Toddler development at 18 months

Developmental milestones

Your toddler at 18 months

Here’s what developments to expect in the coming months

At a glance

  • Talking - what to expect
  • Activities to encourage their development
  • What they'll enjoy doing

Talking the talk

At 18 months, your toddler will probably have a vocabulary of 10-20 words – which at some point in the next few months will balloon to 50+ words as their language really takes off (they will probably also be using their name to refer to themselves). While they’re playing, though, they’ll probably continue with the baby babble for now. 

Some toddlers may not be speaking yet and may only have a handful of words when they’re nearly two. Ask your health visitor if you’re worried, and check out our speech and language development guide. At this age don’t worry if they’re not pronouncing words properly: that will come in time. You can correct without criticising by saying, ‘bah? That’s right – ball’.

Billy no mates

Toddlers don’t show much interest in playing with other kids for at least another year. Instead they tend to play either completely on their own or alongside a friend – what psychologists call ‘parallel play’. They may not engage with their ‘friend’ at all – it looks a bit odd, but is completely normal for their age. They will certainly not appreciate sharing their toys right now, so it’s unrealistic to expect it.

On the move

Most toddlers are up and running now; the average toddler will choose to be physically active for at least three hours a day if given the choice, so it’s important to give them plenty of opportunities for practising their new-found walking skills: it’s a great time to discover the outdoors, and perhaps leave the buggy at home if you don’t need to be somewhere for several hours... They may be able to run – but possibly not change course at the same time – and will also encounter mixed success when trying to kick a ball. Jumping is probably a distant dream for a few more months.

Order, order

Toddlers of this age can become obsessed by tidiness and good order (this will definitely have passed by the time they are teenagers). They love helping you with the cleaning and sweeping. You may also find them trying to move furniture; they love having their own miniature furniture, too, like a table and chairs. It’s all about controlling and ordering their world so they feel more secure, say psychologists.

How you can help

  • Encourage messy play with sand, water and (gulp) paint. It helps with their cognitive and creative development as it involves using all the senses

  • Draw pictures and colour with your child with crayons and pencils – they’ll love making marks on the paper, and possibly on the walls, too, if you happen to turn your back. At this point, most will hold a pencil in their whole hand or between the thumb and first two fingers

  • Encourage toys that let your toddler pretend they’re in the real word: cash registers, plastic phones, toy food, dressing-up clothes and pushchairs with teddies or dolls

  • It’s a great time to introduce construction play with simple bricks, which will boost their spatial awareness, creativity and problem-solving skills

  • Outside toys are really coming into their own now: simple scooters/trikes, balls, mini slides and wheelbarrows.

Are they normal?

A small note on developmental milestones: it’s really true – all toddlers are different and although we can encourage them, they will do things at their own pace and in their own time. 

Read more about toddler development anxiety and see our milestones guide.

You can also see more about your toddler's development with our milestones chart

At a glance

  • Talking - what to expect
  • Activities to encourage their development
  • What they'll enjoy doing
It's a great time to introduce construction play with simple bricks  

Toddler development at 18 months