Developmental milestones: 12-24 Months

All kids progress at different paces, and look, it's not a competition. Unless your child is way ahead, in which case IN YOUR FACE LESSER PARENTS!

Toddler crawling dad laughing

As your baby grows up, there are a bunch of milestones that mark their progress from helpless blob to vaguely ambulant, talkative companion.

But it’s a long, long road – and just like any journey, different kids will get to where they’re going at different paces.

Here’s a rough guide to when you can expect your little one to start doing stuff all the other kids are doing. Take that ‘rough’ bit seriously though, and don’t panic if they’re a little behind the curve – all babies are different.

12-15 months

He’s a stand-up guy

Or a stand-up girl, obviously. Try not to get too gendered – it’s a slippery slope to that Simpsons episode where Homer makes Bart visit the gay steel mill.

Anyway, by 12-15 months, bubs can usually pull themselves to their feet as long as they’ve got something to support them (coffee table, chair, your legs, tolerant Labrador).

They’ll soon stand well on their own too, if wobbling like a drunk on a unicycle at first. A month after that stage they’ll be able to bend down, pick something up, and stand up again. Something light, though, obviously. Not the fridge.

Gift of the grab

Your pride and heir will become more coordinated with their hands, and also become obsessed with grabbing and twisting knobs – the ones on the oven in particular. Rest assured, they’ll just continue to kick yours at nappy-change time.

Coordination advances


Junior will be able to – and perhaps become obsessively keen to – do things like put a ball into a box, or a sultana into a bottle. They’ll be able to make basic block stacks and scribble with a crayon, although they’ll still grasp it in their fist like you would a potato masher, when you’re cooking the fifth thing you’re hoping they might consider eating and wishing you could crush that goddamn masher with your bare hands.

Food and drink

Around half of all children, unless they are Masterchef’s own George ‘baffled-by-cutlery’ Calombaris, will be able to hold their own spoon and eat neatly. Most will also be able to swig from a sippy cup without guidance.


While not yet a threat to the Macquarie Dictionary, your progeny will know (and regularly employ) at least 3-5 words, as well as understanding – if not always heeding – the word ‘no’.

They’ll still communicate largely with gestures, shaking their head, for example, for ‘no’. Instead of crying, they’ll wake up and shout something like, ‘DAD! DAD! DAD! DAD! DAD! DAD! DAD! DAD! DAD! DAD! DAD!” at 4am on New Year’s Day.

Sense of self

They’ll know they’re a ‘me’, and that their stuff is theirs. And, in fact, that anything they want is theirs. This usually wears off around the age of 26.

15-18 months

And they’re racing!

The pitter-patter of little feet will become more of a stampede as your little Usain learns to bolt. You can take a break from the gym around this time – a day of pelting along after a running child burns more calories than a week of burpees.

They can also walk backwards. So they’re more advanced than Formula 1 cars – in case you have any room in your baby-weakened brain for useless information, F1 cars don’t even have a reverse gear.

Life’s a jungle (gym)

A short era of annoyance has arrived: your child can kick, will climb on all the furniture, strip off their clothes and run away – often simultaneously. Those expensive baby ugg boots grandma bought? Yeah, they’re somewhere back between aisles two and 14. Really though grandma, your fault for buying expensive baby ugg boots.

They’ll also ramp up the claiming of “mine”, express autonomy as defiance, and resist changes in routine. Fun! On the not-very-helpful-but-charming side, about 50 percent of children can ‘help’ you with little household chores.

Now you’re talking

Their vocab has jumped to about 10 words – including ‘no’, which they understood earlier but now vocalise constantly. They’ll also use words with lots of gestures, opening up a potential career path in impersonating an Italian.

Ordering the world

A big conceptually cognitive step: they’ll understand where things go, point out pictures of common objects (“cat!”), and begin to understand the distinction between “you” and “me” (but not yet recognise you as a separate individual person, like them).

18-24 months

They’re not likely to win Centrepoint’s Sydney Tower Stair Challenge… yet. But that 1504-step race is one, er, step closer, as your child now climbs up and down the stairs while holding the handrail. Say goodbye to upstairs-bedroom mummy and daddy time.

Motoring skills motor along

They’ll take the next step in interacting with toys – they’ll be able to turn single pages of books, rather than handfuls, build towers of four to six blocks, or be able to string beads.

They’re more domesticated (than the dog)

Bub will help you to dress and undress them, a vast improvement from six months ago, when removing a dirty nappy was like trying to pickpocket a spinning breakdancer. Only more messy.

They’ll be able to wash their own hands and dry them, and do many straightforward household tasks. They’ll lose this ability as teenagers. Make the most of it.

Now we’re talking!

It feels like Obama-esque oratory is just around the corner – your toddler’s vocab has taken off, and they can name stacks of things – tree! cow! fish! shoe! grandma! – and they can name those things in pictures, as well as matching colours (although they’ll often name colours randomly, so don’t stress about them getting this wrong).

They can string two or three words together (“bye, dad”) and follow basic directions, such as “Stop that!” and “Come here”. Three words is apparently a challenge though, because “go to sleep” will still seem to mean nothing.

Ins and outs

Remember when you had to guess whether that was an “I’m hungry” cry, an “I’m crying for no reason” cry or an “I’ve got a nappy full of explosive turd, I hope you’re finished that lasagna” cry? Those days have passed. Bub has begun to tell you if they’re wet or packing brown, and will ask for food, or “more” yoghurt pouch, for example.


They’ll take after dad – or mum – copying day-to-day situations when they play. They’re also aware of the family group, conscious that mum, dad, grandpa, sister, whoever are a job lot and, while they remain self-centred (another one that’ll last well into their adult years), they know the difference between themselves and others.

Next stop: the Terrible Twos.

Take a deep breath – preferably a reasonable distance from the nappy bin. Which, by the way, you ought to have put a baby-proof opening mechanism on by now, because here comes trouble.


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