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Milestones: Your toddler’s development

toddler outside looking at shadow

 Your Child’s Growth

Your baby’s growth rate—both height and weight—will begin to slow after the first year. The head will reach about 90 percent of its adult size. The arms and legs get longer and more muscular. The feet start to point forward and the face loses some of the baby fat and looks more angular.

Your Child’s Development Movements


Walking becomes steadier and faster with the feet closer together.

By 24 months, they run with good balance.


A toddler climbs stairs on all fours by 13 months.

By 15 months: can climb stairs on hands and knees.

By 15 to 18 months: is expert at climbing on low-height furniture.

By 18 months: can walk upstairs with some assistance.

By 21 months: can walk downstairs, if hand is held.

By 24 months: can go up and down, holding on to the railing or wall.

By 30 to 36 months: can negotiate stairs by alternating feet.

Other movements

Around 24 months, toddlers jump off the floor, kick a ball.

By 30 months: can jump down from a low chair or a step.

By 36 months: can pedal a tricycle.

See your doctor if your child does not walk independently by 16 months.

Language – Communication

The toddler very quickly progresses to several new words.

By 18 months: can say about 10 single words.

By 21 months: can say about 20 single words.

By about 21 months: two-word links appear, such as “no more”.

By 24 months: can say from 50 to 100 words.

A toddler tends to repeat words that others say, but these don’t count as they have no meaning to the child.

By about 36 months: children regularly use five or six-word sentences.

Important: Be aware that children understand more than they can say.

Early in the second year, a child will understand a number of words you say.

By 18 months: understands directions, such as “come here” or “give me” (although they frequently may choose not to follow the direction).

By 24 months: understands more difficult directions; “Put the ball on the table,” or “Give the ball to Daddy.”

By 36 months: understands questions such as, “What is your name?”

Consult your doctor: if your toddler says no words by 18 months, does not link words by 24 months, if speech is too unclear to understand or if there is no understanding or interest in what you say.

Social—Emotional Skills

In some ways, toddlers are like adolescents—going through the intense emotions of learning to be and act on their own, asserting themselves and using their own judgment in new situations. When your child ventures away from you, like walking to the other end of the room, it is an experience similar to a long trip for a grown-up.

Toddlers are delighted—and scared—at the same time.

They try to escape you, but will still look back to be sure you’re there.

They want to test their own will and go contrary to your wishes.

They have intense fits of frustration when obstacles stand in their way.

Transitional Objects

Soft toys or a blanket get to have a particular meaning for toddlers because they replace the mother to some extent (with whom the toddler is no longer as close).

It is important to offer this substitute to the child as long as it is needed. Do not use the bottle as a transitional object. Help your child to enjoy learning to feed himself.

Development 1 Year To 4 Years

18 months

Walks well, begins to run. Climbs on furniture. Piles 3 to 4 blocks. Follows simple directions with no gestures. Vocabulary of 10 words. Attempts self-feeding with a spoon.

2 years

Walks up and down stairs alone. Kicks ball without being shown how. Imitates vertical and circular strokes. Combines 2 to 3 words together, names/identifies objects and parts of own body. Imitates domestic activities (dusting, washing). Jumps down from a small chair. Balances on one foot briefly. Copies circle and imitates cross with crayon.

3 years

Asks ‘what’ questions. Knows name, sex and age. Puts on shoes and simple pieces of clothing. Cooperates in play with peers.

4 years

Stands on one foot for 6 to 10 seconds. Walks heel to toe. Copies cross. Draws a two-part man. Names 14 or more items in picture book. Recognizes and names three or more colours. Separates from mother easily. Plays specific role in games.

Taken from The Canadian Baby & Child Care Encyclopedia. Originally published in 2007. 

a man carrying two children

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