Pre-Toddler
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12 - 24 Months

Developmental Milestones for Pre-Toddlers (12–24 Months)

Discover the crucial developmental milestones for babies aged 12 to 24 months, and learn how to spot any warning signs.

author
Jessica Guht

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Your child has entered the second year of their life, and they’re starting to do more every single day. At the end of their first year, they were beginning to add words to their arsenal besides “mama” and “dada” (although those are still likely to be your favorites), started walking — albeit with support from furniture or your hands — and they enjoy playing pat-a-cake or looking for toys that you’ve hidden under a blanket.

From 12 to 24 months, their development will seem to explode. Over these next few months, they’ll perfect walking and progress to climbing and running, which also means they’ll start getting into everything

During this time, your child will add dozens of words to their vocabulary and start stringing them together into simple sentences. They’ll also begin to understand and follow instructions. Still, as they near their second birthday and their independence grows, they may become more defiant as they test your boundaries. 

The 12 to 24-month stage is full of fun and challenges as a parent, but their development is nevertheless something exciting to watch. We’ve created a milestones checklist for 12 to 24 months so that you can follow along and see what is to come. 

13-15-Month-Old Pre-Toddler Milestones

13-15 months is a time for copycatting. Your pre-toddler can now recognize what some everyday objects are used for, and they’re beginning to mimic this. This may include holding a phone up to their ear or stirring with a wooden spoon. They’ll also copycat when playing with you, but this is good as your playtime together will help them learn how to play. 

Here’s a list of the developmental milestones for a 13-15-month-old:

Speech and Language

  • Tries to say one or two words in addition to “mama” or “dada” 
  • Will look at a familiar object when you say its name
  • Follows directions given using gestures and words (e.g., gives you the when you say, “Give me the ball” and hold out your hand)

Movement

  • Takes a few steps on their own
  • Climbs on furniture (and maybe even out of the crib)
  • Toddles about (independently or cruising along furniture)
  • Throws things

Sensory

  • Shows affection by cuddling, hugging, or kissing
  • Hugs a stuffed doll or another toy

Feeding

  • Uses their fingers to feed themselves food
  • Has started drinking whole milk (although amount should be limited to 16-24 ounces a day)
  • Can drink liquids from a cup instead of a bottle

Strength

  • May be running or walking backward
  • Can kneel down without assistance

Independence and Self-Help

  • Points to ask for something or for help
  • Tries to use things the right way, like a book, phone, or cup
  • Wants to participate with you (e.g., sweeping with you or stirring while you cook)
  • Starts having tantrums

Play and Behavior

  • Copies other children while playing (e.g., taking toys out of a container after watching another child do that)
  • Shows you an object or toy that they like
  • Claps when excited
  • Hugs stuffed animals or other toys
  • Stacks at least two small objects, like blocks

13-15-Month-Old Developmental Red Flags

Early detection and intervention are crucial for your child’s development. Speak to their pediatrician if you notice any of the following:

  • Doesn’t babble or try to say words
  • Struggles to stand and/or shows no signs of walking
  • Avoids eye contact
  • Does not gesture or point
  • Is not comforted when you return (if they experience separation anxiety)
  • Gets overly attached to strangers
  • Cannot use the pincer grasp (index finger and thumb) to grasp objects
  • Is not able to walk while holding your hands 

16-18-Month-Old Pre-Toddler Milestones

The copycatting continues into 16-18 months, where your child may start to pretend to do chores with you or mimic your actions as they feed their stuffed animals the same way you feed them. 

A 16-18-month-old’s motor skills are also improving. They can now walk unassisted, with no help from you or the furniture, and some adventurous kids may even start trying to climb steps. Your 16-18-month-old can also easily get up and off a couch or chair and has begun to fine-tune their fine motor skills by scribbling (but hopefully not on the walls!)

Here’s a checklist of milestones for a 16-18-month-old

Speech and Language

  • Follows one-step directions without gestures, like coming to you when you say, “Come here”
  • Tries to say three or more words besides “mama” and “dada”

Movement

  • Scribbles
  • Climbs on and off a couch or chair without help
  • Shakes head “no”
  • Pulls toys while walking

Sensory

  • May be afraid of strangers but shows affection to familiar people
  • May have some tantrums
  • Recognizes everyday objects

Feeding

  • Drinks from a cup without a lid and may spill sometimes
  • Feeds self with fingers
  • Tries to use a spoon
  • Tries chopped solid foods, like chicken or squash
  • Weaning from the bottle

Strength

  • Walks without holding onto anything
  • May start walking upstairs

Independence and Self-Help

  • Moves away from you but looks to make sure you are still close by
  • Puts hands out for you to wash them
  • Helps with dressing by lifting their foot or pushing their arm through a sleeve
  • Might cling to caregivers in new situations
  • Can point to a body part

Play and Behavior

  • Points to show something interesting
  • Looks at a few pages in a book with you
  • Copies you as you do chores
  • Plays with toys in a simple way, like pushing a toy car
  • Likes to play by handing things to people
  • Pretends to feed favorite stuffed animal

16-18-Month-Old Developmental Red Flags

While every child develops differently and at different rates, speak to your pediatrician if your 16-18-month-old has any of the following qualities:

  • Doesn’t point
  • Can’t walk
  • Isn’t learning new words
  • Doesn’t try to mimic others
  • Can’t say at least six words
  • Loses skills they once had
  • Doesn’t notice when a parent leaves or returns

19-21-Month-Old Pre-Toddler Milestones

Your pre-toddler is now at the age where each day brings something new for them to explore, and they can’t wait! 

19-21-month-olds also start to experience some possessiveness (“mine” might become a new favorite word) and want to have a say in their day. They want to help pick out their clothes, and they want to help decide on their lunch. This is all a part of the 19-21-month-old becoming more independent, even if they still don’t want to stray too far from their parents.

Here are the development milestones for a 19-21-month-old pre-toddler: 

Speech and Language

  • Uses 25-50 words
  • Can put two words together to make a phrase
  • Can understand two-part instructions (e.g., “Put your toy away and come here”)

Movement

  • Spends lots of time climbing
  • Squats down (especially to grab a toy or inspect a bug)

Sensory

  • Recognizes familiar faces through pictures and may be able to say their name
  • Can pick themselves out of a recent group photo
  • May have some tantrums

Feeding

  • Can fill a spoon with food and get it into their mouth
  • Uses a fork to spear food
  • Drinks from a cup
  • Asks for specific foods

Strength

  • Balances on a log or balance beam
  • Walks along the edge of a curb
  • Rearranges chairs
  • Moves large objects (e.g., toy box)

Independence and Self-Help

  • Begins showing possessiveness, especially if they see another toy they want, or you pick up another baby
  • Can point to a body part on a doll
  • Will tug on your arm or pull at you to get your attention

Play and Behavior

  • Plays hide and seek (even if they’re not the best at hiding yet)
  • Begins make-believe play (e.g., pretending to drive a car, call someone, make a drink, etc.)
  • Engages in parallel play — plays by themselves alongside other children
  • Can fit together jigsaw puzzles with 2 or 3 pieces
  • May start biting
  • Pays more attention to other children and watches them play

19-21-Month-Old Developmental Red Flags

While each child develops at a different rate, keep an eye out for these warning signs in your 19-21-month-old:

  • Does not copy others
  • Does not gain new words
  • Loses skills they once had
  • Cannot follow simple instructions
  • Cannot use a spoon
  • Cannot walk steadily unassisted

22-24-Month-Old Pre-Toddler Milestones

Another year around the sun, and your child is bursting with energy, which comes out in all forms of movement as they walk, jump, climb, run, and play. Their vocabulary is also continuing to grow, as is their ability to string words together to begin making phrases.

However, as your 22-24-month-old’s independence grows, so can their defiance as they try to see where the boundaries are. 

In exciting news, though, your two-year-old is finally getting excited about being around other children, although their favorite activities are still watching and copying others. 

These are the developmental milestones your child will reach by their second birthday:

Speech and Language

  • Points to things in a book when you ask, like “Where is the cat?”
  • Says short sentences with two to four words
  • Repeats words they have overheard
  • Follows simple instructions
  • Can follow two-step instructions
  • Completes sentences in familiar books

Movement

  • Can blow a kiss or nod their head yes
  • Holds something in one hand while using the other hand
  • Can kick a ball
  • Can throw a ball overhand
  • Can jump in place
  • Draws straight lines and circles
  • Runs

Sensory

  • Notices when others are hurt or upset — will pause or look sad when someone is crying
  • Looks at your face to see how you react in a new situation
  • Recognizes familiar people
  • Can start to sort based on shapes and colors

Feeding

  • Eats with a spoon
  • Chews with full jaw movements
  • Uses utensils with some spills

Strength

  • Walks up a few stairs with or without help
  • May start to develop a dominant hand
  • Climbs up and down from furniture without assistance

Independence and Self-Help

  • Points to at least two body parts when you ask them to show you
  • More independent
  • More defiant
  • Can turn pages in a book one at a time
  • Removes shoes and pants

Play and Behavior

  • Tries to use knobs, switches, or buttons on a toy
  • Plays with two or more toys at a time (e.g., putting toy food in a toy bowl)
  • Likes to copy adults and other children
  • Gets excited when with other children
  • Plays simple games of make believe
  • Builds towers with four or more blocks

22-24-Month-Old Developmental Red Flags

Every child develops differently, but speak to your pediatrician if your two-year-old:

  • Doesn’t use two-word phrases
  • Doesn’t know how to use common objects
  • Doesn’t follow basic directions
  • Doesn’t copy actions or repeat words
  • Loses skills they once had
  • Can’t walk steadily

Find The Best Care for Your 12–24-Month-Old Pre-Toddler

Your child learns a lot from 12 to 24 months — following directions, forming simple sentences, walking, running, climbing, playing make-believe, feeding themselves. It’s a busy time in their development, and no matter what stage they’re in, we know that you want to give them the best possible care.

At Coral Care, we will help connect you with the pediatric care your pre-toddler deserves, whether that is an occupational therapist, speech language pathologist, or a physical therapist. Let us help you find the best care for your 12-24-month-old today.

Find effective support for developmental delays, quickly.

Self-pay or insurance
In-person and at-home appointments
No waitlist
Find Care