Your 23-month-old at Play

Your 23-month-old is becoming more engaged with others through play. This is a great time to build social skills. Try to allow for lots of opportunities to practice these skills through play in social situations. If you child goes to child care, this is happening naturally, but if your child does not have a lot of exposure to other children his age, try to set up play dates, small play groups, go to the Y or recreation center for child-friendly activities. You can also check out story-time and the library, activities at local parks or playgrounds, and organic play experiences at playgrounds or play-gyms.

Stay close-by so you can intervene if necessary. Your toddler will not possess all the social skills to interact appropriately with other children yet. You may need to provide some guidance. He may not have the language to ask for what he wants, so he may grab a toy from another child if he wants to play with it. He may not have the language to prevent others from taking his toys and he may not possess the coping skills when another child does take his toy. Practice these scenarios at home. Tell him what to say in each situation. Stay nearby during play and talk him through these difficult situations now so that you don’t need to hover later. Take time to teach him the language and the skills for social play and he will have much more success later when his skills are better developed.

Continue to encourage pretend or symbolic play and foster her creativity by providing situations and experiences for exploration and discovery. Play outside when possible. Find interesting things in nature. Talk about shapes, colors, textures, scents, and patterns. Create forts and bug houses. Pretend play restaurants, veterinarian clinics, and science labs!


Hirsh-Pasek, K., Golinkoff, R., Berk, L., & Singer, D. (2009). A mandate for playful learning in preschool: Presenting the evidence. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Fein, G., & Rivkin, M. (Eds.). (1986). The young child at play: Reviews of research (Vol. 4). Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Pellegrini, A. D., Dupuis, D., & Smith, P. K. (2007). Play in evolution and development. Developmental Review, 27(2), 261–276.

Zero to Three

The American Academy of Pediatrics