Toddlers come in all shapes and sizes, but toddler development at 18-24 months typically has a few things in common. Here’s what your toddler might be doing, how you can help and when to see a child health professional.
Toddler development at 18-24 months: what’s happening
At this age, your toddler starts to experience new emotions like anger and frustration, guilt, shame, possessiveness and excitement. These ‘big’ emotions can be hard to deal with for your toddler, and you might see some temper tantrums as a result.
Although your child’s separation anxiety peaks around 18 months, by two years it should start to settle down.
Your child is also beginning to think about how she feels, and might link her feelings with words – for example, she might tell you she’s ‘sad’. She might show affection by giving you a kiss or hugging a doll, which is also part of developing empathy.
Around this time, your child is keen to do more things for himself.
For example, your child is learning to eat by herself using a spoon and cup, and maybe even a fork – there might even be fewer spills than before!
Your child might try to help when he’s getting dressed by taking off socks, shoes and clothes that don’t have buttons. At this age, it’s easier for him to take off his clothes than to put them on.
Generally, your child might show signs that she’s ready for toilet training from two years on. But it’s not unusual for some children to show signs of being ready earlier, at around 18 months.
Playing and learning
Play is important because it’s how your child learns.
Your child will be busy imagining and creating through pretend play – for example, by feeding a doll or pretending to use a phone. And he’ll enjoy spending time with his brothers and sisters and other children, even if he doesn’t play directly with them.
Your child enjoys talking, and her words might even have up-and-down tones, just like an adult’s. You’ll most likely hear a mix of ‘babble’ and real words.
At 18 months, your child is learning words all the time – usually 1-2 words a week, or maybe even one word a day. He might name and point at familiar objects, people and body parts – for example, ears, nose or toes – make animal sounds like ‘moo’, or say the same sound or word over and over.
Your toddler knows her name and the idea of ‘mine’. She’s getting better at understanding simple sentences and instructions like ‘Bring it to Mum’ or ‘Let’s go for a walk’. You’ll be able to understand more of what she says to you.
By two years, your toddler might be able to say ‘I’, ‘you’ and ‘me’, and use sentences with 2-3 words – for example, ‘Mummy car’ or ‘me do it’.
Your toddler will walk on his own by 18 months and begin to run. He’ll walk up and down stairs or climb furniture with your help. Throwing and kicking a ball, scribbling with pencils or crayons, and building small towers of blocks might be some of his favourite things.
It’s a good idea to look at how you can make your home safe for your active child to move around in.
At this age, your child might also:
When your child learns a new skill, celebrate his achievements with lots of praise and positive attention. It’s also a good idea to encourage and help him to keep doing the things he has learned, even if he finds them hard.
Helping toddler development at 18-24 months
Here are some simple things you can do to help your toddler’s development at this age:
Parenting a toddler at 18-24 months
Every day you and your toddler will learn a little more about each other. As your toddler grows and develops, you’ll learn more about what he needs and how you can meet these needs.
In fact, as a parent, you’re always learning. Every parent makes mistakes and learns through experience. It’s OK to feel confident about what you know. And it’s also OK to admit you don’t know and ask questions – often the ‘dumb’ questions are the best kind!
Your own physical and mental health is an important part of being a parent. But with all the focus on looking after a child, lots of parents forget or run out of time to look after themselves. Looking after yourself will help you with the understanding, patience, imagination and energy you need to be a parent.
Sometimes you might feel frustrated or upset. But if you feel overwhelmed, put your child in a safe place – for example, a cot – or ask someone else to hold her for a while. Take some time out until you feel calmer. You could also try going to another room to breathe deeply or calling a family member or friend to talk things through.
Never shake a toddler. It can cause bleeding inside the brain and likely permanent brain damage.
It’s OK to ask for help. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your toddler, talk to your spouse, a family member, friends or seek professional help.
When to be concerned about toddler development
See your paediatrician or General Practitional (GP) if you have any concerns or notice that your 18-month-old toddler has any of the following issues.
Seeing, hearing and communicating
Behavior and play
Movement and motor skills
See your paediatrician or GP if you notice your two-year-old has any of the following issues.
Seeing, hearing and communicating
Behaviour and play
Movement and motor skills
You should see a child health professional if you notice your child is losing skills she had before.
You should also see your paediatrician or GP if you notice the signs of postnatal depression in women or postnatal depression in men in yourself or your spouse. Symptoms of postnatal depression include feeling sad and crying for no obvious reason, feeling irritable, having difficulty coping and feeling very anxious.
Children grow and develop at different speeds. If you’re worried about whether your child’s development is ‘normal’, it might help to know that ‘normal’ varies a lot. But if you still feel that something isn’t quite right, see your paediatri or GP.
Video: Connecting and communicating (18-35 months)
Watch this video and learn the importance of communicating with your toddler, and how it helps him learn and develop.
Bath time is a good way to soothe your baby but it can also be a fantastic learning opportunity for your child. Learn how you can engage him during bath time.