15-Month-Old: Moving Forward

At 15 months old, your toddler is becoming better and more confident at walking and other types of independent movement. She's proud of her new skills, and so are you. Besides cheering her on, your role is to help keep her safe as she explores.

Little by little, you're getting glimpses of your little one's temperament. You may observe that she's fairly easygoing in most situations, or that she's prone to reacting with a tantrum. She may tend to be active and assertive when you play together, or she may be more of a watch-from-a-distance kind of child and prefer to play quietly by herself. No matter what it is, you’ll love seeing your little one’s personality and style become more apparent. Learn more about what’s in store for you and your 15-month-old toddler this month.

Toddler Development Milestones

As every child is unique, the timing of development milestones and the way they are achieved may be different from one toddler to another. Remember that every child progresses at her own pace, and be patient if some milestones are reached a little later than others.

Here are examples of some of the milestones you may see with your 15-month-old this month:

  • Slower growth. During this second year, your toddler’s rate of growth may be slower compared with how quickly your little one grew in her first 12 months. You may notice that her height and weight increase at a slower and steady rate, and your toddler’s head circumference growth may also slow down around this time. Your toddler’s healthcare provider will continue to track her growth at her regular checkups using the growth chart you may be familiar with from previous visits. By the way, it might interest you to know that your little one’s next big growth spurt will most likely be all the way in adolescence.

  • Climbing attempts. If your child has been walking for a while, she's likely gotten quite good at it, and might be ready for a new challenge—the stairs. Climbing up is the first stage of the process, and she'll be eager to practice, with you closely watching. Coming down is harder, and you may need to show her how to position herself to do this safely going backward. Make sure you keep the stairs gated to prevent any solo attempts!

  • Temperament on display. Your toddler’s temperament is something that is individual to her, and it’s not something that can be changed. As a parent, you can support her by encouraging her strengths, and being there for her when she feels unsure. For example, if your toddler is showing signs of separation anxiety at certain times of the day like bedtime, it may help to do things like leaving a night-light on or letting her sleep with her favorite blankie.

  • Understanding how objects function. As your toddler gets to know the world around her, she'll begin to understand how certain objects function, an important step in cognitive development. You might see that she starts to use some things as they are intended—even if not quite successfully. For example, she may run a hairbrush over her hair or hold a telephone to the side of her face. These moments are sure to put a smile on your face as you see your little one connect the dots.

If you’re wondering whether your toddler’s development is on track, the 15-month checkup is a great time to talk to your provider about it.

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How to Support Your 15-Month-Old’s Development

Here’s how you can support and encourage your 15-month-old’s development:

  • Reinforce language leaps and boost vocabulary. Around this time, as your toddler is starting to get a grasp of language, she may have her own made-up vocabulary, using substitutes for some words. For example, she may say something like “wa-wa” for water. Although these words are cute to hear, help her learn the correct words by reinforcing their correct pronunciation without poking fun at your little one’s attempts to say the word. A good tip is to wait until she’s finished what she’s saying, and then follow up by correcting her pronunciation. Her language skills will improve over time with your help.

  • Offer warm physical contact. Hugs and skin-to-skin contact are more than just warm bonding moments for you and your child; they can do a lot for your toddler’s sense of security when offered on a consistent basis. Hug her often and spend time cuddling regularly—for example, during bedtime stories.

  • Play with your toddler. Join her on the floor during her playtime activities, and take the opportunity to enjoy quality time together every day. Help her build something with blocks, or chant a nursery rhyme that has hand gestures. Even when you're having a busy day, you might find you enjoy these sessions as much as your toddler does!

  • Read together every day. Reading with your toddler is just about the best way to foster language development and early literacy, and it’s also a lovely way to spend one-on-one time each day. Bedtime is a particularly good time to read with your little one as it can help her unwind and get into a sleep routine. Go ahead and let your little one choose the book she’d like to read, and encourage her to interact and pronounce some of the words on the pages. Even if she’s not quite there yet, encouraging her will prompt her to try. Feel free to elaborate on the story and add some extra elements to make it even more fun for your little one, for example, “Look at the cat—he’s wearing a hat.”

Mealtimes and Menus for Your 15-Month-Old

Three small meals and two snacks are a good plan for feeding a toddler. Don’t worry, though, if your toddler eats everything in sight one day while rejecting some foods or even meals the next day.

These differences in appetite may be the natural result of things like changing activity levels, changes in metabolism, and growth spurts.

Don’t take it to heart if your toddler doesn’t want to eat the food you’ve prepared for her. If your toddler’s not eating her lunch, for example, save it for later when she may change her mind and gladly eat it.

To ensure she’s getting all the nutrients she needs, offer her a variety of healthy foods at each mealtime, including:

  • Protein foods like meat, fish, poultry, and eggs

  • Dairy products like cow’s milk and yogurt

  • Fruits and vegetables

  • Grains and starches like cereal, bread, pasta, potatoes, and rice.

Keep in mind that, although your little one may not consume a variety of nutritious foods on one particular day, over the course of a few days her diet will balance out overall, and she'll get the nutrients she needs to grow and stay healthy. How cool is that!

15-Month-Old Toddler Sleep Schedule

Sleep is important for your toddler's health and optimal development. At 15 months old, your toddler needs about 12 to 14 hours of sleep per day, which includes 1 or 2 daytime naps.

To help ensure that your toddler is getting enough sleep, create a regular bedtime routine. Here are some guidelines:

  • Stick to the clock. Try to keep bedtime and naptimes the same every day. That way, your toddler is more likely to feel sleepy when the time for sleep rolls around.

  • Have some quiet time. Winding things down and avoiding exciting play just before bed can help your little one get ready for bed. Story time, relaxing music, or a warm bath are all good examples of what you could do to help relax your little one.

  • Let your toddler have a "lovey." It’s OK for your child to sleep with a stuffed animal or blankie if she finds it comforting. These transitional objects can help your child fall asleep more easily and help her comfort herself if she wakes during the night.

  • Provide a little light. You may consider having a night-light for your toddler or leaving her bedroom door slightly ajar so that the room isn’t pitch black.

  • Wait before responding. In the middle of the night, if your child calls for you or cries a little, you might wait for a short time before answering her. Then, you might like to check that she’s OK and reassure her from the doorway instead of picking her up or turning on the bedroom light. Remind her that it’s time to sleep and that she should try to fall asleep. Of course, if you suspect your child may be ill, you should tend to her needs.

  • Be patient. It takes a while for your toddler to establish good sleep habits, and it’s normal for your toddler to wake up in the night from time to time. Stay encouraging, and try to avoid responding to your child’s needs in a negative way. This will help her learn that she can trust you to be there when she really needs it, and knowing this will help her feel more comfortable about self-soothing and falling back to sleep on her own.

A Day in the Life of Your Toddler

Here’s an idea of what a day with your toddler might look like at your home:

Your Toddler’s Health and Safety: Teething and Brushing

Teething is a natural part of your toddler’s development, even if it’s not always comfortable. To help your 15-month-old with any discomfort he's experiencing with teething, you can gently massage his gums with your finger, or offer a teething ring that he can chew on.

Don't use any type of teething gel or other topical medication to reduce the discomfort of teething. It won’t stay on your toddler’s gums for very long and it may be harmful if he swallows too much of it.

Sometimes teething may cause a low grade fever of no more than 101 degrees Fahrenheit. If your toddler has a fever higher than that, it’s probably not linked to teething and it’s probably a good idea to take your little one to his healthcare provider for a checkup.

Continue teaching your child about good oral hygiene habits, including brushing his teeth twice a day. To help make this less of a chore for your toddler, you could sing a song or play some music on your phone while he brushes. You could also let him choose a fun child’s toothbrush with bright colors or characters on it, or surprise him with a cute cup for rinsing.

Although your little one won’t be able to brush his teeth completely on his own until he’s about 7 years old, establishing the routine early in life sets your child up for great lifelong habits and ensures his teeth and gums are well taken care of.

As a reminder, here’s how to brush your toddler’s teeth: Use a soft-bristled children’s toothbrush with a tiny drop of fluoride toothpaste (about the size of a grain of rice). It’s recommended to brush his teeth after breakfast and before bedtime.

Your Life as a Parent: Caring for a Sick Child

It’s inevitable that from time to time your child may come down with a cold or some other common childhood illness. Aside from the worry of caring for your sick little one, you may also have to rearrange your days while your toddler is feeling unwell.

If your child is ill at daycare, you may get a call from the facility letting you know that he needs to be sent home. If you can’t get there, you may have to arrange for someone to pick him up or leave work early, if you can.

It’s a good idea to keep your child home until he’s better so he doesn’t spread germs to the other children at the daycare center. Your healthcare provider will be able to advise on when he’s well enough to return.

If your employer allows it, you may consider working from home during this time. You could also split the duties with your partner: You can take the morning off from work, and have your partner take the afternoon, or vice versa.

If you can’t work from home, consider finding a family member or babysitter who can step in to help watch and take care of your child.

When your child doesn't feel well, he may struggle to sleep at night, so you may be up through the night and be more tired during the day. Now might be a good time to reach out for help from the grandparents or a babysitter so that you have the support you need.

Caring for your sick child isn’t always easy, but don’t be afraid to ask for help, and contact his healthcare provider if his condition doesn’t improve. With most common illnesses like a mild cold or a sore throat, things should resolve within a few days and life will soon get back to normal.