Your 18-month-old's developmental milestones are full of excitement: You’re going to see more movement, more playing, more independence (when it comes to asking for what she wants, getting undressed, and even eating.) She’s going to become more opinionated, more energetic, and yes, harder to handle and keep up with. Yes, that probably means more stress for you, but watching your toddler grow up and develop new skills will be well worth it. Just be grateful you’re still a few months away from the terrible twos.
It’s worth noting that all children develop at different rates. If your child isn’t hitting each one of these 18-month-old's developmental milestones perfectly, that’s totally normal, so there’s no need to panic. You might want to speak with your pediatrician if your child can’t walk by 18-months or has a vocabulary of six words or less (the CDC has more information on when you should be concerned about your child’s development.) Otherwise, an 18-month-old's developmental milestones typically include these important actions and activities.
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Your toddler is becoming an independent being, so she might start articulating exactly what she likes — and doesn’t like. By 18-months, she should start making it clear when she doesn’t want to do or eat something by saying ‘no’ or shaking her head. When you ask if she wants to go to sleep, eat her carrots, or put on her shoes, you’ll now be able to hear her distaste loud and clear. It might be frustrating to hear “no” every time you ask her to do something, but it should also be reassuring. This is one of an 18-month-old's developmental milestones that signals she is developing her own preferences and ideas.
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This is just the beginning of the “terrible twos” stage. When your 18-month old is angry, frustrated, or otherwise upset, she’s going to express those emotions with a serious meltdown. Kicking, screaming, pounding her fists on the floor — the whole nine yards. Don’t try to end these tantrums with logic or reason, neither of which can explain what will trigger an episode. Sometimes, the easiest thing to do is try to stay calm yourself, and ride it out and until she gets tired or bored of crying and moves on. Try to avoid rewarding the tantrum (by, for example, serving her ice cream for dinner) at all costs. Not all of your 18-month-old's developmental milestones are positive.
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Toddlers are balls of energy, so expect to start chasing your 18-month old all over the house. By now, she should be running you ragged, and will probably even try to run up the stairs (but she’ll likely still need a hand.) She’s probably going to be extra eager for adventures outdoors, too, where she’ll have plenty of space to run free. This is one of the your 18-month-old's developmental milestones that might cause you the most trouble. You’ll have to extra careful to make sure your little one doesn’t run into tables, doors, walls, and other people. Just keep in mind, when it comes to energetic kids, accidents are bound to happen.
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Not only is your toddler extra energetic but she’s probably flexing her imaginative powers, too. That means you might notice that she’s making up her own games to play by herself or with her toys. This is totally normal; she’s just playing pretend like we all did when we were her age. She’s probably inventing magical creatures to play with and having adventures in worlds us adults can even imagine. Or she might simply be pretending to feed her stuffed animals, just like Mom and Dad feed her. That’s a good thing! Playing pretend is just another sign that your toddler is becoming more creative and more independent.
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An 18-month-old's developmental milestones include lots of movement. Is there anything cuter an adorable toddler dancing whenever she hears music playing? She might stomp her feet and spin in circles, but when you’re 18-months old, that totally counts as dancing. Once you turn on the music, your toddler should get the urge to move her body, and yes, it may look like flailing, but she’s trying her best okay! Maybe someday her dance skills will evolve but for now, she’s still getting the hang of her coordination. The important thing is she’s responding to music and probably even developing a sense of what type of music she prefers.
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At 18-months, your toddler will have a very basic understanding of anatomy. She’ll be able to identify her nose, eyes, ears, and other easy to say and see body parts. You’ve probably spent countless hours helping her learn the names of body parts by pointing them out on your face and on her stuffed animals, but now she’ll be able to name her own body parts (in the simplest terms.) At this stage in her life, your toddler will be able to recognize not just her facial features, but objects around the house (like her toys) as well as objects in picture books, but more on that later.
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Reading with your child is probably a regular activity in your house, but by 18-months it will be a more interactive nightly activity. Your toddler will be able to identify objects in picture books by now, pointing to each one and saying their names. Think simple words like “duck,” “house,” or “spoon,” and other objects that she sees not just in books, regularly in real life, too. Reading will become a more entertaining, playful activity for your toddler once she can recognize what she’s looking at. Books full of colorful pictures and objects she’s already expressed an interest in might help speed along this milestone.
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Your little messy eater is learning to eat on her own. At 18-months, she should be able to drink out of a cup without any help. That doesn’t mean she’ll want to give up her bottle entirely, but at this point she’ll be able to drink water and juice out of her own cup. She'll want to hold the cup too. Of course, she’ll still be mastering her skills with the cup so there might be lots of sloshing and spills. But the baby who once needed help eating and drinking is gaining the skills that will soon make her independent at the dinner table.
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An 18-month-old's developmental milestones include more changes at the dinner table. Around now, your 18-month old will eat with her hands less and starts picking utensils. Her grip might be shaky, but she should be able to eat some foods (oatmeal, pees, mashed potatoes) with a spoon. Just be forewarned: Just because she can eat with a spoon doesn’t mean she’ll want to eat with a spoon every time you sit down dinner. Expect lots of food to still end up the floor even with the spoon in play. It will take some practice before she’s totally proficient in spoon use (and before she even wants to use it.)
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You might think that your toddler doesn’t listen to anything you say, but at 18-months she will start to respond to commands that only take one-step to complete. If she’s on the table, she’ll understand when you say “get down.” If she doesn’t want to join the family for dinner, she’ll know what you mean when you say “sit down.” Most of the time, your toddler will heed your words, and follow instructions. However, there's also a chance she might choose to not comply every time. Still, around this time she’s going to get better at listening to her parents and taking instructions.
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A big part of an 18-month-old's developmental milestones will be responding to her environment. Around 18-months your toddler will start to recognize objects around the house. Now, when she sees her bottle on the counter, or spots her favorite book or stuffed animal on a shelf, she’ll be able to point at it. This most likely indicates that it’s something she wants to hold. Not only does this mean she’s starting to understand what belongs to her, but also that she’s getting better at asking for what she wants. Could a period of seriously demanding behavior follow, during which she points at everything and asks to hold or touch it? Unfortunately toddlers are prone to misbehavior, so it’s definitely possible.
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Cover your walls and furniture because your 18-month-old toddler is about to get interested in drawing. Give her a set of colorful crayons and a coloring book and she’ll probably start scribbling all sorts of random lines and swirls. It will be a while before she learns to color in the lines, but she’ll probably get a lot of joy out of playing with the crayons. Of course, you’ll have to make sure she doesn’t play with crayons on surfaces other than paper. However, just like playing pretend, drawing with crayons is another way to keep the creative parts of her brain in shape.
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In between running wild, sticking her hands in the dirt, and shoving things in her mouth that definitely don’t belong there, your toddler will start showing her family (and other people, like caregivers, that she’s especially familiar with) lots of affection. That means you might find her eager to dispense hugs, give cheek kisses, and hold hands. Of all your 18-month-old's developmental milestones this one might just be cutest of all. Your toddler, who of course loves you, will soon be able to show it by showering you with all the hugs her tiny arms can manage. Be prepared to take a lot of pictures.
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Does your toddler have an appetite for destruction? Well then you might want to buckle up because at 18-months she’ll learn how to throw a ball. You're going to have to be really careful: Picture frames, dishes — nothing is safe from your toddlers ball throwing abilities. On the plus side, her athletic ability is developing and alongside it, perhaps her love of the outdoors as well. Learning how to throw a ball is the perfect excuse to get outside where she can enjoy nature, sunshine, grass and be far, far away from your valuables. You might not have a future professional baseball player on your hands, but throwing a ball is a game the two of you can play together.
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You pretty much gave up alone when you decided to have a kid, but at 18-months, toddlers start developing the ability to push open doors. That means you could be trying to get some privacy in the bathroom and your toddler will be able to open the door. Or before bed, if you’re brushing your teeth, or trying to apply just a little bit of makeup before a special occasion, she’ll be able to interrupt you and rip up all the toilet paper. It might be tempting to lock the door but with an energetic toddler running around, it’s probably not worth the risk. Yes, the days of getting even a couple moments of alone time are long behind you.
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You’ve probably already noticed that your toddler has developed her own personal style. She probably wants to help pick out her clothes. At 18-months she’ll take it one step further and be able to at least partially get undressed. Though she’ll still need a helping hand, your toddler will want take an active role in changing her clothes in the morning and getting ready for bed. Just be careful she doesn’t get too excited about her new skills. She might start getting undressed in inappropriate places, like the grocery store or the bank. Soon enough she won’t want your help picking out her clothes at all.