Your 16-Month-Old's Development and Milestones


A Toddler's World

At around 16 months old, your child may believe the world revolves around them—and in a way it does, as they get the lion's share of your attention. This viewpoint centered around themself is normal, and you might see it in action when, for example, they act out after another child reaches for their favorite toy. Your toddler may also experience separation anxiety around this time; luckily, there are ways you can help them cope with this challenge, which we’ll explain. Keep reading to learn more about your toddler’s development this month and to find out what else might be in store during this time.

Toddler Development Milestones

You may be wondering whether at 16 months your child is considered a toddler. And yes, at 16 months old your baby is no longer a baby but a toddler. And just like all children, your little one is developing at their own unique pace.

By now your 16-month-old’s growth has slowed down and won’t accelerate too much until a growth spurt later in adolescence. During their entire second year, toddlers may gain only about 3 to 5 pounds.

So, how much “should” a 16-month-old weigh? Whether your toddler has an average weight of between 23 pounds (for a girl) and 24.5 pounds (for a boy), or weighs more or less than that, at each checkup their healthcare provider will be carefully monitoring their growth, measuring height and weight and plotting these measurements on charts. The provider will be looking for a consistent pattern of growth over time rather than a specific height or weight at any particular stage of development.

Here are some of the developmental milestones your 16-month-old may reach around this time:

  • Becoming more sociable and centered around themself. Even as your child develops their social skills, becoming more sociable with others including children and adults, they think that the world revolves around them. They can’t yet understand that other people have feelings and thoughts that could be different from their own. When other children are around, for example, they may attempt to take others’ toys but be very possessive of anything they see as their own. At the same time, your toddler might be intrigued by other children, especially if they are a little older, and try to imitate them. They could become physical or show slightly aggressive behavior and may hit or bite when they become upset. To minimize these incidents during playdates, be sure to offer plenty of toys, and hide any of their favorite toys that you know may inspire a battle. Be prepared to act as the referee when needed, but rest assured that this type of behavior won’t last forever. It’s a natural part of your toddler’s development during this time.

  • Experiencing separation anxiety. It may be difficult for your toddler to be separated from you around this time, especially when they’re tired, ill, or scared. They may fuss or cry when you’re not around, such as when you're at work, or may wake up in the middle of the night and call out for you. Go ahead and remind them that you’re there for them when they need you and that you’ll be back; eventually they’ll feel more secure and will understand that you won’t disappear forever, and that you’re coming back. Don’t try to sneak off when you have to leave the house or drop them at day care, as this may have a negative effect and cause them to become even clingier. Brief separations are actually a good thing, as they can help your toddler become more independent over time.

  • Improving problem-solving skills. Problem-solving is something you’ll see show up in the way your toddler approaches play. They want to know how things work, and might be attracted to mechanical toys, switches, buttons, and knobs. For example, if you’re in an elevator together, your toddler might want to press the button. It’s a good idea to provide them with a variety of toys and activities that are challenging but not so difficult as to frustrate them. Imitation may also influence your toddler’s problem-solving skills. For example, they may have seen you throw garbage in the trash can, and so they now know where the trash goes.

  • Advancing in language development. Wondering what words a 16-month-old “should” be saying? Around this time, you may notice that your toddler's vocabulary is expanding, as they can correctly name their favorite toys, familiar people, and parts of the body. They may be using active verbs like “go” and “jump” as well as directional words like “up,” “down,” “in,” and “out”—and they may even be pronouncing words more clearly. It’s best not to focus on what “should” the vocabulary of a 16-month-old be, or dwell on how many words a 16-month-old “should” say, but instead to be patient and encouraging as they improve their speech at their own pace. Soon, they may start making two- to four-word sentences, such as “I want toy.” However, if your 16-month-old is not talking, you may want to consult their healthcare provider.

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Activities for Supporting Your 16-Month-Old Toddler’s Development

Looking for things to do with your 16-month-old, or asking yourself “what ‘should’ I be teaching my child?” Here are some ideas and guidelines for supporting your 16-month-old’s development:

  • Encourage play and social interactions. At this stage of your child's development, playing with another child usually means doing so side by side, which is called parallel play. In time, and with practice, toddlers acquire the skills to cooperate and interact during play. To get things going, organize a playdate so your toddler can be with other children around the same age. Also, take every opportunity to play with your toddler. Not only is it important for their development, but it offers a wonderful chance for bonding.

  • Provide simple toys or safe objects. Playing with things like toy blocks, plush teddies or dolls, and puzzles, as well as safe household objects like unbreakable containers and wooden spoons, helps foster the development of your 16-month-old’s imagination, hand-eye coordination, and fine motor skills.You’ll have fun watching them pick up a wooden spoon and pretend it’s a magic wand or use it to stir a make-believe cake. Don't feel pressured to buy anything, let alone the best toys on the market, to keep your 16-month-old engaged and happy. If you buy something, you may even find that your little one’s more interested in the box it came in than the toy itself.

  • Follow routines. Around this time, it’s important to be consistent and predictable when it comes to your 16-month-old’s daily schedule. With a reliable structure in place, your toddler has an easier time learning rules and expected behaviors. Creating a daily routine is simple: have bedtime, naps, and mealtimes and snacks offered around the same time each day. Your child will come to expect this, and it might help them develop good habits.

  • Set boundaries. You may need to establish some physical and behavioral boundaries and limits for your toddler around this time. They’re at the age where they want to get into everything, which may create unsafe scenarios—like pulling open drawers that could fall on them, opening kitchen cupboards that may store chemicals, or sticking their fingers in electrical outlets. Start by making sure these areas are child-proofed. Then, when you see your toddler headed toward trouble, redirect their attention: play a game with them, or sit them down on your lap for story time. It will be hard trying to anticipate your toddler’s every move, but it will be worth it in the long run.

  • Introduce nursery rhymes. You’ll remember this one from your childhood: “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, / Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.” Rhymes like this one are fun to say or sing with your toddler and they also serve as an important mental exercise—learning rhymes familiarizes your child with sound structures as well as letters. When rhymes and poems are recited and read over and over, your child starts to realize that certain sounds and letters go together, which is an early step on the road to reading!

Mealtimes and Menus for Your 16-Month-Old

For a 16-month-old, three small meals and two snacks a day are typically the norm, but you may find that your little one is hungrier some days and wants to skip a meal or a snack occasionally on others.

When it comes to mealtime, provide a few nutritious options with a variety of tastes and textures, and then let your child pick. You might be surprised to learn that, when your toddler is given the choice of various healthy foods over the course of a few days, they will eat a balanced diet that matches their activity levels and metabolism.

Special Diets

Feeding your toddler can be challenging from time to time, and if your family adheres to a special diet, like a vegetarian or vegan one, you may need to take extra care to make sure your child is getting the nutrients they need.

Your toddler’s healthcare provider or a registered dietitian can help you put together a menu plan for a healthy diet that meets your growing child's requirements for calories and nutrients, and you'll learn which food sources are best to supply extra vitamins and minerals.

In some cases, the provider may recommend you serve fortified foods like iron-enriched cereals and grains to ensure your toddler gets all the nutrients they need. In other cases, the provider may also recommend dietary supplements. Follow your provider’s advice to ensure your toddler gets everything they need to grow and thrive.

Your 16-Month-Old Toddler’s Sleep Schedule

As each child is unique, your little one’s sleep patterns may be quite different from another toddler's; but you still may be wondering how much sleep a 16-month-old needs. Generally, at 16 months old, your child may sleep anywhere between 12 and 14 hours a day, which includes one or two naps.

You may find that your 16-month-old resists bedtime and going to sleep at night, especially if they’ve just been doing some exciting activities that have taken up all their attention. Establishing a bedtime routine, such as having a bath and then reading a book, may help them settle more easily at night.

Another challenge you may experience during this time is your 16-month-old not sleeping through the night. To help you deal with your toddler’s sleep disruptions and frequent wake windows, and keep track of their nap and sleep schedule, download the Smart Sleep Coach app by Pampers. Co-created by pediatricians and sleep experts, this app can make it easier to adhere to a bedtime routine, assist with sleep training, and help you deal with sleep regression if it arises.

A Day in the Life of Your 16-Month-Old Toddler

Here’s what a regular daily schedule with your 16-month-old might look like in your home:

Your Toddler’s Health and Safety: Dealing With the Common Cold

At some point, your child will come down with a cold, especially if they’re in regular contact with other children. Even though there is no medication that prevents or cures the common cold, there are things you can do at home to keep your child comfortable as they recover.

Here’s what to do if your child has cold or respiratory symptoms like a stuffy or runny nose, cough, and/or fever:

  • Make sure they get plenty of rest and drink lots of water or other unsweetened liquids

  • If your child has a stuffy nose, you could use nasal saline drops or spray to offer some relief

  • Use a cool-mist humidifier in your toddler’s bedroom to help soothe their airways, especially if they have a cough, and help them breathe more easily

  • If your child has a fever, their healthcare provider may recommend that you give a single-ingredient over-the-counter medication such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen to help bring their temperature down and make them more comfortable. If your child has a fever of over 103 degrees Fahrenheit that lasts for more than 24 hours, call their healthcare provider as soon as possible.

Always check with your child’s healthcare provider before giving your toddler any medicine, and to make sure you're giving the correct dosage.

Development Tips for Your Toddler This Month

Here are some different ways you can help boost your 16-month-old toddler’s development:

  • Offer warm physical contact. Expressing affection through loving, physical contact helps build your toddler’s sense of security, especially when it’s done consistently. Take every opportunity to hug your little one and cuddle, such as when you're reading a story together.

  • Be attentive to your toddler. Each child has their own personality, rhythm, and mood. Understand your 16-month-old’s temperament and respond to them accordingly, even if they're upset; if it’s required, use an appropriate level of discipline without yelling or spanking. Being consistent with your actions and reactions is important for them to understand the difference between right and wrong.

  • Listen for questions and ask questions. Children are highly curious around this time. Your toddler will be ready to absorb knowledge like a sponge. Let them ask questions and do the best you can to answer without dismissing them. Then, follow up by asking questions; this exchange can help stimulate their decision-making skills as well as language development.

  • Play music in the house. As mentioned above, this age is a great time to say or sing nursery rhymes, or to sing or play other music. Playing fun or calming music for your toddler may have a positive effect on their emotional well-being. Experts believe that playing calming music can help with mood, sleep, stress, and anxiety.

Items You’ll Need This Month

Here’s a list of baby products you might be using this month, or may still need to purchase:

  • Toddler car seat. Check that your current car seat still meets your child’s needs. If not, you may need to upgrade to a toddler-specific car seat this month.

  • Diapers, wipes, and diaper rash cream. A good supply of diapers and wipes is never a bad idea—and have some diaper rash cream just in case.

  • Child-proof cabinet locks. Your child is getting better at exploring and getting into things, so it's smart to install locks to keep certain cupboards off limits. You might also like to keep various doors locked, like ones leading to the garage, the laundry room, and the basement, for example.

  • Baby gates. These may be a key part of your child-proofing efforts now that you have an active toddler in the house. Use baby gates to block access to stairs or even certain rooms.

  • Humidifier. A cool-mist humidifier can help improve the air quality in your toddler’s room and may come in handy if they have any respiratory symptoms or illness.

  • Baby thermometer. Your 16-month-old may come home from day care with more than just new fridge art! Your child will be susceptible to catching a cold from other children, care givers, and even their siblings. Keep a baby thermometer on hand, as you never know when you’ll need to use it.

Your Life as a Parent: Making Comparisons

It’s natural for you to compare your child’s development with a child of a similar age, or even to one of your older children, and wonder why your toddler may be smaller, or taking a longer time to talk or walk. Try to remember that each child develops on their own timeline and at their own pace. Your toddler may be ahead of another child in one area, but behind in others, and vice versa. This is all a natural part of developing into a unique person.

Try not to take to heart any unsolicited advice from well-meaning parents or strangers who may think they have all the answers. Instead, talk to your 16-month-old’s healthcare provider about any issues you've spotted or concerns you may have about your child's development.

Checklist for This Month

Update your medicine cabinet. Double-check that your medicine cabinet contains up-to-date, unexpired first-aid supplies and any medicines your little one may need. It’s also a good opportunity to check that your car has a well-stocked first-aid kit for when you’re out and about. When you do this check, make sure you safely dispose of any expired medicines and purchase any items you may be running low on.

Check on your toddler’s seasonal clothes. Your child may need bigger sizes of seasonal clothes such as coats or shorts. Take advantage of any end-of-season sales and buy the next size up.

Schedule playdates. It’s a good idea to organize some playdates with other children of a similar age, as this may help with your toddler’s social development. You could meet up with some of the neighborhood children at the local playground or with children from day care at the park over the weekend. Be sure an adult is present to supervise the children.

Size up or switch the style of your toddler’s diapers. As your child becomes more mobile, wiggling and exploring the house as they discover the world around them, you might consider changing to Pampers Cruisers, which are made for active toddlers and feature a unique fit that moves with your toddler.

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How We Wrote This Article The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.