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Understanding Toddler Development

Submitted by on January 17, 2013 – 3:15 pmNo Comment

Toddler boy reading

How to recognize developmental milestones for Children ages 12 – 36 months


Child Development is not a race — there is a wide range of “average” development. Children achieve milestones at different ages depending on their physical, emotional and mental attributes, as well as exposure to different environments, parenting styles and activities. Developmental milestones can be impacted by vision, hearing, general health, medical history, genetics, nutrition and the emotional health of the family.

There are certain developmental milestones, however, that most children reach within a specific time frame. The age when your toddler laughs at your silliness, puts words together to communicate, completes simple puzzles, starts to run and masters other tasks can give you and your pediatrician valuable information regarding how they are developing in relation to other toddlers.

There are three key areas in developmental milestones that your child should be achieving.  These areas are motor development (using their hands, arms and legs in a coordinated manner), cognitive development (thinking, reasoning, using memory and problem solving) and language/social development(communicating and socializing appropriately).

Following you will find a list of developmental milestones.  Under each developmental age, you will find specific milestones for that age. Following the milestones are “red flags” that you should probably bring to the attention of your pediatrician.

Around 12 months, your toddler should be able to:
•    Drink from a cup with help
•    Finger feed small items such as raisins or goldfish crackers
•    Stand alone and take a few steps
•    Copy sounds and actions that you make
•    Respond to music and body motions
•    Babble as if talking
•    Say first word
•    Raise arms to be picked up

Around 18 months, your toddler should be able to:
•    Turn pages in a book
•    Take several steps unassisted
•    Pull off hats, socks and mittens
•    Laugh at silly actions
•    Identify objects in a picture book
•    Put a round lid on a round pot
•    Say eight to ten words that you can understand
•    Ask specifically for their mother or father
•    Use “hi,” “bye” and “please”
•    Become anxious when separated from their parents

Around 24 months, your toddler should be able to:
•    Drink from a straw
•    Feed him/herself with a spoon
•    Pick up a toy from the floor without holding on to something and not falling
•    Run for short distances
•    Explore surroundings
•    Point to five or six parts of a doll when asked
•    Use two or three-word sentences
•    Say names of toys and people
•    Take turns while playing with other kids

Around 36 months, your toddler should be able to:
•    Put simple clothes on independently
•    Walk up steps, alternating feet
•    Jump in place
•    Match circle and square
•    Avoid dangers (like a hot stove)
•    Answer simple questions
•    Like to play with other children
•    Repeat simple songs
•    Use 3-5 word sentences
•    Talk about feelings

“Red Flags” for your Toddler who is between 1 and 2 years old.
•    Not cruising by 15 months
•    No words by 16 months
•    Not finger feeding by 18 months
•    No two-word phrases by 24 months
•    No pretend play by 24 months

“Red Flags” for your Toddler who is between 2 and 3 years old.
•    Moves tongue, feet or other body parts excessively when coloring, cutting or tracing
•    Not using a spoon to feed him/herself (spilling is OK)
•    Loses balance, falls frequently or regularly runs into things
•    Speech is difficult to understand

“Red Flags” for your Toddler at any age after 18 months.
•    Motor skills are regressing (the child is losing skills previously mastered)
•    Speech and Language skills are regressing (the child is talking less instead of more)
•    Favors one side of the body or only uses one side of the body
•    Persistent rocking, hand flapping or head banging
•    Avoids eye contact
•    Excessive drooling
•    Difficulty eating
•    Unable to comfort self
•    No interest in others
•    Under/Over attachment to caregiver

THERAPY 2000 is a pediatric homecare agency that provides physical, occupational and speech therapy to children with disabilities and developmental delays.  We understand developmental milestones and the challenges of Children with Special Needs.  Our 180 therapists provide services to more than 1,200 special children in their homes, schools and daycares.  To contact please call 214.467.9787or visit


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