A guide to your child's development at 12-24 months
Child Health and Parenting Service (CHaPS)
Your child’s development is unique. Children develop at different stages and achieve as individuals. You play an important role in your child’s development, guiding and letting them explore their surroundings.
Your toddler starts to explore the world between the ages of 12 and 24 months, but they still need your help, love and attention to thrive and grow. As they become more active, they’ll start to explore their environment and their connections with others, including family and other children. Talking and walking are big milestones but there are many small achievements that are also happening.
Here are some ideas of what typical development looks like at this age and guidelines when to seek professional support. Your Child’s Personal Health Record also includes some developmental information. If you have any concerns about your child’s development, please seek advice from your Child and Family Health Nurse (CFHN) or General Practitioner (GP).
What is happening at this age?
Talking and Understanding
- Your toddler will start realising the power of early words. By 12 months you will recognise 4-8 clear words, by 24 months that increases to 20-50 words and simple sentences start to emerge, for example, ‘what’s that?’ Your toddler will start to understand simple commands, and learn how to name different objects and people. Your toddler starts to show a sense of self by saying ‘no’ or ‘mine’.
- Your toddler continues to develop other communication skills including waving, pointing, copying and clapping.
- Talk to your toddler while you do everyday activities, read books, sing songs, listen to music, play games. This builds early language development and the connection you have with your child.
Playing and being active
- Your toddler is curious about what’s around them. They learn through play, allowing them to make sense of the world around them and developing their thinking, imagination and creativity as they go.
- Toddlers love to be active and need around three hours of physical activity a day. They’ll soon master walking, running, dancing and climbing by playing and exploring with your attention and support.
- Quiet time activities such as puzzles and stories are a good alternative to screentime.
- Offer family foods and challenge your toddler with flavours and textures. Refusing previously liked foods can emerge now. Allow your toddler different options to choose from to build their sense of control over eating. Water and/or breastmilk should be the main drink for toddlers.
Social and Emotional
- Even though your toddler is getting bigger, they still need lots of cuddles, love and support especially when things get overwhelming or scary.
- Your toddler may become distressed when you leave and need reassurance when you return, they gradually become more confident over time with your love and support.
- Your toddler will start to be interested in other children, but they will still just play beside them for now. They don’t understand concepts such as sharing or manners just yet, they’ll need your help to figure that out.
How to support your child's development at this age?
Here are some simple things you can do to help your child’s development at this age:
- Allow your child opportunities to explore and play with your supervision. Explore outside, visit somewhere new, look, touch, smell, feel things. Try water or sand play, messy play is also fun. Your child learns by watching and copying you, then trying new things for themselves.
- Enjoy a wide variety of foods together, involving your child in food preparation and give them choices. Encourage new skills such as using a fork and drinking from a cup.
- Teeth continue to emerge, brush teeth twice a day with a low fluride toothpaste and avoid sugary foods and drinks. This age is a great time to visit the dentist.
- Read together out loud, tell stories, sing and say rhymes with your child. Be silly, do different voices, read favourites over and over. Name and talk about everyday objects, for example, ‘there’s the red car’, or body parts ‘where’s your nose’ and pictures in books.
- Build the connection between yourself and your child by responding to your child’s needs, smiling and chatting to your child during interactions and giving lots of cuddles, touch and tickles.
- Take care of your needs, catch up with friends, chat to your Child and Family Health Nurse or GP if you are finding parenthood overwhelming.
- Get out of the house, try a local play group, library or contact your local primary school for more information about the Launching Into Learning program.
- Ensure your home environment is safe for an exploring toddler.
When to be concerned about your child’s development and what to do
Talk to your GP or phone 1300 064 544 to speak with a Child Health Nurse if you have concerns about your child's development
- Concern about your child not eating as expected including extreme food refusal, excessive gagging or not growing as anticipated.
- If your child is not making eye contact or responding when you play or talk to them.
- Concern about your child’s ability to use their arms or legs, for example, differences between right and left side of body in strength or movement floppy or stiff limb movements and not showing interest in crawling, walking or climbing.
- If one eye is turning in a different direction to the other.
- Concern about your child not responding to your voice or noises.
- Concern about your child not making particular sounds or not having the recommended words for their age.
- Your child suddenly not having a skill they had previously learnt.
- Information for toddlers 1-3 years, Raising Children Network
- Child's development 1-2 years, Starting Blocks
- Kids health information factsheets, Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne
- Red Nose Safe Sleeping Hub
- Physical activity information for 0-5 years, Being Active
- Launching into Learning 0-4 years
- Talking with toddlers, Let's Talk
- Kidsafe Australia
- Playgroups Tasmania
Learn more about the Child Health and Parenting Service (CHaPS)