Curiosity continues to drive a child’s learning, development and behaviour during this period.

Problem-solving in their first year

The main reason pēpi explore in their first year is because they're attracted to how something looks, feels, tastes or sounds.

Their approach to problem-solving and exploration is limited by their fine (small muscle) and gross (big muscle) motor control, which are still maturing.

Problem-solving in their second year

In their second year, tamariki are developing their thinking and problem-solving skills and their motor skills are getting better, so they can have a lot more interaction with their environment. They see the world as their own personal ‘discovery centre’, and want to touch and investigate anything they can see.

Developing autonomy

Socially, they’re becoming more independent from mum and dad, and wanting to explore on their own.

Although they may only be able to say a few words (expressive language), they have a much better understanding of what’s being said around them and to them (receptive language).

When their increasing independence is combined with their understanding of what’s being said, it's not surprising that they sometimes answer their parent’s requests with ‘No!’ – especially requests that mention ‘sleep’ or ‘nappy change’.

Watching, listening, copying and expressing themselves

Toddlers are watching and listening closely to the things going on around them.

They also want to copy what they see whānau members doing, and if it’s not safe or suitable, they won’t care. And they’ll show their definite disapproval if they’re told 'no' or have things taken away from them – they might throw a tantrum as a way to be heard, or to try to solve their problem.

They may also start to recognise themselves in the mirror, or familiar things in pictures. They might even spot a small symbol or logo that they see often, like their brand of nappies or wipes.

Outdoor activities

During this stage they’ll enjoy being outdoors where they can practise their exploring and problem-solving skills. Water and sand can provide perfect fun and learning activities.

They may still want to explore using their mouths, and this can worry parents. Parents can try distracting them with other ways to explore, like pouring the water or hiding something in the sand – this may be enough to distract them so they don't put it in their mouth.

Because they’ll also be copying so much, it helps to have big people playing alongside them who can show them ways to explore (that don’t involve putting it in their mouth). They could use small scoops, containers or funnels.

Bubble play is fun, and they’ll enjoy chasing, catching and popping them – and can even try the blowing part themselves.

Pull-along toys

During this period, they’ll also like playing with pull-along toys. A small cardboard box with a short string attached can do the trick.

They can transport items around the house, deliver their dirty clothes to the laundry, or bring clean washing to bedrooms. They get to feel helpful, they learn to work out what can fit or what’s too heavy to manage, and they'll love being the boss of their pull-along box.

Other resources

Play ideas for learning – He korikori whakaaro | Ministry of Education(external link)