In this article
18-month-old milestones: What to expect
Your young toddler gets better at walking and talking every day. They’re heading toward 18-month-old milestones and becoming their own little person. With love and interaction, you can help them reach these exciting steps.
Your 18-month-old baby’s cognitive development milestones
Between a growing attention span and endless curiosity, your little one will spend greater lengths of time figuring out how objects work. Expect them to throw, crumble, pull, bang, mouth, search, stack and knock down everything around them. Thankfully, you’ll have a slight reprieve from all that chaos as an interest in a quieter activity emerges too, like looking at picture books by themselves or with you.
As your toddler begins to understand what objects (such as brushes and spoons) are for, they may use these objects in play, pretending to brush a stuffed animal's fur or eating make-believe food. There are lots of cognitive development activities you can engage in with your little one to help them reach these 18-month-old milestones, too. Get your camera ready because this is primetime cuteness!
Cognitive development milestones for 18-month-olds include:
- May begin to have a sense of time through routines (napping after lunch, bathing before bed)
- Actively exploring objects by touch and movement (shaking, banging, throwing)
- Searching for hidden items where they last saw them
- Putting objects in and takes them out of containers
- Sorting shapes and colors
- Looking at picture books by herself
- Pointing to objects you name (a nose, picture of a dog in a book)
- Engaging in more pretend games
- Imitating real life in play (feeding a doll, sweeping)
Your 18-month-old baby’s motor skill development milestones
Physical abilities at this age are all over the map, so there’s no need to put too much weight into that. At one end of the spectrum are toddlers who still tentatively cruise around a room, hanging onto furniture. On the other end are all-out runners, so keep your eyes peeled!
As a result, when it comes to considering 18-month-old milestones in this arena, be ready for anything. Their fine motor coordination has improved enough that they can manage complex tasks like removing socks, handling a spoon and even holding a crayon and scribbling. Just be sure to babyproof so they can explore safely.
Motor skill development milestones for 18-month-olds include:
- Climbing on furniture, possibly out of their crib
- Walking (or at least cruising)
- May walk backward and in circles
- May be able to run
- Crawling up stairs or may walk up stairs with help
- May dance
- Releasing items from their grasp intentionally (this usually occurs closer to 18 months, though)
- Using a spoon and possibly a fork
- Removing some clothing or extending their arms and legs to help when being dressed
- Turning pages
- May begin to scribble
Your 18-month-old baby’s communication skills development milestones
Language is another area where toddlers show wide differences. Most have at least a handful of words in their vocabulary. And those words tend to get heavy use. The single word "juice," for example, might stand for a whole sentence, depending on the context: "I want more juice," "I spilled my juice," or at the store, "Hey, let's buy some juice!"
As your child approaches 18 months, they'll pick up new words more quickly. Some toddlers start to use phrases, "good juice," for example. A few may even string together words that come close to a sentence, such as "me see kitty."
Communication skills and toddler speech development milestones for 18-month-olds include:
- Trying to copy words you say
- Using a single word as a sentence (“juice” for “I want juice,” or “bye-bye” for “I want to leave now”)
- Saying at least three or four clear words by the age of 15 months
- May start saying up to 50 words by the age of 24 months
- May start using simple phrases, 18 to 24 months
- Pointing to certain body parts when asked
Your 18-month-old baby’s social skills development milestones
With all these amazing 18-month-old milestone developments also come a wee bit of frustration. Your toddler will get ideas about what they’d like to do based on what they see bigger kids doing, or what they think they can do. But often, their skills aren't quite up to snuff or what they want to do is unsafe.
In terms of communicating, children at this age also struggle to verbally express what’s bothering them, and it can be heartbreaking. Without real control of their emotions yet, they’ll likely cry or throw a tantrum when things don't go their way. Rest assured that as they grow, their communication skills will catch up to their feelings!
Tantrums are a normal part of development for 18-month-old toddlers, but they happen more often when they’re overtired, hungry or experiencing some kind of stress. To keep tantrums at bay, maintain a regular schedule for eating, sleeping and other activities. What’s more, since babies are so magically intuitive and can pick up on emotions and energy around them, do your best to stay calm to avoid exacerbating the situation. If that doesn’t work, try humor or distraction to ease your kiddo out of a tantrum. Soon they’ll be onto the next thing. When all else fails, a little bit of screen time never hurt anybody!
Social skills development milestones for 18-month-olds include:
- Getting easily frustrated
- Separation anxiety may continue, peaking at around 18 months
- May develop an attachment to a security blanket or toy
- Showing preferences for certain people and things
- Increasingly understands that they are a separate person from you with their own preferences, feelings and ideas
- May say “no” to express frustration
- May show empathy (for example, pat your back when you’re upset)
- Prefers parallel play (playing next to, rather than with, another child)
With so much going on, from walking to talking, your mini-me is growing up before your very eyes! All toddlers have their own timetable with regards to progress, but you can watch for the developments mentioned above around this time.
Take time to celebrate these precious moments with your child as they reach or near these milestones. Your 18-month-old’s development will keep improving—but of course, that’s not all. As they continue to delight and amaze you with their progress, get ready for even more incredible phases in the next few months. Discover what’s next for your little one with these toddler development milestones, and buckle up: the terrible twos are just around the corner!