Toddler development: What to expect 13–24 months

If you’re a first-time mum, we’ll bet good money that you’ve spent this past 12 months tracking your baby’s growth and development closely. Who knew you could get so excited over someone literally just rolling over? Well if you thought that was cool, just wait to see what toddler milestones are in store for you this next year. Your child is about to blow your  damn mind.

Between the ages of one and two, most children start to walk, talk, and get real sassy. They’ll learn how to interact with other people, how to control their emotions (*trigger warning – we will discuss tantrums*), and how to do things for themselves. We’re not promising it’ll be easy – but it will be SO amazing to witness.

So let’s talk toddler development and what to expect in the second year of your child’s life.

Spoiler alert – Your baby’s gonna grow!

That baby you gave birth to? They’re going to grow into a proper person this year! They will look alarmingly different between 13 months and 24 months, so please document this transition with ALL the photos (as if you wouldn’t).

So what sort of physical growth can you expect? On average, a toddler may grow about 7.6 cm to 12.7 cm (3 in. to 5 in.) and gain about 1.4 to 2.3 kg (3 lb to 5 lb) between 13 and 24 months. 

Of course, every child grows at a different pace and there are lots of different definitions of ‘normal’, but medical professionals usually refer to a standardised toddler development chart to ensure your little one is growing the way they should be. In Australia, our growth charts are developed in accordance with the World Health Organization’s child growth standards.

But perhaps even more exciting than physical growth this year is what goes on with your toddler’s brain development.

Exciting AF toddler developmental milestones

Toddler language development

Get ready for backchat! By the age of two, most children have learned between 20 and 50 words. But beyond just ‘saying words’, your toddler will learn to use them in sentences to communicate, and comprehend what others are telling them.

They may sing the words of songs (“Shallow” by Lady Gaga was my son’s personal favourite), use their own name, and follow simple instructions.

Toddler speech development is defs exciting, but it also means you have to watch what you say in front of them. Watch what your partner says too, lest they teach your child to say “mummy is a drama queen”. (Yes, that actually happened. I’m mildly impressed but mostly pissed off. IT’S JUST NOT TRUE!)

Toddler emotional development

This comes as a shock to a lot of us, but toddlers have no idea how to respond when they feel feelings. It’s confusing for them. So rather than thinking things through rationally, they just kinda snap and yell and cry. This is normal, but it can be difficult to keep your cool during meltdowns.

Toddler social development

Between your friends’ kids, children at daycare, and randoms at the playground, your toddler may start to develop quite the social life. But it’s not like ours. For starters, they don’t have a group Whatsapp yet. 

Young toddlers may play alongside other kids, but not really interact with them – it’s called ‘parallel play’. Because they’re learning, they may look to a parent for support and reassurance when they’re in social settings, and need your help knowing how to respond.

Toddler physical development

Between 13 and 24 months, your toddler will probably learn how to walk, and then run. They’ll dance to music, scale your household furniture, and use their tiny hands to play with toys and use cutlery at mealtimes. One day, they’ll be able to wipe their very own butts (but probably not this year.)

Toddler cognitive development

Toddler brain development at this age is off the charts. You’ll see your little one put two and two together and work things out for themselves. They might start to ‘copy’ things that you do, like sweeping the floor or wiping a bench. They might start to recognise objects, and parts of themselves (“point to your eyes”). They might start to make up games and remember things that happened weeks ago.

Oh yes, and they’ll hit, kick and throw things on the ground, just to see what happens. It’s all experimentation for a toddler.

What it looks like: Month-by-month toddler development stages

13 months

A 13-month-old will bear very similar resemblance to a 12-month-old. But you may notice some new things starting to happen…

13 month old toddler milestones

  • Starting to walk or ‘coast’ around the room holding onto furniture.
  • Beginning to throw tantrums when upset about something.
  • Saying a few words, or at least ‘mimicking’ language (even if it’s somewhat indecipherable).

How you can help

  • Talk to your toddler. Narrate what you’re doing, sing them songs, tell them useless facts – they’ll pick up more than you imagine.
  • Baby-proof your house. Once your little one is moving around more, there’s no stopping them! This means: blocking any bodies of water from their reach; protecting stairways; locking up medicines, chemicals and sharp things; ensuring appliances are out of reach.
  • Start offering cow’s milk. This is a great source of calcium and protein for your busy, active bub.

14 months

As your baby continues transforming into a little person, they may start to develop more defined facial features. And for the bald babies out there – hair! If they haven’t had their first haircut yet, you may be starting to consider it around now.

14 month old toddler milestones

  • Gaining confidence with walking and movement.
  • Saying a few simple words. (Behold: my son was saying “Google” at 14 months.)

How you can help

  • Correct them. As your toddler starts picking up language skills, they may come up with cute ways of saying things (i.e. my son called apples ‘gapples’ for a while). As cute as it is, try to repeat the correct word so they can learn how it’s actually said.
  • Get a first aid kit (and consider doing a course). Spills are to be expected as your little one learns to use their body properly. Band-aids are a necessity, but Mummy’s kisses fix a lot as well.

15 months

Even if your toddler still isn’t walking around, their brain is running a million miles an hour. Expect your 15 month old to be picking up new skills every day.

15 month old toddler milestones

  • Following simple instructions (i.e. ‘hand me that book’).
  • Trying to do things for themselves, like using a spoon or taking off a hat.
  • Dropping their second day nap (if they haven’t yet).

How you can help

  • Play! Toddlers learn so much through play. Don’t be afraid to get down on the floor with them and engage in whatever they’re doing. (It’s actually pretty fun.)
  • Let them bumble. As much as you may want to intervene and do things for your toddler, it’s great to let them try things for themselves. If they show interest in feeding themselves, for example, let them go for it! It might be messy, and it might turn dinnertime into a lengthy affair, but this is a great way for them to build fine motor skills and muscle strength, and develop confidence.

16 months

Your curious toddler will be exploring the world and thinking for themselves more and more. 

16 month old toddler milestones

  • Copying things you do.
  • Picking up tiny things (crumbs on the floor) and inspecting them very closely (or eating them, gross).

How you can help

  • Encourage them to help. They may not actually be doing much, but praising your child when they help you out is a good thing to start now.
  • Read to them. Reading books is a great way for your toddler to hear more words and associate them with pictures. It’s also the perfect way to wind down if they’re getting a bit wired. The CDC recommends daily reading for toddlers.

17 months

By now, your toddler will be picking up the fundamentals of language (beware of their constant use of ‘NO’). With a set of teeth generally popping through between 16 and 23 months, you may also have teething on your hands around this month.

17 month old toddler milestones

  • Teething.
  • Showing interest in the toilet.

How you can help

  • Let your kid watch you pee. Weird, maybe, but this is a key way to introduce them to using a toilet. Keep an eye out for other toilet training readiness signs like: pulling at the nappy, talking about or gesturing to the toilet when they need to go.
  • Don’t get too caught up on toddler language milestones. Some kids just start talking later. You can always bring it up with your doctor if you’re truly worried about it.

18 months

Many parents record sleep disruptions at around 18 months. As much as it sucks, this is probably because your child’s little brain is expanding at the rate of a thousand suns. They’re picking up new info every day, and it’s a lot to process alone in bed at night. Separation anxiety is also common around this age, which doesn’t help with the sleeping situation – but it’s nice to be wanted, right?

18 month old toddler milestones

  • Experiencing anxiety when you leave.
  • Sleeping like sh*t.

How you can help

  • Reassure them. Use words to explain what’s happening to your child. They can understand so much more than you may imagine. Give them plenty of cuddles and affection, and know that it’s okay for them to be upset sometimes. (Hell, so am I!)
  • Get them a special toy. If your toddler has never had an attachment toy, now could be a good time to introduce one. A special bunny or bear they take to bed with them, and to daycare if they get upset at drop-off.
  • Check-in with your paediatrician. You’ll generally have a scheduled check-up at this age anyway. Your toddler’s development and growth will be measured, and you can share any concerns you may have. If you’re wondering how they’re going developmentally, check out the CDC’s 18 month old toddler milestones chart.

19 months

More and more, your toddler will exercise their independence. By 19 months, you can expect them to be trying to take over at mealtimes, attempting (poorly) to dress themselves, and choosing what books they want to read. (Spot! Again!)

19 month old toddler milestones

  • Climbing onto chairs.
  • Trying to do more things on their own.

How you can help

  • Let them make mistakes. Your toddler is gonna hurt themselves, for sure. Obviously don’t watch them play in the knife drawer, but try to take a step back and allow your toddler to engage in ‘risky play’. A few bumps and bruises won’t hurt.
  • Label feelings. Your toddler’s emotional development hasn’t yet reached the stage that they know what they’re feeling. They just know it isn’t nice. When your toddler throws a tantrum or gets upset, try to name the emotion they’re experiencing – be it frustration, anger or even tiredness.

20 months

There will be times your 20 month old tugs at your heart strings. And then there will be times they test you. It can be frustrating (read: a f*cking nightmare!), but this is all part of toddler development, so it’s actually a sign that they’re developing in the right way.

20 month old toddler milestones

  • Testing boundaries.
  • Hitting, biting, throwing things… just being the worst in general.

How you can help

  • Reward good behaviour, ignore rascal behaviour. Your attention is like crack for your kid. If you respond to bad behaviour with lots of touching, voice-raising and eye contact, they’ll learn to do it more. Instead, try to ignore it or tell your toddler off in a boring, steady voice. (There’s some great, research-backed information on how to handle child behaviour over on Movember’s Family Man website – admittedly aimed at dads.)
  • Give lots of cuddles! On the flip side, your toddler still needs plenty of love and affection from you, so they know you love them even when they throw their bowl of pasta at you.

21 months

Around this age, you may notice changes to your toddler’s social development. They might start to pay more attention to other children, even if they don’t play with them yet. (Ever notice how toddlers usually just stop and stare at one another?) Your toddler may also start playing on their own a bit more, and using their imagination to make up games.

21 month old toddler milestones

  • Speaking more (maybe up to 50 words!) and stringing two words together to form short sentences.
  • Following simple two-step instructions (i.e. “wet your paintbrush and put it in the paint”).

How you can help

  • Play games with your toddler. Sorting games, matching games, or getting them to name their body parts are great for toddler brain development. 
  • Take them outside – outdoor play is great.

22 months

As your child nears their second birthday, you might feel stressed about whether they’re hitting their toddler developmental milestones or not. Remember, every kid develops at a different pace. It’s not uncommon for 22 month olds to still be mastering the basics of walking. If you’re concerned or unsure, check in with your GP.

22 month old toddler milestones

  • Throwing plenty of tantrums.
  • Developing different motor skills – balancing, pedalling on a bike, climbing play equipment (or your pantry shelves).

How you can help

  • Look for signs of developmental delay. This can include having trouble hearing or seeing things, not following simple instructions, not coming to you for cuddles and affection, not making eye contact, and not using very simple words or phrases. If you’re worried at all, see your paediatrician.
  • After some ways to keep your toddler busy? You’ll often find useful growth and development activities for toddlers around the house. Let them explore different textures and colours in your spare cloth box. Ask them to sort your kitchen utensils. Get them to describe the shapes of your Tupperware containers. 

23 months

You’ll notice that your 23 month old has much more agency over their body these days. They might be running around, climbing furniture, doing things with their hands, and dancing better than you can. 

23 month old toddler milestones

  • Being selective about foods (aka being a ‘picky eater’).
  • Learning new words every day.

How you can help

  • Make mealtimes fun. Cutting food into interesting shapes, or giving your toddler fun utensils can keep them interested for longer (the classic “here comes the aeroplane, vvvvvv” always gets a giggle). Offer a variety of foods, and don’t be worried if they only pick at foods or even skip a whole meal – it’s really common for toddlers to do.
  • Give your toddler new experiences. This might be going to the zoo to look at animals, going for a train ride, or going for a short hike together. Getting out of the house and doing different activities will help your toddler learn more about the world around them – and as a bonus, it’s a way to keep them entertained.

24 months

Remember how you had a baby 11 months ago? Now you have a little boy or girl on your hands. As your baby (okay, they’ll always be your baby) turns two, they’ll practise their independence even more, find it tough making decisions sometimes, and melt into tears when they can’t get what they want. But they’ll also be developing skills like empathy and language. The first time they say “I love you mummy” you will actually die there on the spot.

24 month old toddler milestones

  • Using 2-3 words sentences.
  • Running and jumping.
  • Using a spoon and drinking from a straw.
  • Turning doorknobs (f*ck!).
  • Counting to ten.

How you can help

  • Support your toddler with sleep. 24 months can bring a hefty sleep regression along with it, and your toddler may try to tell you they’re not tired. But they are. They still need plenty of sleep.
  • Hold off on the cot to bed transition until they’re ready. If your toddler is still sleeping in a cot, there’s no reason to rush them out of it. It’ll be easier to transition once they understand what’s going on.

People love to harp on about the ‘terrible twos’ – but I’m gonna call BS on this. It’s not ‘terrible’ watching your small human learn, grow and explore the world. Sure, it’s confusing and frustrating for them (and you sometimes) as they figure it out, but 24 months + is SO MUCH FUN!

Read next: 5 signs your baby is becoming a toddler

MedBroadcast, Growth and development: 12 to 24 months

University of Michigan Health, Growth and Development, Ages 12 to 24 Months

The Raising Children Network, Toddlers: development

World Health Organization, Child growth standards

The Australian Children’s Education & Care Quality Authority, Your Child’s Development – 1 to 2 Years

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Toddlers (1-2 years of age)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC’s Developmental Milestones

Child Development Institute, Toddler Development & Parenting Tips (18 Months – 3 Years)

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