Toddler Development

An exciting time as your toddler transitions from baby to preschooler

The beginning of the toddler stage is one of firsts: first steps, first words, first holding a crayon.
Then as your child moves from his/her first year into the second, the learning process really takes
off. Your child’s use and understanding of language increases and he/she begins to form mental
images for objects, actions and concepts, all the while wanting to be independent and in control.

All of these new stages bring lots of wonder and awe from parents, and also lots of questions.
Here are some general benchmarks for toddler development we’d like to share with you from our
years of experience at Westchester Health Pediatrics, but keep in mind that these are only
guidelines.

Remember: If you have any questions or concerns about your toddler’s development, ask your
child’s pediatrician or any of us at Westchester Health Pediatrics. Even when there are delays, early
intervention can make a big difference.

Developmental milestones for the toddler years

Movement:

  • Walks alone
  • Pulls toys while walking
  • Carries large toy or several toys while walking
  • Begins to run
  • Stands on tiptoe
  • Kicks a ball
  • Climbs onto and down from furniture unassisted
  • Walks up and down stairs holding on to support

Hand and finger skills:

  • Scribbles spontaneously
  • Turns over container to pour out contents
  • Builds tower of four blocks or more
  • Might use one hand more frequently than the other

Language:

  • Recognizes names of familiar people, objects and body parts
  • Says several single words (by 15-18 months)
  • Uses simple phrases (by 18-24 months)
  • Uses 2- to 4-word sentences
  • Follows simple instructions
  • Repeats words overheard in conversation

Cognitive:

  • Finds objects even when hidden under 2 or 3 layers of paper or cloth
  • Begins to sort by shapes and colors
  • Begins make-believe play

Social and emotional:

  • Imitates behavior of others, especially adults and older children
  • Increasingly aware of himself/herself as separate from others
  • Increasingly enthusiastic about company of other children
  • Demonstrates increasing independence
  • Begins to show defiant behavior

Developmental delays to watch for

Because each child develops at his/her own pace, it’s impossible to tell exactly when your
toddler will master any given skill. However, it’s important to contact your pediatrician if your
toddler displays any of the following signs of possible developmental delay:

  • Cannot walk by 18 months
  • Fails to develop a mature heel-toe walking pattern after several months of walking, or walks
    exclusively on his/her toes
  • Does not speak at least 15 words by 18 months
  • Does not use 2-word sentences by age 2
  • Does not seem to know the function of common household objects (brush, telephone, bell,
    fork, spoon) by 15 months
  • Does not imitate actions or words by the end of this period
  • Does not follow simple instructions by age 2
  • Cannot push a wheeled toy by age 2