May 17, 2023

12 to 18 Months: What to Expect

Jane Magnani
Jane Magnani
12 to 18 Months: What to Expect

As your baby reaches their first birthday, they are now considered a toddler; welcome to the fascinating 'toddler' stage. There is much to look forward to during this stage as your little one undergoes many developmental changes. Prepare to see your little one take their first steps and hear them say simple words they will quickly learn!


Your baby's appetite is increasing, and they are now beginning to eat, in smaller portions, the same food as the rest of the family.

Having mealtimes together as a family and eating the same foods as your little one will encourage them to try new things; promoting a healthy mixed diet is vital for their development and growth.

If you have a picky eater, don't worry; this is normal at this stage, and many toddlers go through this phase. Be patient and keep encouraging them to try new things, but do not force them as it will make matters worse; instead, give them a break from that food and let them try it again in a couple of days. Remember, it can take 10 to 20 different times before your little one learns to like a new food and may need to try some things many times before they want them!

Now it's the time to introduce your little one to full-fat cow's milk. If you're still breastfeeding, continue; don't feel you have to stop now.

It's a good idea to stop using bottles at this stage and to let your baby drink out of a cup instead.


From about 12 months old, most children sleep for around 12 to 14 hours, have two naps, and sleep overnight.

If your little one sleeps through the night, it is possible to expect their sleep routine to change. Many things might unsettle your little one at this stage, from their primary caregivers returning to work, nursery, growth spurts, teething pains etc. Hang in there; eventually, your toddler will settle back down again!


Personal, Social, and Emotional development

Making relationships

Your little one is now interested in interacting with people and seeks attention through calls, babbling, smiling, laughing or moving their bodies and limbs

  • Shares interests and attention by pointing to objects

  • Engages another person to help them achieve a goal, e.g. to get an object out of reach

  • Displays attachment behaviours such as wanting to stay near to their close carers, checking where they are and protesting when separated 

  • Builds relationships with special people

  • Is wary of unfamiliar people

  • Closely watches others' body language and begins to understand their intentions and meaning

  • Enjoys watching other children and begins interacting with them by offering toys, food etc

  • Claps hands together in response to social play


Sense of Self

  • Responds to their name

  • Enjoys finding their nose, eyes or tummy as part of interactive games

  • Enjoys mirror play and shows an interest in their reflection, although they may not yet realise that the reflection is them

  • Your little one shows separation anxiety as they become more aware of themselves as a separate individual

  • Make choices and expresses preferences such as different tastes and reject things they do not want, for example, by pushing them away or saying 'no'

  • Understands that their voice and actions cause an effect on others, e.g. clapping hands to start a game • Shows growing self-confidence through playing freely and with involvement

Understanding Emotions

  • Shows a broader variety of feelings, using crying, gestures and vocalisations freely to express their needs

  • Begins to become aware of their and others' emotions

  • Uses familiar an adult to share feelings such as excitement and for "emotional refuelling" when feeling tired or anxious

  • Becomes more able to adapt their behaviour and increase their participation and co-operation as they become familiar with and anticipate routine

  • Explores the boundaries of behaviours that are accepted by adults and become aware of basic rules


Baby eating feeding self

Baby eating feeding self

Physical Development

Moving and Handling

  • Is frequently moving in and out of various positions (e.g. crawling, climbing, cruising, and walking) to explore and get desirable objects

  • Sits unsupported on the floor, leaving hands free to manipulate objects with both hands

  • Crawls or walks to get the desired item

  • Picks up objects in palmar grip and shakes, waves, bangs, pulls and tugs them between two hands while looking at them

  • Enjoys finger and toe rhymes and games

  • Pulls up from crawling, holding on to furniture or another person for support.

  • Walks around furniture, lifting one foot and stepping sideways (cruising)

  • Starts walking independently

  • Points with their finger, sharing attention with an adult

  • Starts to throw and release objects overarm

  • Enjoys the sensory experience of making marks in food, damp sand, water, mud, paste or paint

  • Pushes, pulls, lifts and carries objects, moving them around and placing them with intent

  • Climbs inside, underneath, into corners and between objects

  • Manipulates objects using hands singly and together, such as squeezing water out of a sponge

Health and Self-care

  • Helps with getting dressed/undressed

  • Has a regular sleep schedule

  • Eats an increasing variety of foods

  • Grasps finger foods and brings them to mouth and shares control of spoon and bottle or cup

  • Self-soothes and can drop off to sleep when conditions are right for them

  • Can actively cooperate with nappy changing, dressing/undressing

  • Starts to communicate when they do a wee or poo

  • Expresses feelings and communicates through gestures, facial expressions, movements, body language and vocalisations

Communication and Language development

Listening and attention

  • Moves whole body to sounds they enjoy, such as music or a regular beat

  • Concentrates intently on an object or activity of own choosing for short periods

  • Enjoys laughing and being playful with others

  • Shows interest in pictures


  • Uses sounds in play, e.g. brrrm for toy car

  • Uses single words

  • Frequently imitates words and sounds

  • Combines sounds and gestures

  • Uses words to communicate for a range of purposes (e.g. teddy, more, no, bye-bye)

  • Uses pointing with eye gaze and then fingers or hands to make requests and to share an interest

  • Creates personal words as they begin to develop language

  • Imitates simple words and actions


  • Responds and follows simple instructions

  • Your little one is developing the ability to follow others' body language, including pointing and gestures

  • Responds to simple questions in a familiar context with a particular person (e.g. Where's Mummy?, Where's your nose?)

  • Their understanding of single words in context is developing, e.g. cup, milk, daddy

  • Can identify 1-2 body parts when named

  • Points at familiar objects and people in pictures

What to look out for:

Remember that each child is unique, and they all develop at various times and different rates. So, if your baby isn't doing the same things as your friend's kid, give your little one time! Your little one may be finding the following skills challenging:

  • Can't walk.

  • Doesn’t point.

  • Doesn’t try to copy others.

  • Isn’t learning new words.

  • Can’t say at least six words.

  • Doesn’t notice when a parent leaves or returns.

  • Loses skills he once had. 

If you are concerned about your little one, seek help from your GP or health visitor. No matter how small your concern is don’t let it linger in your mind, ask for help.


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