Toddler Developmental Milestones & Safety
At what age does a baby become a toddler?
Toddlers are children between the ages of 1 and 3. You’ll notice your child start to gain a little bit of independence. During the toddler years, your child will learn to:
- Feed themselves.
- Walk without support.
- Talk by using new words, echoing words, saying their first and last name.
- Understand simple commands like “no” and “stop.”
- Dress with little assistance.
- Share toys and take turns while playing.
Toddlers grow and learn at their own pace. Not all toddlers master these skills by age 3.
When should my toddler get checkups?
During your baby’s first year, checkups by your healthcare provider were frequent to verify that your child grew normally and reached their first-year milestones. As a toddler, checkups are further apart. You can identify a timeline for checkups with your toddler’s healthcare provider between ages 1 and 3. An example of when you should schedule toddler checkups include:
- 1 year.
- 15 and 18 months.
- 2 years.
- 30 months.
- 3 years.
What can I expect during a toddler checkup?
Similar to well-baby visits, toddler checkups will track your child’s growth. These checkups include:
- Measuring your child’s weight, height and head circumference, along with a physical exam of their whole body including their eyes, ears, teeth, heart and lungs.
- Administering immunizations.
- Checking for developmental milestones.
- Answering any questions or concerns you might have about your growing child.
- Anticipating the next steps of their growth.
- Ordering screening lab tests for anemia and lead poisoning if appropriate.
Pediatric Developmental Milestones
What are developmental milestones for my toddler?
Developmental milestones are things that your toddler can do by a certain age. Developmental milestones track how your child:
- Moves (gross and fine motor skills).
- Speaks (language development skills).
- Learns (cognitive skills).
- Plays (social and emotional skills).
Each child grows at their own pace and it's not a competition to see how quickly your toddler reaches developmental milestones. Some children will reach milestones sooner than others. If you suspect that your child is not on track to reach their developmental milestones, talk with your child’s healthcare provider to address any areas of concern.
Toddler developmental milestones: 15 to 18 months
Between 15 and 18 months, your toddler is learning to express themselves with their newly learned verbal skills. Tantrums are a normal part of your toddler’s development to tell you they’re unhappy that they didn’t get what they wanted. Use distractions, like toys and games, to minimize tantrums and calm your toddler.
Your child should be eating food at the table at the same time as members of their family. At this age, toddlers learn to use utensils, like a fork and spoon, along with transitioning from a bottle to a cup.
Milestones for your toddler between 15 and 18 months include:
- Showing a range of emotions from temper tantrums to affection with familiar people.
- Communicating with common, single words.
- Following simple, one-step commands like “sit down.”
- Walking and starting to run.
- Drinking from a cup and eating with a spoon.
What are safety tips for my 15- to 18-month old toddler?
Keep your child safe between the ages of 15 and 18 months by:
- Blocking off stairways with gates so your toddler doesn’t fall.
- Using a rear-facing car seat.
- Poison-proof your home by paying special attention to cabinets at child level. Never store toxic substances in bottles or jars that look like food products. If your child ingests a potentially harmful substance, keep the container and call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.
- Don't give your child raw carrots, unpeeled apples, grapes, nuts, hotdogs, popcorn, hard candies and other foods that present a choking hazard. Better choices are ripe avocado, mashed potatoes, steamed vegetables, tomatoes and peeled or cooked fruit. Always cut foods that are round or coin-shaped into bite-sized, smaller pieces to avoid choking.
Toddler developmental milestones: 2 years
Two-year-old toddlers are full of emotion and very enthusiastic to showcase their feelings with others, including affection, happiness, anger and protest.
Your child's understanding of the rules can be very different from your expectations. During this time, set firm and consistent limitations for behavior. Most 2-year-olds ultimately want to please their parents, so be sure to praise your child when their behavior is appropriate and when they accomplish a new skill.
You will find your child to be talkative, inquisitive and very active. During this time, their vocabulary will grow rapidly. Reading to your child will help increase their vocabulary and improve verbal expression and listening skills.
Although 2-year-olds enjoy being with other children, they often play independently. Imitation is their primary method of learning at this age.
Your child might start showing signs that they are ready for potty training. They might stay dry for longer periods during the day or have a regular schedule of bowel movements. They might also be curious about the toilet and aware of their bodily functions. Children will generally learn to use the toilet when they are ready. Encourage your child and assist when needed. It's normal for children to master potty training in small steps.
Milestones for your 2-year-old child include:
- Copying others, specifically adults and older children.
- Playing beside other children and starting to include others in their play.
- Speaking in simple sentences with two to four words.
- Identifying shapes and colors.
- Following two-step instructions like “pick up your toys and put them in the bin.”
- Climbing up and down onto furniture.
- Standing on their tiptoes.
What are safety tips for my 2-year-old child?
Follow these tips to keep your 2-year-old child safe:
- Keep hot tap water at less than 120°F to prevent burns.
- Place smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on each level of your home and outside of each bedroom. Test detectors once a month and change the batteries once every six months.
- Keep firearms unloaded and locked away if you must have them in your home.
- Protect electrical cords by taping them down and covering outlets.
- Never leave your child unattended in a bathtub, pool or body of water.
- Never leave your child alone outdoors. They should always have adult supervision when crossing the street or playing in the yard.
Toddler developmental milestones: 3 years
Your 3-year-old engages socially with their growing language and rapidly developing motor skills during this time. Your child will display curiosity and often ask "Why?" over and over again.
Three-year-olds gain a greater sense of self. Your child will identify gender differences and imitate their adult role models. During play activities, your child will interact more with their peers. Their vocabulary increases to several hundred words. Although articulation is not perfect, your child will be understood by others about 75% of the time.
Motor skills demonstrate improving coordination. Your child might enjoy cutting with scissors, stacking multiple objects and drawing circles.
Milestones for your 3-year-old child include:
- Taking turns when playing.
- Identifying familiar things that are around them.
- Talking well enough for others to understand them and using two to three sentences in a conversation.
- Using an active imagination.
- Walking up and down stairs with one foot on each step.
- Running and climbing.
What are safety tips for my 3-year-old child?
Keep your 3-year-old child safe by:
- Practicing fire drills in the home.
- Wearing a helmet when riding a bicycle.
- Discussing stranger safety.
- Turning pot handles away from the front of the stove when cooking so they aren’t accessible for your toddler to grab.
- Teaching your child their name, address and telephone number. You might also want to teach your child to dial 911 in an emergency.
What skills should my toddler know before starting preschool?
A major milestone for your toddler is entering preschool. This event may come with many emotions for both you as a caregiver and your toddler, but you can ease the transition by making sure your child is ready. Skills that your child should understand before they start preschool include:
- Sharing with others.
- Communicating their wants and needs.
- Listening and paying attention without distraction.
- Identifying letters and numbers.
- Using manners like “please” and “thank you.”
Your child will grow and learn in the classroom and they don’t need to perfect all of their skills before the first day. The most important way you can prepare your child is to teach them to handle their emotions in the classroom. This means that they can say “goodbye” to you when you drop them off and they can communicate with their teacher if they need help.
What are cognitive activities for toddlers?
Cognitive development is one of the milestones to track as your child grows. Cognitive skills are how your child uses their brain to learn about the world around them. Between the ages of 1 and 3, your toddler will develop several new cognitive skills like thinking for themselves, understanding commands, communicating with others and using their imagination. Examples of activities that help toddlers improve their cognitive skills include:
- Using their imagination through storytelling and play.
- Playing with dolls and stuffed animals.
- Playing with puzzles that have three to four pieces.
- Drawing with a crayon.
- Building a tower with blocks.
- Using toys with moving parts, like buttons and levers.
- Hiding and finding objects.
- Sorting objects by size and color.
- Singing songs and nursery rhymes.
What are developmental health concerns for my toddler?
In the U.S., an estimated 17% of children have a developmental delay or disability such as:
- Autism spectrum disorder: Autism spectrum disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects how individuals communicate, interact socially and behave. Signs of autism spectrum disorder in toddlers include trouble with social skills, delayed language development and problem-solving skills, trouble with dexterity and motor coordination and weakened attention spans.
- Intellectual disability: Intellectual disabilities limit a child’s ability to learn and function at the same pace as their peers. Signs of intellectual disabilities in children include not being able to communicate their wants or needs, having trouble remembering and solving problems and not understanding social rules. Examples of syndromes that include intellectual disabilities are Down syndrome, fetal alcohol syndrome and fragile X syndrome.
- Developmental Delay: Developmental delays are milestones that your child needs more time to reach. Milestones identify how your child plays, learns, speaks, moves and behaves. Examples of developmental delays include expressive speech delay, receptive speech delay, fine motor or sensory processing delay or gross motor delay.
When a developmental delay is found, early treatment offers the best outcome so your child can get back on track to meet milestones of growth. If the delay is not found early, it can be difficult for your child to learn when they start school. If you think your child might have a developmental delay, reach out to your child’s healthcare provider.
When should I call my healthcare provider?
You know your toddler best. If you suspect something is wrong with their behavior or how they are learning, contact your healthcare provider.
Signs that your toddler has delayed development include:
- Losing skills they once had.
- Not using two-word phrases (“drink milk”) after age 2.
- Not understanding how to use common objects like a spoon or fork.
- Not following simple instructions (“no” or “stop”).
- Walking is unsteady.
- Difficulty socializing with other adults or children or poor eye contact.
It is important to act early if you suspect your toddler has delayed development so you’re your healthcare provider can screen and treat your toddler for any potential developmental disorders.
What questions should I ask my healthcare provider?
- Is my toddler developing on target for their age?
- What should I do if my toddler misses some developmental milestones?
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Your toddler is growing up quickly and is engaging more with the world around them. Keep track of their milestones between 1 and 3 years and speak with your child’s healthcare provider if you feel that your toddler is not on track to achieve their growth goals.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy