Toddler Milestones

Developmental milestones -- from walking to words -- come fast and furiously during the second year.

From Walking to Words

At 12 months, Cobi was still my wiggling, crawling, babbling baby. But just six months later, he could stomp over to me, grab my hand, and lead me to the kitchen. “Thirsty. More milk,” he’d say. Suddenly, he seemed like such a big boy.

“More learning and brain development occur during this year than in any other,” says Andrew Meltzoff, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of Washington, in Seattle. “Toddlers develop a sense of self, learn language, and begin asserting their independence.” Check out our chart for highlights. (Though all babies develop at their own pace, talk to your doctor if your toddler doesn’t seem to be progressing or is losing abilities he had already acquired.)

Wobbly to Walking
If your child hasn’t taken her first steps yet, she’s likely to in the next few months.“Mobility gives your toddler a whole new view of the world, and the ability to act on it,” says Stefanie Powers, a child-development specialist at Zero to Three, a Washington, D.C., resource center on the first three years of life. Instead of hollering or reaching for a toy, she can now go fetch it herself. Toward the end of the second year, as muscles strengthen and coordination improves, most toddlers can run, climb, and jump, as well as lift, carry, push, pull, and throw objects.

How To Help
You’ll need to be extra vigilant now that your toddler can get into trouble quickly. Childproof your home so she has plenty of room to explore and practice her new skills.

When To Worry
Your child doesn’t take her first steps -- even wobbly ones -- by 16 months.

Hands-on Training
What’s Happening
Your toddler is developing greater fine motor control. At 12 months, his most advanced skill with a crayon was probably eating it. But in the second half of the year, he’ll firmly grasp a crayon and press it to paper to make straight and curvy lines. You’ll also notice your child poke his index finger into holes and pick tiny specks of dirt or crumbs off the floor.

How To Help
While you’ll have to continue to be on the lookout for choking hazards, give your child simple objects to manipulate, such as nontoxic markers, nesting cups, lift-the-flap books, and blocks.

When To Worry
Your toddler can’t stack at least two cubes by 21 months.

Word Explosion
What’s Happening
Most toddlers utter their first words by 15 months. A word like “juice” often represents whole sentences such as “I want juice” or “I spilled my juice.” By about 18 months, though, children begin to string together two or more words, creating sentences that link two ideas, such as “Daddy bye-bye.” In addition, vocabulary multiplies in the second half of the year, when toddlers learn as many as nine words per day. Even if your child doesn’t say much at 18 months, you’ll notice her comprehension has blossomed, Powers says. If you mention going to the park, she might grab her shoes and bang on the door. By age 2, she’ll be able to follow two-step instructions, such as “Get your book and bring it to Daddy.”

How To Help
Talk, read, and sing to your child throughout the day to boost her verbal abilities naturally.

When To Worry
Your child doesn’t say her first word by 18 months, and she can’t follow a simple request, such as “Get your ball.”

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