Toddler Milestones: What to Expect Between 18 and 24 Months

What will your little one accomplish between the ages of 18 and 24 months? Learn about some important developmental milestones for this age range.

Why are toddlers so adorable? Let us count the ways! Little ones between the ages of 18 and 24 months seem caught somewhere between baby and child, and most of the things they do are completely endearing. Whether they’re attempting to feed themselves, jumping in puddles, or playing with toys, their actions are largely linked to important toddler milestones. 

Toddler boy waving and smiling in his room

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Here, we’ll introduce you to some toddler milestones that occur between the ages of 18 and 24 months. You’ll learn why these milestones occur and how they’re important, along with some of the cute things you can expect as your toddler learns these new skills.

01 of 25


Toddler boy feeding himself

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If your child insists on holding their own spoon—leaving them with spaghetti in their hair and mashed banana on their cheeks—congratulations! Self-feeding is an important developmental step for your toddler. 

While babies might start self-feeding soon after starting solids, they should be able to use a spoon, fork, or unbreakable cup around 18 months, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)

Self-feeding has many benefits for toddlers; for example, it promotes independence, develops fine motor skills, and helps them recognize hunger cues. Encourage the milestone by offering utensils with mealtime and giving them space to practice (even if most food ends up on the floor!).

02 of 25

Dancing with Music

Happy toddler girl pulling a face
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Turn on some catchy tunes and watch your tot go! Toddlers unabashedly let their bodies move to the rhythm, making for some adorable dancing. A toddler learns about body coordination, control, and a sense of surrounding through purposeful movements, says Maria Shaheen, Ph.D., senior director of education and development at Primrose Schools. 

“It relates to their physical sense of self and ability to control large motor movements,” says Dr. Shaheen. “It's also a form of self-expression. Listening to music and dancing helps toddlers express themselves and their feelings. They can explore their emotions through singing, playing instruments or moving to music.”

03 of 25

Understanding But Not Following Instructions

Toddler Shoes

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Your little one understands when you give instructions, but whether they listen  or run off gleefully without a second thought is always up for debate. Is your toddler being deliberately disobedient? 

Not exactly, says Dr. Shaheen. “Toddlers are beginning to develop their sense of independence. While it can be frustrating for parents when toddlers don't follow directions, it’s actually a positive sign of development. It means they are beginning to develop a sense of competence and empowerment, and an ability to make their own choices.” 

Here’s how to help the situation: 

  • Allow your child to make decisions about things they can see, such as shoes or jackets.
  • Give simple instructions.
  • Avoid saying no too often; reserve your no’s for when it really matters.
04 of 25

Milestones: Red Flags to Watch For at 2 Years

05 of 25

No Longer Putting Objects in Their Mouth

Strange Habits Kid Fingers In Mouth Sitting

Babies and toddlers put everything in their mouth; it’s just how they learn about the world around them. But as toddlers get better with their dexterity, they begin to use their mouths less and their hands more to explore new things. “By 3 years old, most children stop putting objects in their mouths, says Dr. Shaheen. Indeed, your toddler might start being able to identify their mouth instead—and maybe their eyes and fingers, too!

06 of 25

Helping Their Parents

Picking up toys
Picking up toys.

Next time you're doing chores, look down. Is your toddler shadowing you? Given the chance, kids this age love to help you with whatever you're doing—and even housework can be fun for little ones. Toddlers understand that your actions have significance and they use imitation as a way of learning more about the world around them. This also helps them form independence.

07 of 25

"Reading" On Their Own

Toddler reading books

Catherine Delahaye / Getty Images

It sounds like gibberish to you, but your proud toddler feels like a big kid as they hold their own book and animatedly "read" it out loud. This is an important milestone of early literacy. Keep reading to your toddler each day to encourage their love of books—and perhaps let them pick the story some nights. 

08 of 25

Knowing Wrong from Right

Mom sitting behind toddler who is messy from eating a chocolate bar.

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In many circumstances your toddler now recognizes what's right and what's wrong (so don't be fooled by those puppy dog eyes when they know they’re in trouble)! Like every other skill, character, morality and empathy develop over time, says Dr. Shaheen. “Learning right and wrong provides the foundation for good character traits and confidence. It’s important for children to abide by rules that are grounded in kindness and respect.” 

09 of 25

Battling Their Bedtime

Standing toddler boy crying in the crib
Carolyn Brandt / Getty Images

At the end of the day, you just want to relax, but your stubborn child has other ideas. Whether they’re overtired, overstimulated, or simply curious about their surroundings, toddlers are famous sleep avoiders. But Dr. Shaheen says there’s a simple solution: “Establish a consistent bedtime routine. It’s the best antidote for tackling bedtime woes.”

Find what works for your child, and offer simple choices during their routine, such as what pajamas to wear. “Create a relaxing environment with lighting and music, or consider creating a ‘bedtime picture book’ with visuals demonstrating each activity before bed so children can learn and be comforted in knowing what comes next,” she says. 

10 of 25

Linking Two Words

Beautiful toddler sitting on the floor playing with vintage phone at kindergarten

No longer limited to one-word sentences, your toddler is now using two words in combination to express their feelings, desires, and needs. This is a sign of their developing vocabulary and language skills. Children should combine two words by the time they turn 2 years old, though every child develops at a different pace.

11 of 25

Throwing a Ball

toddler playing with ball

Sure, it may be too early for baseball bats and gloves, but your toddler loves to play with balls of any sort now that they’ve figured out how to throw. “Throwing a ball helps them learn their sense of balance and coordination, while also enjoying the feeling of propelling an object away from their body and watching where it goes,” says Dr. Shaheen. 

“This fun new skill helps children aim and balance to keep them from falling forward,” she adds. “But don't expect toddlers to be accurate: they are in the very beginning stages of learning.”

12 of 25

Undressing by Themselves

Portrait of cute small African American baby toddler child have fun on comfortable bed at home. Little biracial infant child kid play indoors, wear organic cotton natural clothes. Childcare concept.

fizkes / Getty Images

For your tot, getting out of their clothes by themselves is a developmental milestone. Once they’ve figured out how to undress, don't be surprised if you catch them with nothing on!

“Dressing and undressing may seem like simple tasks, but they actually require multiple skill sets from toddlers, including body awareness, understanding right from left, and fine motor coordination. Undressing is typically the easiest place to start, such as pulling off shoes or pants,” says Dr. Shaheen.

13 of 25

Speaking Well Enough to be Understood

Cute toddler girl laughing and smiling
Steve Debenport / Getty Images

You may be doing less interpreting of your toddler's speech these days. Around this age, little ones often begin speaking well enough to be understood much of the time. They’ll still babble sometimes (usually while attempting to imitate adult conversations) but clearer speaking is a sure sign of proper speech development. 

14 of 25

Walking Up and Down Stairs

Toddler climbing stairs.
Photo by Francesca Russell / Getty Images

Stairs can be scary for parents of toddlers, yet climbing them is a skill tots need to master. As Dr. Shaheen explains, “Walking up and down stairs is an important indicator of a child's motor development. Toddlers are just beginning to learn their sense of balance and body control. Children may begin crawling up the steps, and then advance to practicing holding onto the railing.” So take a deep breath and supervise as your child learns to go up the steps; practice is the only way to master this new skill!

15 of 25

Brushing Their Own Teeth

Toddlers Brushing Teeth

Getty Images / Rick Gomez

Your toddler can't be fully responsible for their dental health, but they can begin learning how to brush those little teeth. This small but critical task encourages little ones to take responsibility for their own personal hygiene, which can help them maintain cleanliness throughout their lives. Just be sure you follow up with a thorough brushing when they’re done! 

16 of 25

Identifying People and Objects in Pictures

mom and her kid reading book in the library

The pictures in your family's album take on new meaning to your growing tot. Ask them to point out loved ones in photos—they’re learning to identify familiar people and objects, which fuels their understanding of the world.

17 of 25

Understanding Prepositions

Toddler girl playing with bubbles in backyard

If you tell your toddler the ball rolled under the table, do they know where to look? Under, over, up, and down, your child is grasping the meaning of prepositions. This means they’re beginning to understand proper grammar and sentence structure, which is key to mastering verbal, written, and spoken language.  

18 of 25

Claiming Objects as "Mine"

Girl hugging stuffed animal
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It's a toddler's motto: What's mine is mine, and what's yours is mine! Watch as your sweet little one suddenly becomes possessive over every object that passes through their hands. “Toddlers are developing their sense of self and have a difficult time understanding that everything doesn't belong to them, which is why ‘mine’ will become a frequent phrase in their vocabulary,” says Dr. Shaheen. “Toddlers are not at the stage where they are able to take on the full perspective of others. Parents can help with this by demonstrating sharing techniques, and how being selfish can negatively affect others.” 

19 of 25

Showing Shyness Towards New People

shy toddler boy holding into dad's legs
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Don't be surprised if your previously easy-going child suddenly becomes a timid wallflower in certain social situations. Meeting new people often brings out shyness in toddlers. Also, toddlers may experience separation anxiety whenever you leave; this happens because little kids don’t fully understand the concept of time, and they might not grasp that you’ll be back soon. They’re becoming more independent and expressing discontent that you’re leaving.

20 of 25

Stacking Blocks

Toddler playing with blocks

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A bundle of blocks can provide lots of entertainment for a toddler, especially once they become proficient at stacking them. It's fun to build a high tower and send it crashing! Stacking blocks tunes your child’s fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. It also teaches them important skills, such as cause and effect when the blocks come tumbling down.

21 of 25

Wanting Attention All the Time

toddler holding onto a parent's finger, looking up at the camera

Getty Images / Johner Images

It's in a toddler's nature to want a parent's attention all to themselves, all the time—leaving Mom and Dad to cope with constant interruptions and demands.  Not one to sit on the sidelines, your inquisitive toddler wants to join you in anything you’re doing, and that includes playing with you all the time. “Toddlers wanting to be near those who they’re closest to is a normal part of their safety and security,” says Dr. Shaheen. “All children need and want to be noticed and acknowledged. If they don’t feel they are getting that attention, children will often act out because negative attention feels better than no attention.”

22 of 25

Identifying Likes and Dislikes

Boy toddler trying to choose a toy to play with
Jakob Lagerstedt/Stocksy

Your child may cherish those yellow pajamas—until tonight, when they emphatically announce they don’t want them anymore. Frustrating? Yes! But that’s simply another way for your toddler to assert their independence and deepen their awareness of their own wants and needs, likes and dislikes.  

23 of 25

Naming Body Parts

Toddler with red hair and green eyes


Head, shoulders, knees and many body parts can your kiddo name? Make a game out of pointing to each other's elbows and ears! Through this and similar giggly games, your little one is learning about their own anatomy, which increases self-awareness. 

It also helps with language development; once they understand these simple concepts, your toddler will be better equipped to tell you exactly what hurts when they’re feeling under the weather. And parents can use games like this as a platform to start teaching about body autonomy.

24 of 25

Responding to Simple Questions

Questions to Ask Toddlers to Get Them Talking

Ask a simple question and you just might get a simple answer from your growing tot. Try it out with your child and see if they’ll respond to your inquiry. 

As Dr. Shaheen says, “Answering simple questions is a positive indicator that toddlers are growing in their language skills. All toddlers have a cognitive load capacity and memory, and there is a limit to how many things they can retain. This is why it's important to start with simple yes/no questions or choosing between two options.”

25 of 25

Talking to Themselves

Girl picking flowers in field
John Fedele/Getty Images

Does your toddler carry on conversations that seem completely one-sided? Don’t worry, it’s completely normal for little ones to talk to themselves, sometimes all day long! A recent study indicates that most toddlers talk to themselves— and the ones that do tend to perform better on age-appropriate tasks than those who don’t. 

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