Your clever toddler's brilliant brain

Toddler brain development 1-2 years

Toddlers are curious, emotional, busy little people. It’s a sign of all that incredible brain development that’s happening every single day. As they head towards their second birthday, they’ll start to show more interest in people rather than things, becoming more and more sociable and interacting with the world around them. A healthy diet is essential for their developing brain so we’ve included some helpful advice below about nutrition.

Your toddler’s social whirl

Your toddler already loves everyone they’re close to – especially you! But between the ages of 1 and 2, they start becoming more aware of other people and learning that they can be just as much fun as toys.

They’ll adore songs and rhymes that have actions, and will be happy to do them with anyone who wants to play along. These activities are great for learning about different sounds, words and body language. 

Their emotions are developing during this time too and they’ll start to notice how they feel when they’re happy, sad or frustrated. They’ll often be bursting to let you know just how they’re feeling, using all kinds of expressions, actions and words!

Talking and thinking

Some toddlers start linking words and sounds with meanings - such as woof-woof for dog - soon after their first birthday, with real words following close behind. By 18 months most toddlers can say around 50 words and understand a whopping 500, so even though they may not say much back, they’re listening!

When it comes to thinking, they’re becoming a little brainbox. At 12 months you may notice them putting 2 ideas together to form a plan. For example, when they feel hungry they may head to the kitchen where they know there’s a good chance of being given some food. They’re also becoming little decision-makers, having definite ideas about what they want to do and how they want to do it. Their behaviour takes on a more organised feeling, enabling them to switch from playing with their building blocks to eating a sandwich and back again, quite easily.

By 18 months your toddler will be able to understand more about what’s going on around them. They will expect to find things in certain places and know that some activities take place at the same time. So if you change their routine, or put their favourite toy in a different place, they’ll probably notice! Hide and seek games become hilarious at this stage as your baby learns what to expect and what not to expect. 

All this development has a practical effect too – your toddler will soon want to get dressed on their own and help themselves to their dinner. They’re great copycats and enthusiastic learners, so you can easily start teaching them how to do these things, even though they may need your help for a little while yet. It’s amazing and rewarding to see them become more independent as their little personality develops.

Remember, remember

Your toddler’s memory improves rapidly between the ages of 1 and 2, and it can be surprising just how sharp they are. At around 12 months they’ll recognise rhymes and know how to play games, be able to show you which book has their favourite picture in it, and will know which toys are theirs. They will also start to understand the idea of ‘I’ and ‘me’, and can become quite possessive of what belongs to them. ‘Mine’ may become a well-used word. But don't worry – they’ll learn the joys of sharing eventually!

By 18 months your toddler will be able to recall quite a few verses of their favourite nursery rhyme. So singing and reading together will take on a whole new dimension, with your toddler quickly pointing out the bits you forget or get wrong!

Games to develop super social skills

Help your friendly toddler get even better at socialising with these great games.


  • Hide and seek – try hiding something under a tea towel and call out ‘here it is’ when your little giggler finds it – squeals of laughter guaranteed!
  • Copycats – make a silly face, wave your hands around or wiggle your shoulders and encourage your toddler to do the same.
  • Tea time – use their tea set for a lunch time treat and let them ‘be mother’ – it’s a great way to practice coordination and sharing.

Clever foods for brilliant brains

As your toddler continues to develop inside and out, they need a healthy, balanced diet that includes plenty of brain-boosting nourishment. Iron, found in foods like red meat and green leafy veg, and essential omega-3 fats in rapeseed oil are both important for healthy brain development. 

Toddlers shouldn’t eat the same meals as us – they need a special diet that’s right for their growing bodies. Slow-release energy foods like lentil dahl, bananas and porridge are great options for keeping them active and alert throughout the day. And making sure they get a wide variety of foods will help them get the full range of nutrients they need.


Learning through play

These fun-filled games will keep your little one busy while helping them to develop core skills.

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