What Should My 18-Month-Old Be Doing?

Reviewed on 6/18/2021

At 18 months old, your child seems to learn a new word or skill almost every day. At 18 months old, your child should acquire new language and communication skills, social and emotional skills, cognitive skills and movement and physical skills.
At 18 months old, your child seems to learn a new word or skill almost every day. At 18 months old, your child should acquire new language and communication skills, social and emotional skills, cognitive skills and movement and physical skills.

The early years of your little one's life are filled with lots of exciting milestones. Your child seems to learn a new word or skill almost every day. By the time your toddler is 18 months or a year and a half old, they exhibit new and complex emotions. For example, play in different ways than they used to as infants and may also like to make their little choices. Although the growth may seem to have slowed down, the toddler makes big moves as far as language, memory, coordination and learning are concerned. Knowing what milestones your baby should attain for their age is essential. Not all toddlers attain the same milestone at the same age. There may be individual variations. Premature babies need more time to “catch up” with the milestones and that is normal. If you are not sure whether your child has attained the expected milestones, you may seek a doctor’s advice. Generally, by the time your toddler is 18 months of age they may have acquired the following skills:

Language and communication skills

  • The toddler can say several single words, such as “toy,” “baby” and “bush.”
  • They can understand about 10 times more than what they can put into words.
  • They may also be able to name and point to familiar objects, body parts and people.
  • They may be able to point out when you ask “where is your nose” or “where is mom.”
  • They may say and shake their head “no.”
  • They can point to show you what they want.
  • They may try to communicate in jargon, using made up words or words.
  • They can follow one-step commands, such as “come to mommy” or two-step commands, such as "get your teddy and bring it to mommy."

Social and emotional skills

  • The toddler may have temper tantrums.
  • They may not show much interest in playing with other children. They generally engage in “parallel play” where they can play alongside other children but do not interact with each other.
  • They like to hand things to others as play.
  • They show affection toward familiar people.
  • They tend to fear strangers.
  • They may cling to their caregivers in new situations.
  • They may copy others’ words or actions.
  • They may seek parent’s or caregiver’s attention and love to be praised when they think they did something nice.

Cognitive (reasoning, thinking and problem-solving) skills

  • They can see themselves as a separate individual from others (a sense of self). They may cling to parents or familiar people when they feel scared.
  • They may point to get others’ attention.
  • They can scribble on their own.
  • They can pretend and play, such as feed a doll or imitate to talk on the phone.
  • They may be able to find objects being moved from one place to another. For example, when you move a toy from your hand and hide it under the blanket, they may be able to find it.
  • They can match pairs of similar objects.

Movement/physical skills

  • They can walk and run alone.
  • They may walk upstairs with their hands held.
  • They may walk up steps one foot at a time.
  • They can pull toys while walking.
  • They can help undress themselves.
  • They can drink from a cup and eat with a spoon though they will spill.
  • They may be able to throw a ball.

Your toddler learns the most from you. They also feel comfortable and happy with you being there for them. Though the attainment of milestones differs, certain signs may need a doctor’s attention. Talk to your doctor if by 18 months of age your toddler

  • Does not walk.
  • Speaks fewer than six words.
  • Avoids eye contact.
  • Does not understand simple requests, such as “come here” or “sit down.”
  • Does not point to show things to others.
  • Does not copy others.
  • Does not know what familiar things are for.
  • Does not notice or mind when a parent or caregiver comes or leaves.
  • Loses skills they once had.

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References
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Important Milestones: Your Child By Eighteen Months." https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/milestones/milestones-18mo.html

Michigan Medicine: "Milestones for an 18-Month-Old Child." https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/ue5756

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