Need to talk? Call 1800 882 436.
It's a free call with a maternal child health nurse. *call charges may apply from your mobile

Is it an emergency? Dial 000
If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately.

beginning of content

Development milestones - your child 18 to 24 months

8-minute read

Key facts

  • Development milestones are social, emotional and physical skills that children are able to do as they develop.
  • Different skills, emotions and activities are reached at different ages.
  • But remember that every child is different — your child will develop at their own pace.
  • If you are worried that your child is not reaching their milestones, talk to your doctor or child health nurse.

What are development milestones?

Development milestones are social, emotional and physical skills that children are able to do as they develop. Different skills, emotions and activities are reached at different ages.

Crawling, walking, talking, using toys and feeding themselves are all examples of milestones.

All over the world and across cultures, children meet development milestones in generally the same order. But remember that every child is different. Your child will develop at their own pace.

If you are worried about whether your child is reaching their milestones within an expected period, talk to your doctor or a child health nurse.

How can I help my child to develop?

During the toddler years, there is enormous and exciting development. However, every child is different and here will be differences in the exact month when a toddler achieves a new milestone.

Toddlers need plenty of sleep and a variety of healthy foods to grow and develop.

Toddlers need about 11-14 hours of sleep every 24 hours. They should have 10-12 hours at night and 1-2 hours during the day. A positive bedtime routine can help toddlers settle for sleep time.

Encourage and praise your child when they try new things. This will help them gain confidence to try new things. It will help them to develop new skills.

Encourage their current skills. This will give them interest in building those skills further.

You can help your child become confident and independent by giving them chances to explore their surroundings. Stay close so they feel safe and secure.

Talking to toddlers and reading aloud encourages them to try using words to communicate. Children will copy you and other people. They repeat the things that they hear.

Read about play and exercise in toddlers and children.

What physical skills should my child have at 18 to 24 months?

Most toddlers walk and probably run by 18 months old. Most will start to go downstairs with your help.

From about 18 months, it is normal for your toddler to change their eating habits. They may eat less. This is because they are now growing more slowly.

It is also normal for them to become fussy about food. They can have strong likes and dislikes about food. They often want to eat and drink by themself. They want to try and use a spoon, cup and perhaps a fork.

Your child might try to help you undress them. For instance, they might take off their socks, shoes and clothes.

At this age, your child will be getting better at kicking or throwing a ball. They can scribble with a pencil and make things with blocks.

They may pull toys around and put cups and boxes inside each other. They usually want to try and do things themself.

What social and emotional skills should I expect by 18 to 24 months?

Your 18 to 24-month-old can interact with their world in many ways. They might give something to others when playing. They can pretend to feed a doll or point to interesting things. They will start to explore alone but with a parent or caregiver nearby.

Your toddler may enjoy playing near other children. They might not be interested in actually playing with other children. Just watching and being near other children as they play. This is called 'parallel play'.

At this age, your child starts to feel emotions. They're learning to deal with new, confusing and sometimes difficult emotions. They might feel anger, shame and excitement.

They may start to deliberately do what you've told them not to do. This can lead to temper tantrums.

Toddlers use temper tantrums to show difficult feelings. Different 'tantrum' behaviours include:

  • being very angry
  • crying, screaming or shouting
  • throwing or breaking things
  • running away
  • kicking or otherwise being aggressive
  • becoming rigid
  • holding their breath or vomiting

Hungry or tired children are more vulnerable to tantrums. It's important that your toddler has enough food and sleep.

Separation anxiety is usually strongest at about 18 months. Your child might cry when you leave them. You might notice this separation issue becomes less intense by 24 months.

What should my child be able to understand and communicate at 18 to 24 months?

Your toddler will probably start to be able to:

  • find hidden things
  • sort shapes and colours
  • complete familiar rhymes and parts of songs
  • name items in books

Their language skills develop as well. They can experiment with between 1 and 7 new words each week. These words describe the things that they see.

They can also describe parts of their body, like their nose. They can start to mimic animal sounds. They also start pointing to things they recognise in picture books.

Your child will learn to understand and follow instructions. They are likely to begin asking for 'more'. They may start saying 'no' and 'why' when asked to do something.

By 24 months most toddlers know about 50 words. They can use sentences of 2 or more words to describe what they want or what they see.

At 2 years, your child will probably know and use 50 or more words. Sometimes they use sentences of 2 or 3 words. They will begin to use 'I', 'we' and 'me'. They start to understand these words when you use them.

Some toddlers link the new feelings that they are experiencing with words. They may know the meaning of being 'sad'. They may show affection by giving you a favourite toy or hugs and kisses.

Read more about speech development in children.

Toilet training

Your toddler may show signs of being ready for toilet training at 18 months. Many children will be ready from about 24 months.

They may tell you that their nappy is soiled. They will be interested in your use of the toilet. They might tell you they have to or are currently weeing or pooing.

Do not push toilet training too soon. It can cause frustration for everyone. Take a relaxed attitude and follow your toddler's cues.

What if I am worried about my child?

Children learn things and can do things at different ages. You may want to talk to your doctor or child health nurse if your 2-year-old child:

  • can't use 2-word phrases such as 'drink milk'
  • does not seem to know what to do with common things like a hair brush, phone, fork or spoon
  • can't copy your actions or words
  • can't follow simple instructions
  • can't walk steadily
  • has lost skills they once had

If you have questions or are worried about your child's development, contact your doctor or child health nurse.

What vaccines does my child need?

Routine childhood vaccinations are an important part of keeping your child healthy so that they can continue to grow and develop.

At 18 months of age, vaccines your child should be given include:

  • measles, mumps, rubella, varicella (chickenpox) (MMRV)
  • diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough)
  • haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) vaccine

Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children in some states may also need a hepatitis A vaccine. Check with your doctor or community nurse.

Resources and support

There are parenting support services available, including parenting support lines for your state or territory.

Find out more about immunisation for children.

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: October 2023

Back To Top

Need more information?

Toddler Developmental Milestones | Tresillian

Understanding the key milestones are important for you to know how to support and nurture your toddler's development

Read more on Tresillian website

Role modelling - Ngala

There are many wonderful developmental milestones during the toddler years and you will be surprised how fast they grow

Read more on Ngala website

Child's development 1 to 2 years |

Learn about the developmental milestones to observe for your 1 to 2 year old child.

Read more on Starting Blocks website

Child's development 2 to 3 years |

Learn about the developmental milestones to observe for your 2 to 3 year old child.

Read more on Starting Blocks website

Toddler development - motor skills

Toddlers develop fast, exploring their world and doing things independently. Here's how to help your toddler develop fine and gross motor (movement) skills.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Toddler development: Getting dressed

Learning how to dress and undress are lifelong skills that start in childhood. Learn how to encourage your toddler to start dressing themselves.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Toddler development: Learning to feed themselves

Feeding themselves, even if it's messy, is an important part of your toddler's development. Learn how to teach your toddler to feed themselves.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Movement and play ideas for toddlers | Raising Children Network

Play is important for toddler motor skills development. Play ideas for toddler movement include music play, ride-on-toys and trikes, outdoor play and more.

Read more on website

Toddler development: Learning how to draw and write

Drawing and writing are essential skills that children start learning early, gradually building over the preschool and lower primary years.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

When your child’s favourite word is 'NO'!

Most toddlers go through a stage when 'no' is their favourite word. Get some parenting advice and tips on how to manage this difficult stage.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.

This information is for your general information and use only and is not intended to be used as medical advice and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes.

The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

Except as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, this publication or any part of it may not be reproduced, altered, adapted, stored and/or distributed in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of Healthdirect Australia.