We can all easily recognize the big skills emerging—walking, talking—but in between, there is a more nuanced progression happening in your toddler’s brain. These cognitive connections are the building blocks for the more obvious “milestones.” Stacking, nesting, and matching are three specific skills that develop as your toddler’s brain grows. Here are the average age ranges for stacking, nesting, and matching:
Stacking rings onto a peg (instead of taking them off)
Somewhere between 13 and 15 months, your toddler may start to stack rings onto a peg instead of just removing the rings.
If your toddler is not yet stacking the rings, you can play a game of back and forth. Have your child hand you the rings and then you stack them one by one. Then try switching: you pass the rings back to your toddler and see if they try to stack them. You can help by tilting the peg towards your toddler when they are working to get the rings onto the peg.
Nesting one little cup into a bigger cup
Sometime between 12 and 19 months, your toddler may fit a smaller cup into a larger one.
If your toddler is not yet spontaneously nesting, you can show them how: say “watch how I put the small cup into the large cup” and move your hands slowly. If your toddler tries to put the big cup into the small one, you can spread the two cups out and show them again. If your toddler is looking for more of a challenge, offer three (or more) cups or baskets to nest.
Putting one circle puzzle piece into the puzzle
Between 12 and 15 months, your toddler’s developing spatial skills help them start to put one or more of the pieces into the puzzle. If they’re frustrated, try removing the middle three pieces and cover up their holes by taping a sheet of paper over them so only the largest and smallest circles show.
Matching two identical objects
Between 15 and 19 months, you may be surprised to know that your toddler can learn to match objects.
Here’s how it works: find two sets of familiar identical objects such as two (same color) rings from the stacker and two wooden coins from the coin bank. Describe for your toddler what is the same about each set. Hand them the ring and ask them to pick up the matching one.
You can help them grasp the concept of matching identical objects by identifying matching items in their world, such as spoons, berries, pieces of cereal, container lids, or towels. Describe what makes the items the same. For instance, with two matching raspberries, you might say they are both red, round, and soft. It will take many examples for them to understand.