Your 17-Month-Old's Development and Milestones


Talkative and Dexterous

At around 17 months old, your toddler may be expanding their vocabulary at a rapid pace. They might be using verbs and may even be able to say short sentences. Their hand and finger skills are also getting better day by day. Read on to find out what you can do to support your toddler’s development this month.

Toddler Development Milestones

Although your 17-month-old may reach certain development milestones a little earlier or later, these are some of the milestones you might see around this time:

  • Starting to use active verbs. Not only might your toddler be pronouncing words more clearly by now, but they may also be using active verbs like “go” or “jump,” as well as directional words like “up,” “down,” “in,” or “out.” They may say something like “go down slide” or “I jump up.”

  • Expanding vocabulary. You may find that your toddler’s vocabulary is growing more quickly at this age. They might be able to say a bunch of words, most likely including names of familiar people, favorite toys, and parts of their body. Soon, they may start putting words together to make short sentences, such as “I want ball.” Instead of focusing on how many words your 17-month-old “should” say, help them expand their vocabulary by talking with them and reading to them every day.

  • Improving hand and finger dexterity. Your child may be able to pick up small objects between their forefinger and thumb more easily this month. As their coordination gets better, they might also be able to scribble on a piece of paper or roll modeling clay in their hand.

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Activities for Supporting Your 17-Month-Old Toddler’s Development

Here are some ways that you can support the development of your 17-month-old:

  • Name everyday objects. Help your child develop word associations by naming and explaining common objects and everyday activities. For example, you could say a pan is used for cooking food. You can even use toys to help illustrate this, such as by letting your toddler play with a toy kitchen or a toy phone.

  • Make brushing teeth fun. Establishing good oral hygiene and teeth-brushing habits can never start too early. Place a small amount of fluoride toothpaste on your toddler’s brush and help them brush their teeth twice a day. (You’ll most likely need to be their helper until they’re about 6 to 8 years old.) To make this less of a chore and more of an enjoyable activity, you could play music for about two minutes while you brush your child’s teeth. This can help reinforce the rule that two minutes is the recommended amount of time to do a good job brushing teeth.

  • Let your child have a transitional object. It’s OK to let your toddler use a blankie or a teddy bear to soothe themself. These types of objects might also help your child fall asleep and give them comfort if they wake up in the middle of the night. Just make sure the object doesn’t have any strings or parts that can become a strangulation or choking hazard, like ribbons, straps, or buttons.

  • Weave books into your daily routine. Tuck some children’s books into your car or diaper bag so that you can pull one out when you need it. For example, when you're at the grocery store, give your toddler a board book or two to look at while you're wheeling them around in the shopping cart. Keep an eye out for any that get dropped in the aisles!

Mealtimes and Menus for Your 17-Month-Old

Don’t be surprised if your toddler is a picky eater from time to time—this is a normal part of toddler and preschooler development. A young child's appetite may fluctuate now that their growth rate has slowed, and they’re forming likes and dislikes about many things, not just food. Even knowing this information, you may find it difficult to deal with the situation, but it won’t be impossible.

The following are some tips and strategies for handling your toddler’s pickiness and keeping mealtimes pleasant:

  • Don’t force your toddler to eat. The more you urge or insist that your child eat a certain food or meal, the more they will resist it.

  • Give your toddler menu options. Offer your toddler a few healthy foods even if they’re being picky. They’re bound to choose one of them. However, if they don’t want to eat, save the plate for later when they get hungry. A toddler during this time typically eats three small meals and two snacks per day.

  • Have a relaxing family meal together. Sit down to a family meal without the distractions of TV or smartphones and serve the same foods to everyone at the table, including your toddler. If your family likes spicy food, set aside some unseasoned portions for your toddler. You may want to make sure that at least one of the foods on the menu is their favorite so there’s a better chance they eat it.

  • Don’t use food as a reward. It’s not a good idea to reward your toddler with food, especially sweets. This approach can backfire and cause more battles in the future.

  • Don’t give up on introducing a new food. It may take as many as 10 tries to get your child to accept a certain food. But once you do succeed, keep going. For example, if you’ve finally succeeded in getting your toddler to eat broccoli, you might introduce cauliflower. You may also try adding a little grated or melted cheese to make it more appealing.

  • Make cooking and serving food enjoyable. Invite your child to help you prepare a few simple recipes. Let them help you stir batter for your breakfast pancakes, for instance. Be creative in the way you serve their food. For example, place berries on their pancake in the shape of a smiley face, cut some colorful vegetables into fun shapes, or arrange veggie strips in a rainbow on the plate.

The Art of Feeding a Toddler

  • Follow these guidelines for feeding your toddler:

  • Make sure the food you give them isn’t too hot by testing it yourself.

  • Avoid food that’s too spicy, salty, buttery, or sweet.

  • Ensure the food is cut up into small pieces or coarsely mashed so it’s easy for your child to eat and to prevent choking. (Children under 4 years of age haven't learned to chew with a grinding motion, so it’s important that foods are in bite-size pieces.)

  • Keep your toddler seated during mealtimes. This is important for reducing the risk of choking, which is more likely if your child is eating while playing or “eating on the run.”

  • Teach them to chew and swallow their food before speaking.

Your 17-Month-Old Toddler’s Sleep Schedule

At 17 months old, your toddler typically needs between 12 and 14 hours of sleep per day. By 17 months, your little one may be down to one nap a day.

Here are some safe sleep tips to follow for your toddler:

  • Keep your child’s crib mattress at the lowest setting so they can’t climb out.

  • Ensure the crib is free of objects that your toddler could use to help them climb out, such as a large plush item or any toys that they can stack.

  • Although this may be a while off, once your toddler gets to the point where they’re able to climb out of their crib, you may need to transition them to a low toddler bed or a mattress on the floor.

  • Make sure the crib is positioned away from windows, drapes, electrical outlets, and cords.

  • Remove any crib gyms, mobiles, or toys that are hanging over your toddler’s crib, if you haven’t already.

Other challenges you may experience during this time are sleep disruptions and frequent nighttime waking. Keep track of your 17-month-old toddler’s nap and sleep schedule by downloading 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 17-Month-Old Toddler

Life is an adventure with a toddler in the house. Here’s what a daily schedule might look like for your 17-month-old:

Your Toddler’s Health and Safety: Being Outdoors

If the weather is good, your toddler will enjoy spending time playing outside, whether it’s in the backyard, at the local park, or at a nearby playground. The following are some ways you can help protect your toddler when they're outside:

  • Create a safe perimeter. To prevent your toddler from going outside without your knowledge, install door locks that are out of their reach, baby gates, or even alarms that alert you to movement. These precautions can help prevent your child from wandering out to the swimming pool (if you have one), driveway, or street. All pools should have a fence on all four sides and a gate with a childproof lock that’s closed at all times.

  • Keep your child close. Whether you’re near a busy street, in a parking lot, standing on a driveway, or in a quiet residential neighborhood, it’s a good idea to hold on to your toddler and keep a watchful eye on them.

  • Practice car safety.This is important when you or another family member might be backing out of your driveway. Know where your toddler is and make sure that they’re unable to run behind the vehicle. Although many new cars have a rearview backup camera, it’s still important to be extra vigilant and know where your toddler is at all times. And when your car is not in use, make sure the doors are locked.

  • Apply sunscreen at all times. The sun’s invisible ultraviolet light rays are harmful even on foggy or hazy days, and even in winter when UV rays reflect off snow. You’ll want to ensure your toddler is protected year-round.

  • Dress your toddler in appropriate clothing. Cotton clothing with long sleeves and long pants will help shield your child's skin from the sun in warmer months. Sun protective clothing and wide-brimmed hats are also recommended to protect your toddler from sunburn.

  • Make sure your child is drinking plenty of water. When your toddler is playing outside, it’s important that they stay hydrated. Dehydration can make your child ill.

  • Stay with your child when in or near water. Don’t leave your child unattended near an open body of water, such as a lake or swimming pool.

Development Tips for Your Toddler This Month

The following advice can help your 17-month-old toddler’s development in many ways:

  • Be sensitive to your toddler's moods and rhythms. Every child has their own unique personality. Support your 17-month-old by responding to them with consistency and encouragement, and if necessary, discipline. Avoid raising your voice at your child or never resort to hitting.

  • Offer warm physical touch.

    Hugs, cuddles, and all forms of loving physical contact help foster your toddler’s sense of security. The key is providing this consistently. Take every opportunity to get close to your little one.

  • Help your child communicate. Toddlers can have a tough time communicating since their vocabulary is limited. Try describing your feelings to your 17-month-old so they can understand what it means to be “glad,” “mad,” or “sad.” This can also be very effective in heading off any potential tantrums.

  • Encourage playing with toys. Simple toys are just as effective as the latest and greatest ones on the market. Your 17-month-old may get more pleasure from the box a brand-new toy came in than the toy itself. Around this time, it’s a good idea to introduce toys that encourage fine motor skill development and hand-eye coordination, such as building blocks and soft toys.

Items You’ll Need This Month

See if you need to find or purchase any of the following baby gear items or supplies this month:

  • Toddler car seat. Check that your current car safety seat is suitable for your child's age and size; if not, you may need to upgrade to another seat. The car seat should be installed rear-facing in the vehicle's backseat until your child reaches the height or weight limit set by the manufacturer, which most likely will be when they’re at least 2 years old.

  • Sunscreen. Whenever you go outside with your toddler, be prepared with sunscreen. Look for one with SPF 30 or higher and that offers protection from UVA and UVB light. Apply the sunscreen 30 minutes before heading outside. Remember to reapply the sunscreen often, because even though the label says it’s sweat-proof and waterproof, no sunscreen really is.

  • Child-proof cabinet locks. Be sure to child-proof your home, including using cabinet locks to keep cupboards off limits from inquisitive toddlers. It’s also a good idea to keep certain doors locked, such as the ones to the garage, laundry room, basement, etc.

  • Child’s toothbrush. As mentioned above, you’re probably helping your toddler brush their teeth. Make it more fun for them by purchasing a child’s toothbrush with their favorite cartoon character. This can make them look forward to learning to brush their own teeth.

  • Diapers, wipes, and diaper rash cream. Avoid any emergency runs to the store by keeping a healthy supply of diapers and wipes in the house, as well as some diaper rash cream.

Your Life as a Parent: Create a Network of Support

It’s totally OK to need or want help sometimes—all parents do! A network of support can come in handy when you need an extra pair of hands, and the support you get from family and friends can make all the difference.

Need some ideas for creating a support network?

  • Reach out to family and friends who live nearby. Family members and close friends are wonderful resources, especially if you need an impromptu babysitter. They will enjoy being part of your child’s life.

  • Create a network among your neighbors. This is especially helpful if you all have children of a similar age. You may also find that this new network can come in handy when you need someone to look after your child, or you might want to carpool to daycare or a local event.

  • Join a local organization or parent-child group. Check out your local YMCA or another community or religious center. By getting to know other parents in your area, you can share parenting tips, bond over the experiences you share in raising a child, and even help each other out from time to time.

  • Look to your healthcare provider for support. They can also provide you with a referral to a therapist or counselors. Don’t be afraid to discuss your personal family problems—your provider is there to help you find the support you need.

Checklist for This Month

Childproof the grandparents’ homes. If your little one will be staying at the grandparents’ soon, check beforehand to make sure that their homes are childproofed, which could include installing covers or plugs on electrical outlets, bumpers on furniture corners, and baby gates on stairs.

Consider riding a bicycle with your child. If the weather is nice, think about heading out for a ride with your little one as a passenger. You can attach a child carrier to the back of your bike, but keep in mind that you’ll need to increase your braking time, as the weight of your toddler in the back makes your bike more unstable. Another option might be having your child ride in a bicycle towed trailer.

Watch over your toddler when around pets. You may believe that your gentle pet wouldn’t hurt your child, but you can’t predict what an animal’s behavior might be around children, who often don't realize that they’re playing too roughly. It’s safest not to leave your toddler alone with your pet or with anyone else's pet. Always make sure pets are up to date with rabies immunizations.

Plan time for yourself. Being a parent of an on-the-go toddler is a challenging job. Cut yourself some slack and take some time for yourself. Ask your babysitter, family member, or trusted friend to watch your child. Use the time to treat yourself to a dinner date or a movie with your partner, a spa treatment, or even a simple walk in the park to clear your mind—whatever relaxes you.

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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.