Skip to Main Content

12 to 18 Months Child Development Newsletter

Download a PDF of the 12-18 months newsletter

Complete a short survey about the child development newsletters

Your Child's Development

Brain Development

Look for Your Toddler To:

  • Actively explore by throwing, dropping, squeezing, banging, etc.
  • Build a tower of three blocks
  • Use "tools" such as a stick to get at a toy
  • Be interested in what makes things happen: light switch, opening/closing doors, pushing buttons
  • Explore "one-to-one correspondence"; putting one object in one container
  • Try to predict what will happen if she does something. This might mean doing the same thing over and over until she is sure she knows what will happen

Here's What You Can Do:

  • Give your child the gift of exploration by trying not to limit or stop their behaviors except for safety reasons. Remember, a toddler is not trying to be naughty when she throws, bangs, drops or makes a mess. This is how she learns!
  • Provide things your toddler can stack
  • Give her chances to see how things work: let her turn on the lights or sink faucets, open and shut safe doors or drawers, and/or provide toys that teach these things
  • Give her a muffin tin or other divided container and let her put one object in each section
  • Be patient with her when she tries things over and over. It can seem annoying, but is so important for her learning

Language Development

Look for Your Toddler To:

  • Progress from "pre-words", like saying "bah" for bottle, to saying about 10 words you can understand
  • Understand many more words than he can say
  • Use "jargon" which is a combination of babbling, jabbering and real words. This is the beginning of conversation and should be encouraged
  • Understand simple directions like "no", "come", "look", but he won't always be able to do what you ask
  • Use a questioning tone to get you to say a word or name an object: toddler says "ball?" to try to get you to repeat it. When the toddler does this over and over, it may be annoying, but it is an important part of learning to talk
  • Point or look at the correct object when you ask "Where is the _____?"
  • Repeat words that you say
  • Enjoy singing and music, and may try to sing himself
  • Enjoy books, but be more interested in the pictures and names of objects than in the whole story

Here's What You Can Do:

  • Encourage him when he tries to say words. If he says "bah", say "Yes, that's your bottle!"
  • Listen and respond when he uses jargon
  • Remember, even though your toddler understands many words, he still can't control his actions most of the time
  • Respond to your toddler's questioning tone even if he repeats it many times and it gets tiresome
  • Use "parallel talk"—talk to your child about what he is doing, without asking too many questions: "You've got the big yellow ball. You're throwing the ball"
  • Use "description"—describe things to your child: "Look, there's a dog!"
  • Use "expansion"—when your child says a word, add more words to it: "Ball?" You say "Yes, it's a yellow ball".
  • Sing to your child. Don't worry if you are out of tune or if you don't know all the words; your child will enjoy it anyway
  • Play music, but keep the volume at a normal level to avoid harming your child's hearing
  • Choose children's books that are simple, with interesting pictures of familiar objects, and only one or two sentences per page. Don't be surprised if your child doesn't sit for the whole book. Keep reading anyway.

Social-Emotional Development

Look for Your Toddler To:

  • Want lots of attention and learn to do "cute things" to get attention
  • Usually be very self-centered, want her own way, and even be bossy and uncooperative sometimes
  • Want mom and dad and other important people to be nearby most of the time and dislike playing in a room by herself
  • Copy what you do, like sweeping the floor or setting the table. Sometimes she will copy dangerous things, like using the curling iron, so be careful!
  • Begin to recognize herself in the mirror or in a photograph
  • Have tantrums when she is frustrated or doesn't get what she wants. Tantrums are normal!
  • Have a security object—blanket, thumb, pacifier—to calm herself. It's good for her to be able to calm herself and these objects can help. Learn more: Thumb, Finger Sucking, Pacifiers and Security Objects
  • Give hugs and kisses and show affection some of the time
  • Like getting things, but not giving things
  • May begin to be fearful of some things: dogs, the dark, loud noises

Here's What You Can Do:

  • Enjoy your child's "performances"
  • Remember that her brain is still growing and she may not be able to cooperate or share yet. You can gently begin to teach her ways to be cooperative. Remember that it will take time and lots of practice
  • Stay in sight as much as possible and let her know where you are. Let her play near you. If you have to leave, tell her rather than sneaking out. When you sneak away, it makes her more anxious and she doesn't learn to trust you
  • Let her "help" you with safe jobs like folding washcloths or dusting. This takes extra time and patience from you, but she will learn a lot!
  • Practice asking her to give you things, but don't be surprised if she won't

Physical Development

Look for Your Toddler To:

  • Move from standing alone, to "cruising" (walking while hanging onto furniture), to walking, and maybe even running by himself
  • Enjoy his new movement skills, but frequently fall and bump into things
  • Try climbing on anything he can!
  • Move from crawling up and down the stairs, to walking upright while holding your hand
  • Bend from a standing position to pick up objects
  • Try walking backwards
  • Practice his new control of arms and hands to throw things
  • Try to climb out of his highchair, stroller and maybe even crib
  • Enjoy exploring and not like being restrained in strollers, highchairs, car seats; he may resist having to hold your hand
  • Begin using one hand more than the other
  • Carry things in each hand and move things from place to place
  • Pick up small things like crumbs, bugs and pebbles
  • Turn the pages in a book, but not always one at a time
  • Use his whole arm to scribble with a crayon or marker
  • Be interested in feeding himself

Here's What You Can Do:

  • Rearrange your home to provide room for your toddler to practice walking
  • Provide safe places and supervision to practice climbing and using the stairs
  • Provide safe things to throw. Remember that your toddler doesn't throw to be naughty; he now has control of his arm muscles and he needs to practice!
  • Provide times when your toddler can explore without being restrained. Be sure the area is safe and an adult is watching
  • Let you toddler choose which hand to use. Don't try to influence right or left-handedness
  • Try to relax about the tidiness of your house. Toddlers are messy!
  • Give your child opportunities to scribble. Remember that your child is using his whole arm to scribble, so use big paper! This is an important pre-writing step. Be sure to supervise, because your toddler doesn't know the difference between writing on the wall and writing on the paper
  • Give your toddler finger foods and allow him to practice with small utensils. Begin teaching him to use an open cup


Every child is unique and special. Remember that this information describes a "typical" child of this age. Each child will progress through developmental stages at his or her own pace. Your child may do things earlier or later than described. Your job is to provide opportunities for learning without pushing or pressuring the child.

If you have concerns about your child's development, contact your health care provider, your school district, or the Family Life Education Office at Avera McKennan, (605) 322-3660.



All parents should monitor recalls of children's products. We recommend the Consumer Product Safety Commission which will either email you periodic updates on product recalls, or send a newsletter by mail.


Thoughts on Childproofing

Childproofing your home will be vital now! Be sure other places your toddler visits are safe as well—grandparents, babysitter, and relatives. Nothing can be truly childPROOF. Constant supervision is extremely important when caring for toddlers.

Water is a major hazard for toddlers. Their natural curiosity attracts them to water. A toddler can drown in as little as two inches of water because she does not know enough to get up out of the water when she inhales it. If she falls into a bucket or toilet, her large, heavy head and lack of upper body strength make it difficult for her to get out.

Learn more about drowning prevention in young children

Pulling down dangerous items from tables and counters is a risk for toddlers. Avoid using tablecloths. Keep cords for lamps and appliances away from her reach.

Choking can occur when a curious toddler puts small items in her mouth.

Stairs should be gated or monitored until you are confident that your toddler can use them safely

Fall injuries can occur when a toddler falls and hits hard or sharp objects and furniture. Consider corner guards and padding for those items.

Strangling hazards can occur when a toddler gets a rope, string or cord around the neck. Children's hooded clothing should NOT have strings in the hood. Cords from window blinds and drapes are another strangulation hazard.

Suffocation hazards can occur when an object obstructs a child's breathing. Plastic bags, dry cleaning plastic, and any object that can tightly cover a child's nose and mouth and prevent breathing should be kept out of a child's reach. Picnic coolers and large plastic storage boxes can be airtight, so they pose a suffocation hazard. Toddlers can climb into these containers and become trapped because they may not know enough to push the lid off.

Learn more about preventing suffocation and strangulation in young children

Burn injuries can occur when matches and lighters are in a child's reach. There is no such thing as a childPROOF lighter! Keep these items out of your child's reach. Supervise toddlers around barbeque grills, fireplaces, stoves or anything hot.

Learn more fire and burn prevention tips

Poisoning is common in preschool children because of their curiosity, lack of knowledge, and the tendency to put everything in their mouths. Check every room in your house for poisonous substances that could be ingested, inhaled, or cause poisoning by skin contact and put these items out of your child's reach. Remember to check the garage! House plants can also be poisonous. If you are not sure about your plants or shrubs, contact the South Dakota Safety Council or your county extension office. Keep the Poison Control Center Number, 1-800-222-1222 near your phone.

Learn more about poison prevention guidelines

Guns should be kept in a locked gun safe. Trigger locks are an additional protection. Ammunition should be stored separately.

Toy Safety Toy safety will be important to keep in mind throughout your child's life. Pay attention to age guidelines on toys. Periodically check toys for sharp edges, broken pieces that could be choking hazards or any damage that could affect the safety of the toy. Be cautious of homemade toys or toys purchased at craft shows. They may not follow safety standards.

Learn more about toy safety


Lead Poisoning

Lead poisoning can result in permanent brain damage in children. Paint or plaster containing lead, lead plumbing pipes, contaminated soil, and foreign manufactured toys painted with lead paint can lead to lead poisoning when children put their fingers in their mouths after touching one of these sources.

If your home contains chipped or peeling paint, or you know you have lead pipes, visit for more information.


It is very important to keep your child on an immunization schedule. Your health care provider can advise you. If you can't afford immunizations, call Sioux Falls Immunization Coalition at (605) 339-4357.


Giving Up the Bottle or Breast

Weaning a baby is a personal decision made by parents. Many health care providers, including pediatricians, suggest weaning during the 12 to 18 month period. Prolonging the bottle can lead to ear infections and teeth problems. Some babies learn to depend on the breast or bottle to soothe fussiness or to get to sleep.

Pasteurized whole cow's milk is a good choice for children under age 2. Lowfat milk products can be used later. Children under two need fat in their diets for brain development, and their diets should not be fat restricted. There are transition formulas on the market that can be used, but they can be expensive. Consult your health care provider for the best option for your baby.

To help your child with the weaning process

  • Start by offering milk in a cup at one meal, followed by water in a bottle (if your child takes a bottle). Gradually progress to using only a cup at mealtimes.
  • Give juice in a cup. Remember to use only 100% fruit juice and only 4-6 ounces a day. Never put juice in a bottle or give your child fruit drinks or soda.
  • Don't assume that every cry is a need for feeding. Consider how long it has been since the last feeding. Try a cup first, instead of breast or bottle.
  • When your child seems to be done eating, remove the breast or bottle instead of allowing him to play. Remember that you can continue to cuddle or play with him without feeding.
  • As always, never put your child to bed with a bottle.
  • Be cautious in using sippy cups, especially those with spill resistant valves. These can lead to tooth decay because the liquids in the cup wash over the child's front teeth. Your goal should be to help your child learn to use an open cup as soon as possible, even though this can be a little messier. Try putting small amounts in the cup to minimize mess. A soft straw can be another option.

Self Feeding

It's OK to eat a little or a lot. The amounts your toddler eats may vary from meal to meal and from day to day. Toddlers aren't growing as rapidly as infants, so they don't need to eat as much. They tend to be very active, and many only sit long enough to satisfy their immediate hunger before they want to get down and play. You may have to provide additional snacks every few hours, but make sure snacks are as healthy as the food you would serve at a meal. Minimize juice and teach your child to drink water when thirsty. Many toddlers go on "food jags" when they eat only a certain type of food, like grains, for a week or two. Continue to offer a variety of foods at each meal. Remember that a serving size is about 1 tablespoon per year of age. Your child may eat more than this, but filling the plate with adult size servings and expecting him to eat it is not realistic. Try not to use food as a reward (if you eat all your green beans, you can have ice cream) or as a punishment (if you don't eat your meat, you can't go out to play). Get rid of the "clean plate" rule. Children should learn to listen to their bodies, and stop eating when they are no longer hungry. Mealtime should be a pleasant time, free from conflict, bargaining or bribing.

Learn more about children's nutrition guidelines


Characteristics of a Toddler

Toddlers have unique thinking strategies that make them seem naughty much of the time. Toddlers are not like four and five-year-olds, and can't behave like them!

  • Toddlers have limited language; he has ideas but can't express them which can be frustrating
  • Toddlers don't understand how the world works. They test everything by shaking, throwing and mouthing; sometimes destructively. They don't understand that things break, belong to other people, and cost money!
  • Toddlers have very little self control. They can't always resist "touching", stop themselves from doing things they know they aren't supposed to do, or remember what "no" means
  • Toddlers are "impulsive"—they do things without thinking first
  • Toddlers learn by doing things over and over—even things they aren't supposed to do! They want to be sure they know what will happen when they do something!
  • Toddlers learn by imitating. They don't know the meaning of "danger" and will sometimes copy you doing something that could hurt them—like handling the curling iron, trying to drive the car, or climbing a ladder
  • Toddlers learn by being out in the world! They need to see new things and new places, hear new words, and see positive, smiling faces!
  • Toddlers are not able to share. This will become possible after age 3, but don't expect it now, or punish a toddler for not sharing. You can begin to teach your child about sharing in a positive way. You can also teach "trading"

There is no simple way to allow a 12-18 month old toddler to explore safely or make her obey your requests. Your child loves to explore and needs to explore to learn, but it's so easy to get into trouble when you don't understand what danger is. You will need to keep watch constantly.

Techniques for Guiding Your Toddler's Behavior

  • Let your child know when she is doing well. "Good job helping Mom!" "I like the way you are holding my hand!" Praise good behavior
  • Tell him what he CAN do and minimize the "no's"
  • Plan ahead for outings by talking to your child about behavior, taking along activities and snacks, and being prepared to leave if your toddler cannot handle the situation
  • Tell your toddler what you want her to do, instead of asking her. If you say, "Do you want to pick up your toys now?" She will probably say NO! Instead, say "It's time to pick up the toys now. I'll help you."
  • Make the things you want her to do interesting: "Let's sing a song while we change your diaper"
  • Give another idea. "I can't let you jump off the couch, but you may jump off this stool"

Punish or Teach? Think about Your Guidance Goals

Even at this young age, there are things you can do to help your child learn to control his or her own behavior. When parents try to teach the right behavior rather than punishing the wrong behavior, they give their child a better chance to begin to learn self control. Think carefully before slapping your toddler's hand or spanking her. It may stop her behavior right now (or it may not), but it certainly doesn't teach her the behavior you want her to learn. This doesn't mean letting your child do whatever she wants. It means using positive ways to TEACH her how to behave.


Children get spoiled when parents give in to unreasonable demands, fail to limit annoying behavior, or let their child's minor needs inconvenience others. Spoiling will not happen because you play with your child or listen to her needs. Set clear, reasonable limits for your toddler that are appropriate for her age. Let her practice the skills she has learned instead of doing things for her.

Time Out

Time out is a guidance tool to help your child take a break from behavior that is not OK. Toddlers between 12 and 18 months of age may or may not be ready for time out. Time out is a short break (1-2 minutes per year of age) to help the child gain control. For young toddlers, parents can take a "self time out". This is when you say in a firm voice, "I don't like it when you hit." Then turn around and walk away for 1-2 minutes. Simply hug your child and resume normal activities. The child will begin to learn that some behaviors make her lose your attention. Your attention and eye contact are very important to your toddler, and she doesn't like losing them!

Learn more about terrific toddlers

Hot Topics for Toddlers


Biting is a common behavior in toddlers, especially those in childcare.

Learn more about handling a biter

Don't Rush Toilet Training

Friends and family may be telling you that it's time for potty training. In the United States, children are usually 2 or 2 1/2 before they begin this task. Children 12-18 months usually do not have the developmental skills needed to be successful. Consider waiting a while before introducing potty training.

A Parent's Guide to Toilet Training


Continue to visit with your childcare provider often about your child's care. Be sure your care provider understands toddler behavior and agrees with you on approaches to guidance and discipline. Ask your care provider to limit television time with your toddler.

In childcare, toddlers need to

  • Have their emotional needs met through rocking, smiling, cuddling, etc
  • Have time for rest or quiet time when needed
  • Have a safe place to practice walking and exploring
  • Use all their senses in their play
  • Learn language by being talked to, being listened to, being read to, hearing the names of objects

For more information on choosing childcare, contact the Help!line Center by dialing 211 in the Sioux Falls area or visit their website

A Word about Television

Because of the brain development happening, real life experiences are better for toddlers than watching television or other electronic screens. The sound and lights from television, even children's programs, can distract toddlers and can keep them from doing activities that are more helpful to learning. Toddlers need to experience the textures, dimensions and properties of REAL objects to learn about them. Toddlers need to hear REAL interactive language with a response in order to learn it. Television does not supply these important concepts. Many experts feel that children under age two should not watch television AT ALL.

Sensory Activities

Toddlers love activities that let them feel, squeeze and test objects. You might want to consider using a sensory box. Buy a large, clear plastic box about 6 inches deep. Place the box on an old towel or plastic table cloth and put in some dry oatmeal. Give your child cups or scoops, toys to hide, or large funnels.

Be sure to supervise! Dry oatmeal could be a choking hazard for children this age, if they put too much in their mouth.

Bathtime is also a sensory activity! Provide funnels, cups, scoops and other interesting toys for your child to pour, fill and dump. Always supervise bath-time and NEVER leave a child unattended in the tub for even a few minutes.

Sit your child in the highchair or at the table and provide a piece of dark construction paper, a clean paint brush and a small cup of water. Protect the surface with a plastic cloth in case the color bleeds. Let the child "paint" with the water. It will turn the construction paper a darker color. Remember that it is OK if your child dumps the water! You can even let the paper dry and reuse it!


When Your Toddler Drives You Crazy!

Parenting a toddler is emotionally and physically exhausting! All parents get upset with their toddlers sometimes. If you feel angry and out of control, here are some ideas:

  • Take deep breaths, count to 10, close your eyes
  • Put your toddler in a safe place for a few minutes (crib, playpen) to give yourself a time out to calm down
  • Ask a trusted friend or relative to relieve you so you can have a break

If you feel that your emotions are difficult to manage, talk to your doctor, spiritual adviser or counselor. Getting help means that you are responsible and that you care about your child.

Download a PDF of the 12-18 months newsletter

Complete a short survey about the child development newsletters