Between birth and the age of three the brain produces 700 new neural connections every second, more than at any other stage of life. The brain moves from focusing purely on physical survival to developing practical life skills such as speaking, walking and empathising. Whilst this process will happen naturally, the production of these neural pathways can be encouraged so the toddler develops a strong foundation for the skills he or she will use for the rest of their life.

Because it is a time of such rapid development, it is important to stimulate a toddler’s brain and encourage learning. Research has suggested that failure to develop the brain at this age, in particular in terms of language can lead to setbacks throughout school and later in life. Word games and songs will help create strong foundations for later learning and communication once the child starts school.

Play time can also not be underestimated – simple games, such as stacking blocks or matching shapes can nurture individual problem-solving, patience, and concentration skills. Playing in groups will also help develop a child’s social development and language skills in a way which playing on a tablet or watching TV will not do.

Technology can in some cases be beneficial to learning especially those devices which require interaction, such as a tablet. Research has suggested that toddlers interacting with technology learn how to recognise and correct mistakes faster. However, it is also important that the use of technology does not negatively impact a toddler’s interpersonal and emotional development – there is ultimately no substitute for learning through real social interaction. Furthermore, according to scientists at Boston University, using technology to calm and distract a two-year-old, might hinder the development of their own ‘internal mechanisms of self-regulation’.

A loving and nurturing environment is exceptionally important to the successful emotional development of toddlers. Loving relationships will produce the hormone oxytocin which will in turn encourage feelings of trust and aid toddlers’ social development with their parents and play mates. A study on fathers given an artificial boost of oxytocin showed that there was increased activity in regions of the brain associated with reward and empathy, which in turn motivates them to care and bond with their child. There is a strong correlation between a loving environment at this age and fulfilled and successful relationships later in life.

Other Information and Advice

Leading Scientists Warn: Failure to stimulate toddler' brains could affect quality of life for a whole generation

Leading Scientists Warn: Failure to stimulate toddler' brains could affect quality of life for a whole generation

Failure to properly stimulate toddlers’ brains during nursery years could set them back for decades

Does technology hinder or help toddlers' learning?

Does technology hinder or help toddlers' learning?

Children under five years old have an uncanny knack of knowing how to master new technology.

Zero to Three

Zero to Three

A national, nonprofit organization that informs and supports policymakers and parents of infants

Toddlers' Brains 'Need Input' In Early Years

Toddlers' Brains 'Need Input' In Early Years

Toddlers need to stimulation at a time when their brains develop at twice the rate of adults

Tablets and smartphones may affect social and emotional development, scientists speculate

Tablets and smartphones may affect social and emotional development, scientists speculate

Using a tablet or smartphone to divert a child’s attention could be detrimental to 'self regulation'.

'Touchscreen-toddlers' sleep less, researchers say

'Touchscreen-toddlers' sleep less, researchers say

Toddlers who spend time playing on smartphones and tablets seem to get slightly less sleep....