Toddler developmental milestones: 12-18 months

Welcome to the wild ride that is toddlerhood! Here are all the developmental milestones you can expect in this fast-changing six-month period.

toddler milestones
Photo by Syrie Wongkaew

Shortly after those first-birthday candles have been blown out, you’ll start to notice that your baby isn’t such a baby anymore. They might try to start walking on their own, they’ll start using more words to express their needs… and when you don’t understand what they want, they’ll let you know very loudly!

Here are the milestones you can expect your child to reach from 12 to 18 months. But if they don’t follow this exact schedule, try not to worry – every kid is different and they’ll likely get there in their own time. For example, most babies take their first steps between 9 and 12 months and walk well between 14 and 15 months, but some children don’t walk on their own until 17 or 18 months. If you do have any concerns about any of your child’s milestones, speak to your pediatrician.

12 to 15 months

By the time your toddler turns 15 months old, they may be able to:

  • Stand without help
  • Walk without help
  • Climb furniture or stairs
  • Try to help you put their clothes on
  • Drink from a cup and use a spoon (with some messes and spills)
  • Stack two blocks and knock them down
  • Drop objects into a container and dump them out
  • Try to use household objects such as the phone or vacuum cleaner
  • “Read” books independently
  • Play simple games like “Patty-cake” and give you a high-five
  • Scribble with a crayon or marker
  • Wave “bye” and clap
  • Grasp small objects such as coins and crayons with their fingertips
  • Pick up a small object from the ground while standing without falling
  • Copy your expressions and gestures
  • Use body language such as pointing, nodding and grunting to express their needs
  • Shake their head “no” or nod “yes”
  • Say “mommy” and “daddy” and name a few familiar objects such as “cat” and “ball”
  • Start to include real words in their babbling
  • Point at some objects when you name them
  • Follow simple instructions such as “Pick up your toy”
  • Play independently for short periods
  • Display separation anxiety
  • Start to show empathy, such as crying when another child is crying
  • Get attached to a security blanket or stuffed toy
  • Have temper tantrums
  • Hug you

Warning signs: Make an appointment with your pediatrician if your child can’t stand with support, uses one hand a lot more than the other, doesn’t make eye contact, doesn’t respond to sounds or their name, doesn’t babble or use single words, doesn’t wave or point, doesn’t seem to understand you, doesn’t express their needs or doesn’t show their emotions.

Activities to stimulate your toddler’s development from 12 to 15 months

These everyday activities will boost your child’s development… but they’ll be too busy having fun to notice they’re learning!

  • Talk: Name everyday objects and describe your actions to develop your child’s language skills. When they try to speak to you, listen attentively and respond to encourage communication skills.
  • Play: Stimulate your child’s imagination with open-ended toys such as blocks and empty boxes. Play interactive games and songs such as “Patty-cake”, “Itsy-bitsy spider” and peekaboo. And play outside as much as possible to encourage big movements and immersion in nature.
  • Read: Reading is one of the single most important activities you can do with your toddler to develop their imagination, language and other cognitive skills.
  • Show empathy and affection: Your child will learn about empathy by watching you, so show them that you’re attentive to other people’s feelings. Give your child plenty of kisses and cuddles every day to make them feel loved and secure.
  • Encourage big-kid skills: Let your child try to drink from a cup, use a spoon and brush their teeth (even if they make a mess!) to foster independence.
  • Encourage movement: Letting your child walk, climb, run and tumble inside and outside the house will help their physical development. Make sure both your indoor and outdoor areas are child-proofed to prevent injury.

15 to 18 months

Slow down, time! This is a period of rapid change. Check out what your toddler might be able to do by 18 months:

  • Walk alone (if they hadn’t before)
  • Run
  • Walk up or down stairs while holding your hand or the bannister
  • Pull a toy while walking
  • Seat themselves in a small chair
  • Help with undressing or take off some items of clothing on their own
  • Make a small tower of blocks
  • Pick up, drop, push, pull, rearrange and throw toys
  • Turn book pages and scribble more efficiently
  • Search for hidden or lost toys
  • Start pretend play, such as using a toy block as a phone or feeding a doll
  • Pick up very small objects such as raisins or crumbs
  • Imitate you when you sneeze, laugh or make another gesture
  • Recognize their name and photos of themselves
  • Continue to use body language (grunting, pointing) to express most of their needs
  • Say several single words (up to 10 words by 18 months)
  • Name some objects in a picture book
  • Point at body parts and familiar objects when you name them
  • Follow several simple instructions, such as “Come here”, “Bring that to Mommy” and “Sit down”
  • Sing some words to familiar songs
  • Play independently for longer periods
  • Dislike sharing toys
  • Have strong attachments to the people they love and have separation anxiety
  • Be afraid of strangers and cling to you in new situations
  • Show spontaneous affection to loved ones
  • Do new things to get your attention
  • Laugh at silly behavior
  • Say “no!” and refuse to cooperate
  • Throw a tantrum when they’re hungry, tired or don’t get their way
  • Explore new places with a caregiver close by

Warning signs: Talk to your doctor if your child can’t walk on their own, uses one hand a lot more than the other, seems to have trouble hearing or seeing, doesn’t have at least six words, doesn’t point or use any gestures, doesn’t follow simple instructions, doesn’t know what familiar objects are for, doesn’t copy others, doesn’t enjoy contact or cuddles with you, or doesn’t seem to notice when you leave or return.

Activities to stimulate your toddler’s development from 15 to 18 months

You’ll have so much fun with your child now that they’re starting to walk and talk! Here are some developmentally appropriate activities you can try:

  • Talk: Name objects in the house, talk about the weather and let your child know where you’re going today. This will develop their language skills and encourage them to respond. Listen when they talk and repeat what they say (“Yes, that’s the cat”) to reinforce their learning and teach them about communication.
  • Play: It’s still a wonderful idea to play with your toddler, but now is also a great time to introduce them to social play with other children. Don’t be surprised if sharing is a challenge at this age!
  • Read: Continue to read books to them (and encourage them to look at books on their own) to develop their language skills and love of reading.
  • Encourage big-kid skills: Teach them to use a fork, brush their hair and put on their hat to support their desire for independence and their cognitive development.
  • Encourage exploration and movement: Now that your toddler is running and climbing, head to the backyard, park or beach as often as possible. Playing outdoors will boost their physical development. You can also build their self-confidence and independence by letting them explore new things on their own while remaining close by.