12 Months – Active Play

Getting Active Play Right from 12 Months

Playing with your toddler

Playing with your toddler helps develop their brain and body. Every toddler is different and will reach milestones at different times. Try not to compare your toddler with other toddlers of the same age.

Some ideas for playing with your toddler starting from around 12 months include:


Walking is one of the big milestones as your toddlers move towards independence and discovering the world. Walking can start early (around 9 months) for some babies but much later (around 16 months) for others. Like with crawling, babies need lots of practice on different surfaces, up and down hills, stairs etc, to become expert walkers.

Hold your toddlers hands and help them walk around. Once walking, their balance and speed will improve with practice. The more practice your toddler gets at walking the better they will get at it and the further they will be able to walk. Give your toddler lots of opportunities to build up their walking skills. Once they are walking confidently you can get them to walk next to the pusher (holding your hand) for short distances, building up to longer distances. For short trips to the local shops, park or friends’ houses, try leaving the pusher at home and making it a walking adventure instead, exploring along the way. Getting places will take longer but if you plan for this the benefits to your toddler are well worth the extra time.


Once your toddler is walking with some stability they will be off and running. This opens up endless opportunities for active play. Here are just a few ideas: play ‘chasey’, jump over cracks in the pathways, play at the park, dance and jump to your child’s favourite music.

Active play is very important for children physically, mentally and socially. Through active play, children:

  • learn how to interact and share with others
  • improve verbal and non-verbal (such as body language) communication skills
  • develop self-confidence and skills to cope with stressful situations
  • develop skills for moving and controlling their bodies
  • improve the health of their heart, bones and muscles
  • learn to enjoy being physically active from an early age
  • use up some of their seemingly endless energy
  • have fun.

From 12 months of age it is recommended that children be physically active for at least 3 hours every day. This should be spread throughout the day (so not 3 hours all at one time) and can include all types of activity from general moving around to more vigorous activities like running. The best way to achieve this is through active play.

At home: How much time do you think your toddler spends in active play on an average day? Keep a record one day to see. Record your child’s active play throughout the day — jot down on a piece of paper each time they are active and tally up the total minutes at the end of the day. Were they active for as long as you expected? Was this a typical day?

More active play is good for everyone! It is helpful if active play can become part of your family’s everyday routine.

Here are just a few examples:

  • Walk to the park or shops instead of using the pusher or car.
  • Go outside to play every day.
  • Dancing to music on the radio or CDs (avoid using DVDs).
  • Meet other families at the pool or park.
  • Collect leaves and flowers.
  • Walk along the cracks in the footpath.

Screen time (television and other electronic media)

Remember that screen time is not recommended for children under 2 years of age. Even though there are many DVDs and television shows promoted for children, research has shown that screen time has no benefits for young children and may cause harm such as limiting their attention span, language development, social development and time for active play.

> Useful resources for Session Four: 12 Months