Growth & Development in Toddlers

During the second year, infants show more and more independence as they learn to communicate their needs more effectively.

12 to 18 months. This is an exciting time for parents, as language begins to take shape. At 12 months, babbling will be interspersed with your baby's first words. By 18 months, he may be stringing several words together, though he won't be talking in true sentences. Your baby will know the names of a few body parts, like nose or eyes, and be able to point to them. He will also continue to assert himself by showing strong preferences, such as for specific foods or mealtimes.

Youngsters this age exhibit a healthy degree of guardedness, particularly in unfamiliar situations. A child may readily explore the pediatrician's office, for example, but cling to a parent when the examination begins. The parent becomes a secure base from which the child can explore.

Your child will move about and explore a room by grabbing onto furniture for support before taking his first steps. Many parents get needlessly upset if other children of the same age are already beginning to walk and their own child is not; as with all stages of development, there are normal variations. Highly active and fearless babies tend to walk earlier—at 12 or 13 months. More timid children may be temporarily scared off by a fall, and others are content to sit and concentrate on toys for several months before taking their first steps.

Your child may be frustrated by early, unsuccessful efforts at walking, but once he has mastered those first few steps, his mood dramatically lifts. Most babies are truly delighted by their newly achieved freedom to explore. By 15 months, your child may even be climbing up and down stairs (usually backward).

All that activity helps to burn off "baby fat." Weight gain slows to about a pound every two months. Your child's appetite will also decrease, but as long as he is still alert, active, and growing, he is getting enough to eat.

18 to 24 months. By 18 months a child is walking well and may even begin to run. During the next 6 months, development is rapid, so that by her second birthday she may be able to walk up and down stairs. Fine motor skills also mature, allowing her to stack several blocks, dismantle toys, feed herself with a spoon, open doors, help undress, or drink from a cup with few spills. A favorite activity for many children this age is climbing. Keep an eye on your child to avoid accidents like falling out of a crib.

Many parents notice that their children become increasingly "clingy" at around 18 months. Toddlers this age may also be particularly fussy at bedtime and may throw tantrums when put to bed. A favorite blanket or stuffed animal often provides comfort.

An improvement in language ability may be the most prominent milestone of this period. A child of 18 months knows about 10 words. As a child approaches her second birthday, she knows 100 or more words and begins creating simple sentences of two or three words. She may also begin to relate immediate experiences and will understand more complex commands.

Pay close attention to your child's requests. If a child asks what something is, teach her the word. Speak in clear, simple sentences. Ask questions. Respond to even incomplete requests or gestures from your child. At this stage of development, language is becoming an important part of parent-child communication.

Health Issues For Babies Ages One to Two Years

Failure to thrive. A child under age two who weighs less than 80 percent of the average for children with the same birth weight may be diagnosed with failure to thrive—a term that refers to abnormally slow development in infants and young children. Other signs of failure to thrive include being withdrawn, apathy, and slow development in speech and motor control.

Malnutrition is one cause of failure to thrive, and that in turn may be the result of poor parenting skills, depression or some other psychological problem affecting the mother, or a lack of time or money to adequately care for a child. Children who are on a nutritious diet can also be afflicted, in which case the cause is likely to be a congenital defect or an underlying disorder that interferes with eating and metabolizing food.

If an infant is failing to grow at any point, a doctor should be consulted to determine the cause. The doctor will take the baby’s history, including patterns of weight loss and previous illnesses, and ask about the baby's feeding habits. If the cause is organic, the underlying medical problem will be treated. If psychological factors are identified, individual counseling and family therapy may be recommended. In addition, nutritional counseling may be necessary to make sure that the baby receives a proper diet. Often, social workers or nutritionists can provide low-income families with information on how to provide a well-balanced diet at below-average cost. Families can also obtain help from federal or state programs.

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 15 Jun 2010

Last Modified: 06 Nov 2014