As your child approaches 2 years old, you've noticed his rapidly improving coordination, his increased attention span, and his better grasp of the world around him. As he enters his 21st month, you’ll see those skills becoming even more refined and polished.

Around this age, your toddler is also making a bid for more independence. Encourage that do-it-myself spirit by letting him tackle some of his own chores, like brushing his teeth or gathering his toys.

The role of play. At this age, playing is your toddler's most important activity and the main way he'll learn to function in the world. He may be self-centered right now, but he’s slowly mastering the social skills he’ll use later on. Take advantage of this developmental phase with these strategies:

• Use simple commands. Your toddler is starting to understand simple commands, which makes for more interesting play. Practice giving your toddler two-step commands like "Get your shoes and put them on" or "Pick up the toys and put them in this box."

• Encourage mimicking. Toddlers this age like to imitate what adults are doing, such as sweeping the floor and raking leaves. Consider giving your toddler her own broom or rake to help out. Also show her how she can put her stuffed animal to bed the way you do with her.

• Get outside. Going outdoors gives your toddler the chance to run, climb, and jump. These activities help her become more coordinated and burn off energy. Take advantage of park playgrounds.

• Host playdates. Spending time with peers is the best way for your toddler to socialize. As long as they’re safe, let them figure out how to play together, even if it’s more parallel play than interactive play.