Toddler Development & Parenting Tips (18 Months – 3 Years)

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When a child takes the first step on his or her own, a new phase in development begins.  At this stage, children are now free to roam around their world.  It is a time for active exploration of their environment.  Language development takes major leaps which leads to learning the names of objects of interest, the ability to ask for things and as they discover their independent nature, yes, they develop the ability to say “NO!”.

During this developmental stage, a major challenge is developing what psychologists call emotional regulation.  “Meltdowns” are common during this period but parents can use the bond developed during infancy to help the child learn to modulate their emotional expression and begin to grasp the difficult concept of delay of gratification.  While they instinctively seem to be able to say “NO” toddlers also need help in learning how to accept “No” from others.

This is also a stage of rapid physical and intellectual development preparing these children for starting school which includes interacting cooperatively with peers while at the same time being able to compete physically and intellectually.  A child’s parent is in the position to be a coach providing just the right combination of encouragement, support, and guidance.  Parents also need to serve as the primary teacher for the mastery of basic learning skills and encourage active discussion and experimentation of new concepts and skills.

Moving Onward (Encouraging Development):

Play Activities
Recommended Books for Parents
Videos on Toddler Development

Toddler Developmental Milestones

PhysicalLanguageIntellectual - CognitiveSocial - Emotional

18 To 24 Months

Gross (Large) Motor Skills

  • Runs stiffly.
  • Jumps off ground with both feet.
  • Bends at waist to pickup object.
  • Walks up and down steps, one step at a time.
  • Throws objects overhead.
  • Kicks large ball.
  • Climbs onto low objects.
  • Kicks backward and forward
  • Stands on a balance beam
  • Walks up stairs with help
  • Runs well
  • Enjoys riding small wheeled riding toys

Fine (Small) Motor Skills

  • Manages spoon.
  • Makes vertical marks and circles with crayon (pencil).
  • Turns doorknobs.
  • Pulls down zippers.
  • Shows hand preference, but switches hands often.
  • Assists in dressing and undressing self.
  • Can draw scribbles
  • Drinks from a straw

Two to Three Years

Gross (Large) Motor Skills

  • Is constantly in motion.
  • Jumps off low objects.
  • Pushes self on wheeled toys.
  • Runs but has difficulty stopping.
  • Seats self in small chairs.
  • Alternates feet going upstairs, but not downstairs.
  • Kicks ball.
  • Throws ball overhand; no aim.
  • Catches objects with arms extended and elbows stiff.
  • Walks backwards
  • Can balance on one foot (by 3 years)
  • Walks up and down stairs independently

Fine (Small) Motor Skills

  • Turns individual pages of book.
  • Screws lids on and off.
  • Builds crude towers of six or more blocks.
  • Scribbles circles and horizontal and vertical lines.
  • Takes simple objects apart and puts back together.
  • Uses spoon; spills a lot.
  • Strings large beads
  • Holds scissors correctly
  • Zips and snaps

18 To 24 Months

  • Can name a number of objects common to his surroundings
  • Is able to use at least two prepositions, usually chosen from the following: in, on, under
  • Combines words into a short sentence-largely noun-verb combinations (mean) length of sentences is given as 1.2 words
  • Approximately 2/3 of what child says should be intelligible
  • Vocabulary of approximately 150-300 words
  • Rhythm and fluency often poor
  • Volume and pitch of voice not yet well-controlled
  • Can use two pronouns correctly: I, me, you, although me and I are often confused
  • My and mine are beginning to emerge
  • Responds to such commands as “show me your eyes (nose, mouth, hair)”

Two to Three Years

  • Use pronouns I, you, me correctly
  • Is using some plurals and past tenses
  • Knows at least three prepositions, usually in, on, under
  • Knows chief parts of body and should be able to indicate these if not name
  • Handles three word sentences easily
  • Has in the neighborhood of 900-1000 words
  • About 90% of what child says should be intelligible
  • Verbs begin to predominate
  • Understands most simple questions dealing with his environment and activities
  • Relates his experiences so that they can be followed with reason
  • Able to reason out such questions as “what must you do when you are sleepy, hungry, cool, or thirsty?”
  • Should be able to give his sex, name, age
  • Should not be expected to answer all questions even though he understands what is expected

18 To 24 Months

  • Sorts shapes and colors
  • Mimics adult behavior
  • Points to and names objects
  • Refers to self by name
  • Learns by helping
  • Learns concepts such as size, shape and weight as he/she moves and plays with objects in the environment.
  • Points to body parts upon request.
  • Acknowledges absence of familiar persons (points to door, says gone).
  • Points to and names objects in book.
  • Begins to recognize shapes.
  • Enjoys cause-and-effect relationships (banging drum, turning on TV).
  • Follows simple instructions.
  • Asks names of objects.
  • Identifies more objects with names

Two to Three Years

  • Comprehends size
  • Beginning to understand time sequences (e.g. before lunch)
  • Matches shapes and colors
  • Counts and manipulates objects
  • Is beginning to think about consequences
  • Is able to concentrate for longer periods of time
  • Follows simple directions.
  • Enjoys reciting finger plays, nursery rhymes and songs.
  • Repeats radio and TV commercials.
  • Responds to rhythms.
  • Learns simple relationships such as big and small.
  • Invents simple sentences to express thoughts.
  • Uses names of familiar people and objects.
  • Asks names of objects.

18 To 24 Months

  • Expresses love and affection openly.
  • Seeks approval and praise.
  • Is outgoing, friendly and less self-centered.
  • Continues to be easily distracted.
  • May show need for security object.
  • Expresses pride and jealousy.
  • Continues parallel play.
  • Is possessive; refuses to share.
  • Shows strong positive and negative reactions.
  • Shows strong desire for own way.
  • May exhibit aggressive actions (hitting, biting, pushing).
  • Pulls adults to show something or get help.
  • Tests limits set by caregiver.
  • Is possessive
  • Begins to show empathy
  • Reveals a sense of trust
  • Begins to play next to children
  • Shows emotions of pride and embarrassment
  • May dawdle
  • Engages in imaginative play
  • Tests limits of behavior
  • Performs for an audience

Two to Three Years

  • Becomes less easily distracted.
  • Is self-centered, aggressive and temperamental.
  • Views situations in terms of own needs.
  • See-saws between independence and dependence.
  • Wants to do things for self.
  • Desires consistency.
  • Desires approval; feels hurt when disciplined for actions.
  • Is unable to share.
  • Wants to be accepted by others.
  • Likes to play with adults and older children.
  • Is difficult to understand and control.
  • May continue to express negativism.
  • Has temper tantrums.
  • Resists naps but needs rest.
  • Has a strong sense of ownership May begin cooperative play
  • May show need for security object
  • Is becoming more independent