Your 18-Month-Old’s Development and Milestones

At 18 months old, your toddler may be growing more and more independent and even a little feisty—they may even start saying “no” more often to things you ask them to do. You might notice that they’re getting better at walking up and down stairs and coordinating the use of their hands and fingers now that they're 1 and a half years old. Read on for developmental insights and advice that may be helpful this month, and to learn what else might be in store!

Toddler Development Milestones

Every child is a unique individual, developing at their own rate, so your 18-month-old toddler may reach these milestones either this month or a little earlier or later:

  • Declarations of independence. Around this time, your toddler may be getting more independent and assertive. As they gain confidence, they might start saying “no” when you ask them to do something they don’t want to do. It may even become their new favorite word, so watch out!

  • Confident stair climbing. Up until this point, getting up and down stairs might have been tricky for your little one, but it may be getting easier now as they learn to climb stairs while holding onto the railing. Around this time, they might also be able to turn corners without falling. Make sure that you supervise them when they’re around stairs.

  • Increased self-awareness. At around 18 months old, your toddler may be more self-aware. They might be able to say their own name, identify themselves when peering into a mirror, and generally be more interested in self-care activities like combing their hair. How exciting to see your little one starting to grow up in this way!

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Activities for Supporting Your 18-Month-Old Toddler’s Development

Searching for things to do with an 18-month-old? Here are some ideas for play, learning activities, and outings that can help support your 18-month-old’s development:

  • Encourage activities that improve hand and finger skills. Around this time, your little one may pick up small objects and move them around with control. For example, they might be able to put the pieces of a wooden peg puzzle in place, scribble with a pencil, finger-paint, build basic towers with toy blocks, and more. Provide plenty of opportunities to do arts and crafts, which will allow them to express their creative side as well as boost their fine motor skills.

  • Play with your toddler. Try a game of hide-and-seek or toss or roll a ball back and forth. They may want to bring you a toy and tell you what to do with it; let them be the director. Playing with your toddler has many learning benefits beyond just being all fun and games.

  • Take your child on outings. Don’t limit yourself and your 18-month-old to

    indoor activities. Trips to the neighborhood playground or park provide opportunities for your child to explore, play, work off some of that toddler energy. If you have more time, consider heading to a children’s museum or the zoo. Even riding the escalator or a glass-enclosed elevator in a shopping mall or a hotel is entertaining for an 18-month-old.

  • Get ready for potty training. Typically, experts recommend holding off on potty training until after the second birthday, but some toddlers might be ready earlier. Read up on the signs of potty-training readiness so you know what signals to look out for. In the meantime, you can help your child become familiar with the toilet or the potty, perhaps by letting them help choose a potty chair and leaving it out for them to see.

  • Make up a story. Find a children’s book with lots of pictures, one that has few or no words, and help your 18-month-old make up a story. To get them going, ask questions about what they see: Are there any people? What are they doing? What else do you see? You could encourage them to use a funny voice or facial expression for each character, too, as they “read” the story. You and your 18-month-old are on an imaginative journey—and they’re also getting a cognitive boost in language comprehension and vocabulary development.

Mealtimes and Menus for Your 18-Month-Old

You may be noticing that your toddler’s eating habits are quite unpredictable. One day, they might eat everything in sight, and the next, they may turn down anything you offer them, even a food that was once their favorite. It might give you peace of mind to know that your 18-month-old is not unique in this behavior.

Most toddlers around this age have fluctuations in how hungry they are depending on things like their level of activity that day, their metabolism, and whether they’re in the middle of a growth spurt. If you’re concerned about your 18-month-old’s eating habits, consult their healthcare provider, who may have tips on picky eating or recommend vitamins for your toddler.

Most children do well with three small meals and two snacks per day. Serve a variety of nutritious foods and let your 18-month-old choose what and how much of it to eat. You’ll find that, over the course of a few days, their diet will naturally balance itself out so they get all the nutrients they need.

If you’re unsure what to feed your 18-month-old, check out these kid-friendly lunch ideas and snack ideas.

Limiting Sweets

It’s natural for your little one to prefer sweets over other foods. You may have noticed when feeding them baby foods that they gobbled up the sweet options, like carrots or sweet potatoes. Now that they’re a toddler, they would most likely pick a cookie over a piece of cheese if those were offered.

As their parent, you’re in control of the food served to your toddler, and it’s important to encourage healthy choices and limit their intake of sugary food. Even if they refuse dinner, don’t give in and let them have sweets just because they’re not eating.

Your 18-Month-Old Toddler’s Sleep Schedule

You may be wondering how long an 18-month-old “should” sleep and nap. At 18 months old, your toddler typically requires between 12 and 14 hours of sleep a day, including one nap per day.

If your toddler is in day care, the facility often has one or two nap times scheduled each day. You may want to check in with the day care staff to find out how well your child is napping. If you notice your child is overtired when you pick them up from day care, it could be because these nap times are not productive. Ask the staff what could be done to improve the situation and how to better coordinate your toddler’s sleep training at home and at the day care facility.

To help you keep track of your 18-month-old toddler’s nap and sleep schedule, Pampers created the Smart Sleep Coach app. Co-created by pediatricians and sleep experts, this app can make it easier to stick to a bedtime routine, assist with sleep training, and help you manage sleep regression if it arises.

A Day in the Life of Your 18-Month-Old Toddler

Here’s a snapshot of what your 18-month-old’s daily schedule might look like:

Your Toddler’s Health and Safety: In-Flight Safety

You might be planning to travel by plane with your 18-month-old, whether it’s to visit family who live faraway or for a vacation. Here are some tips to take into consideration when flying with your toddler:

  • Offer your child a pacifier to suck on during ascent and descent, which can help equalize the pressure in their ears and prevent discomfort.

  • Think about protecting your child’s ears from cabin noise with small earplugs or cotton balls. Noise-cancelling headphones, if your child can tolerate them on their head, can also work well.

  • Choose a seat closer to the window for your child, as an aisle seat can put them at risk of getting bumped by a food service cart or by someone walking in the aisle.

  • Dress your child in layers that are easy to remove, as the temperature on your flight can vary.

  • Take time for a diaper change before you board the airplane and be sure to pack plenty of supplies in your diaper bag for the journey.

  • Bring items that can help occupy your child’s attention, such as simple games, books, and toys.

Development Tips for Your Toddler This Month

Check out the following tips and advice to help support your 18-month-old toddler’s development:

  • Pay attention to your toddler's moods and rhythms. Each 18-month-old is unique and has their own personality. Be responsive in ways that support your toddler's temperament and praise them for good behavior.

  • Offer warm physical touch. Showing your affection by hugging and cuddling builds your toddler’s sense of security. Time flies, so take advantage of every chance to get close to your little one.

  • Encourage your child’s speech development. Toddlers can have difficulty communicating since their vocabulary is still growing and expanding. You can help your 18-month-old reach appropriate speech and language milestones by introducing them to new words and expressions through reading and speech. If you think your toddler is experiencing a speech delay or not talking, consult their healthcare provider.

  • Establish routines. Make every day consistent and predictable for your child. Children benefit from sticking to a routine, such as having meals at the same time every day and following a bedtime routine for winding down at the end of the day. If for some reason you can’t follow the usual routine on a certain day, just get things back to “normal” as soon as you can.

Items You Will Need This Month

Here are some baby gear items and supplies that may come in handy this month:

  • Toddler car seat. You may be spending a fair amount of time in the car, whether it's for errands, family visits, or longer trips. Ensure your current car safety seat is safe and appropriate for your toddler's size and age. Your child should travel in a rear-facing car seat until they reach the highest height or weight limit of the car seat.

  • Toys. Items that foster cognitive development and imaginative play can be some of the best toys for an 18-month-old. Look for beginner jigsaw puzzles, board books, and toys that encourage make-believe, like a child’s kitchen or a lawnmower that blows bubbles.

  • Sunscreen. Check that you have enough sunscreen at home and, if not, add it to your shopping list, as you may go through it more quickly than you think. You should apply a sunscreen of SPF 30 or more to your child before they head outside, and then reapply it every two hours.

  • Child-proof cabinet locks. Given your child is at the stage where they’ll want to explore, keep an extra-close eye on your toddler and ensure your home is babyproofed. Use cabinet locks to keep cupboards off limits and think about always locking certain doors, such as the ones to the garage, laundry room, and basement.

  • Diapers, wipes, and diaper rash cream. These are items you don't want to run out of, so keep a good supply on hand.

Your Life as a Parent: Setting a Good Example

Around this month, your toddler may start imitating you and your partner more and more. They might see you talking on the phone, and they’ll do the same with their toy phone, or they’ll try to drive their toy car after seeing you at the wheel. Since their inclination to imitate is so strong during this time, it’s a good idea to be on your best behavior, too, so you can set a good example.

Here are some ways to model good behavior for your toddler:

  • When you and your partner share something, point it out to your child. For example, say something like, “Daddy is sharing his piece of cake with Mommy. That’s nice of him, isn’t it?”

  • If you’re feeling frustrated, explain to your child how you’re feeling and then show them how you calm down

  • Try to express your feelings, even if they do stem from frustration. These moments can teach your toddler that it’s OK to express their own emotions to you

  • Praise your child when they behave well; for example, you could say, “Good job for putting all your toys in the toy box.”

Checklist for This Month

Schedule and go to the 18-month checkup. Your toddler’s 18-month appointment is an important one, as there’s so much going on. This is a good opportunity to raise any questions like “How many words ‘should’ an 18-month-old say” or “How much ‘should’ an 18-month-old weigh.” So come prepared with a list to get all the answers at the checkup. At this visit, your child’s provider will check your 18-month-old’s overall growth, weight, and height; do a physical exam; and order any tests and provide any vaccines that your child may need. Your provider will go over common issues at this stage of development, which could include diet, discipline, and sleep.

Schedule a trip to the dentist. If you haven’t already done so, schedule your toddler’s next dental visit. It’s a good idea to have regular checkups every six months, unless your child’s dentist or healthcare provider recommends otherwise. At the visit, the dentist will make sure your toddler’s teeth are coming in and developing in a healthy way and may give you personalized advice on dental hygiene. Seeing a pediatric dentist is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), but if that’s not possible, look for a general dentist who has experience with children.

Start a scrapbook. As your toddler does more arts and crafts activities, like drawing, finger-painting, or simply scribbling with crayons or colored pencils, it might be time to start a scrapbook to save some of the artwork.

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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.