Having fun and learning: 1 to 2 years

Children at 1–2 years of age learn by watching, by listening and by doing. They learn to talk by copying those around them.

Children are also learning about themselves and how to behave. This page has ideas for things that you (and your whānau) can do to help your child to learn. 

Learning by playing and being active

Children learn by trying to do things themselves when they play. You can help by giving them some fun activities to do, such as:

  • letting them make a mess and have fun using water, sand, clay, pots and pans
  • giving them interesting things to play with – playdough, leaves and fabric
  • giving them ideas for new things to try and do – drawing, building, poi, rākau
  • letting your child be with other children.

For more ideas, ask at your local library, preschool, kindergarten and kōhanga reo.

Being active and moving also helps children to learn and their bodies to develop. The Sport New Zealand website has a set of video clips showing activities for children from birth to 5 years of age.

Learning to talk

Between the ages of 1 and 3 years most children are beginning to understand and to say more.

Talking to your child is the best way to help them to learn to talk. You can:

  • talk about what you see when you are out and about
  • sing and do the actions for action songs/waiata
  • look at picture books and photos together and talk about what you see.

Use short, simple sentences when talking to your child. When your child tries to talk to you, praise them by saying how well they are doing. If they say a simple word, build on it – for example, if your child says, ‘Ball’, you could say, ‘That’s a red ball, roll the ball’. Leave a pause to allow your child to talk back as well; they will learn about taking turns in a conversation.

Learning about ‘me’

As a baby grows into a child, they begin to find out who ‘me’ is. Their behaviour may change and they may start to have tantrums. ‘No’ becomes a favourite word. You can be one step ahead – try asking questions that cannot be answered with ‘no’. Notice your child when they are good. Praise makes your child want to do the things that please you. Give your child simple choices, like which shirt or shoes to wear.

Children learn a lot by watching you. If you are kind and loving with a child, even when you have to be firm, it will help them to learn self-control from you. When you listen to children they know that you care about how they feel. Don’t expect too much of them. Your child is still learning to understand how you want them to behave.

If there is a new baby, spend some special time alone with your older child. Make them feel proud of being able to help with care of the new baby.

If you are worried

There is a wide range of what is ‘normal’ for a child’s development. Talk to your nurse or doctor if you are worried about your child.


Related websites

Whakatipu – SKIP
Whakatipu is a kaupapa that encourages strong whānau connections that nurture and develop tamariki. Tikanga and pakiwaitara are interwoven with child development information, ideas and activities for whānau.

Learning to talk – Kidshealth
The Kidshealth website has more information about how children learn to talk and what you can do to help.

Tips for parents – SKIP
The SKIP (Strategies with Kids; Information for Parents) website has information about managing children’s behaviour.

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