communicates.

Medically reviewed by a board-certified pediatrician

Cognitive Activities for your 12- to 18-month-old toddler: Thinking

  • Missions – Giving one-step requests to your toddler like “Bring me the ball,” or “Point to the doggie,” can help them learn in simple goal-oriented ways.
  • Decisions – If you offer your toddler several toys to choose from and ask them to pick which will fit into a particular space, they can flex their decision-making skills.
  • Sorting – While it’s fun to dump things out, sorting and returning objects to their original containers can also help learning and encourage participation—plus it saves you from having to clean up.
  • Pretend – Cooking in a toy kitchen or building with a plastic hammer lets your 18-month-old mimic common activities.

Developmental Activities for your 12- to 18-month-old toddler: Moving

  • Cruising along – Many toddlers take their first independent steps around this age. By pushing sturdy objects together, your child can cruise from one object to the next to start practicing those walking skills.
  • Remaining calm – Every toddler tumbles, and it’s not the end of the world. When you respond with reassurance instead of concern when they fall, chances are your kiddo will pop back up and try again.
  • Reading – While they aren’t exactly reading on their own, flipping through books can be a great activity for 12- to 18-month-olds in more ways than one. Simply letting your toddler turn the pages of a book is great way to help boost motor skills.
  • Singing – They were your childhood favorites, so why not make them your toddler’s, too? Try singing and doing the hand movements to classics like “Itsy-Bitsy Spider,” “I’m a Little Teapot,” or “This Little Piggy.”

Social Activities for your 12- to 18-month-old toddler: Communicating

  • Talking – Time to chat! Talking with your toddler is one of the best things you can do to boost their communication skills and intelligence.
  • Gestures – By pointing at objects, your toddler’s communicating with you. You can support and encourage their growth with your response since these simple gestures are the stepping stones to verbal communication down the road.
  • Movement and words – It’s simple, but actions and gestures can help with learning. For example, when you say, “Come here,” while beckoning with your hands, you help to strengthen your child’s understanding of the words.

More Activities for your 12- to 18-month-old toddler: Understanding

  • Mirrors and reflections – When you clap your toddler’s hands while standing in front of a mirror, they can feel and see the action of their reflected image.
  • Saying “yes” – While your toddler’s favorite word right now is “no,” try to reply with a “yes” so that they learn positivity as they test their growing sense of self.
  • Sharing – When your toddler inevitably has a conflict with a playmate over a toy, it’s better to draw their attention to another toy, rather than insist they share.

Activities that aid understanding and thinking are super important for your 12- to 18-month-old. It’s also important to nurture their growth through nutrition. Learn about the key nutrients that promote healthy development inside and out!

All information on Enfamil, including but not limited to information about health, medical conditions, and nutrition, is intended for your general knowledge and is not a substitute for a healthcare professional's medical identification, advice, or management for specific medical conditions. You should seek medical care and consult your doctor or pediatrician for any specific health or nutrition issues. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment, care, or help because of information you have read on Enfamil.