Your Child at 18 Months: Milestones

Your baby is now 18 months old. How the time flies! What milestones should she have experienced at this age?

Movement Skills (Gross Motor Skills)

Your child should be able to:

  • Walk by herself
  • Possibly walk up steps or run
  • Squat to pick up a toy
  • Pull toys while she is walking

Your child may try to climb out of her crib at this age. If so, put a bell on the crib so you can know when she's doing it and make sure the area in her bedroom is safe and free of items she could fall or stumble upon. Her climbing out of the crib could be a sign that it's time to move into a bed.

Hand and Finger Development (Fine Motor Skills)

Your child should be able to:

  • Drink from a cup
  • Eat with a spoon
  • Stack two objects or blocks
  • Help undress herself
  • Hold a crayon

As she nears 18 months, it will be easy for her to manipulate an object between her thumb and index finger (like turning a knob or putting a round peg in a hole). You can build on these skills by trying games such as putting large square pegs in matching holes (this is harder than with round pegs because you have to match angles), stacking five or six blocks or taking toys apart and putting them back together. You could also let her feed herself sometimes, even if it is messy.

Language Skills

Your child should be able to:

  • Say several single words
  • Say the word "no" and shake her head
  • Respond to questions
  • Produce speech-like sounds (babbling), maybe singing along to a song in tone, if not words
  • Understand the concepts of "in" and "on"
  • Repeat some words heard in a conversation

Continue speaking and reading to your child as a way to build her verbal skills. It's not unusual for her to be able to say a few words which no one can understand but her parents. She may also use one word in place of a whole sentence like "up" to mean, "Pick me up!" Being able to speak takes time, so don't be frustrated if she seems to be taking longer than other people's kids. You may find that one day she finally "gets it" and goes from rarely speaking to full sentences.

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Social/Emotional Skills

Your child may:

  • Like to hand objects to others as play
  • Have temper tantrums
  • Be fearful around strangers
  • Cling to parents or caregivers in new situations
  • Show affection to people she knows well
  • Explore alone, with a parent close by

This is the age when children start to test boundaries. Your child may say "no" to any new situations or start to throw a tantrum to get her own way. What happened to your sweet little girl who did whatever you asked? She's still there, but learning independence -- and part of that is trying to do things her way.

She's also beginning to understand what sharing is (by offering something to someone) although she may decide to take it back immediately. It's up to you as the parent to show her that temper tantrums are not acceptable and give her consequences for inappropriate behavior. But above all, be patient with her as she figures things out.

Learning, Thinking Development (Cognitive Skills)

Your child should be able to:

  • Know the uses of ordinary things: a brush, spoon, or chair
  • Point to a body part
  • Scribble on her own
  • Follow a one-step verbal command without any gestures (for instance, she can sit when you tell her to "sit down")
  • Play pretend, such as feeding a doll
  • Point to show others something interesting

At this stage, kids love games with a "payoff" -- they press a button and some music starts to play, for instance. They'll also love playing with bubbles you've blown for them or repeating nursery rhymes with actions.

Developmental Delays

Tell your doctor if your child can't do any of the following by 18 months:

  • Point to show things to others
  • Walk
  • Imitate others
  • Know the uses of ordinary things, like a brush or comb
  • Gain new words or speak at least six words
  • Notice or mind when you or another caregiver leaves or returns
  • Remember skills she used to have

At 18 months, your child should also be tested for autism as well as for general development, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. This would be particularly important if she shows signs of developmental delay.

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Screen Time

Children younger than 18 months don't understand that the symbols on a screen represent equivalent objects in the real world, so the American Academy of Pediatrics doesn't recommend kids watch any screens before that age, whether on TV or a tablet.

Children over 18 months can learn from high-quality educational programs, but their parents must watch with them and reteach the lessons. Don't let your child watch screens by herself.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on March 21, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

CDC: "Important Milestones: Your Child by Eighteen Months."

AAP News: "Safe and sound: Help young children get a good night's rest."

HealthyChild.org: "Hand and Finger Skills: One-Year-Old," "Healthy Digital Media Use Habits for Babies and Toddlers," "Language Development: One-Year-Old."

Pathways.org: "15-18 Months."

Hill, M.D., David L., "Why to Avoid TV for Infants and Toddlers."
 

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