Learn about toddler development, red flags for this age group, and find resources to support healthy development in your child!
Our post about developmental red flags for infants is one of our most popular posts here at The Inspired Treehouse. And that may be because this post gives parents the tools they need to recognize potential issues during their baby’s first year.
If you’ve ever felt stumped about something related to your child’s development, or you’ve run into questions about the development of the kids you work with – you’re definitely not alone! Every parent and professional has felt this way at one time or another!
Today, we’re here to expand on our infant red flags list to cover toddler development and red flags to watch out for as your child continues to grow!
About Toddler Development and Red Flags
As therapists, we often refer to developmental milestones and use red flags to help us track a child’s development and to document areas of concern so we can provide appropriate support and help kids reach their potential.
However, it’s important to note that all kids develop at their own pace, with skills developing at different times for each child. Many kids will achieve milestones slightly earlier or later than usual and other kids may skip developmental milestones altogether.
Noticing when a child is not achieving certain milestones allows us to make note of differences in the child’s development and gives us the opportunity to provide supports and interventions if needed.
Regardless of what the milestones say, if you have any concerns about your child’s development, including behaviors that interfere with your child’s health and well-being or your family’s everyday routine, please contact your pediatrician for help!
Below, you’ll find typical developmental guidelines for each age and some common areas of concern we may see that can help us identify when a child needs support.
1 Year Old Milestones and Red Flags
By the age of 12 months, your baby is likely to be on the move. A baby’s primary mobility at this age might be on the floor as they crawl across the room, or they may already be walking fluidly at this age.
Twelve month olds have gained a significant amount of control through their hands from all of the great weightbearing they’ve done in tummy time and crawling on the floor. They can play simple clapping games, pick up finger foods with their little fingers and drink from a cup that you are holding.
Cognitively, kids in this age group can look for objects that they watch you hide (e.g. a familiar toy hidden under a favorite blanket) and they can also put items into containers.
Babies at this age are beginning to communicate by waving “bye-bye”. Their babbling turns into familiar words like “mama” or “dada”, and, if you dare tell them “no”, babies at this age will briefly pause and consider their next move. They may be shy or nervous around people they don’t know well and they may demonstrate separation anxiety in new or unfamiliar places.
1-year-old Red Flags
- Decreased desire for exploration through movement
- Unable to stand when supported
- Frequent falling or running into objects/walls/corners
- Constant toe-walking
- Lack of reciprocal movement in crawling or walking (i.e. right arm moves with left leg and vice versa)
- Little awareness of hands (one hand hanging off of the side of the high chair consistently) or lack of interest in exploring with hands
- Not yet gesturing through pointing or waving
- Not yet babbling or beginning to say familiar words (mama/dada)
- Any noticeable loss of skills they once had
15 Month Old Development Red Flags and Milestones
It is amazing what huge changes can happen in a child’s development in a short 3 months! From 12-15 months your child may make huge gains in one area of development with little or no development in another area. This is common! Let’s take a look at what you might see at this age.
Most children by the age of 15 months of age are showing their social prowess by clapping when they are excited, showing affection toward you with hugs and kisses, and making sure everyone knows about their favorite toys. Little ones at this age are also beginning to play alongside other children and will mimic what others do during play.
15 month olds will begin to approximate sounds for other objects like saying “ba” for ball. They can follow simple directions and will often point to something they want or reach their arms up if they need help.
At this age, you may see your baby really watching you and learning how you use a phone or turn the pages of a book. They will start to imitate your actions with these objects.
Motorically, there may be more progress in their ability to walk unassisted if that hasn’t happened yet. They may be able to stack a single block on top of another and they will start to feed themselves the tiny bites of food from their tray.
15 Month Old Red Flags
- Limited interest, engagement, or interaction with others (children or adults)
- Limited interest, engagement, or interaction with toys/objects in the environment
- Does not look or respond when name is called
- Not yet self-feeding using fingers
- Can’t stand independently
- Any noticeable loss of skills they once had
18 Month Old Milestones and Red Flags
This is the age that most babies begin to show a greater independence. They will move away from you but will keep looking to make sure you haven’t gone too far away. They may begin to help with getting dressed by pushing their arms through sleeves or lifting their foot up to put it through the leg of their pants. Babies at this age will put theair hands out for you to help wash them.
Fine motor skills may explode at this age, as toddlers begin to take interest in crayons and other drawing utensils. They may attempt to use feeding utensils (spoons are safest) to feed themselves and can drink from a cup without a lid (although it may be messy at times).
At this point, babies should be walking without needing to hold on. They should also be able to climb onto and off of a couch or chair without help.
You may notice that your 18 month old will start to purposefully play with toys like pushing a toy car or sweeping with a toy broom alongside you as you sweep the kitchen.
New language will emerge from and you should be able to distinguish 3 or more words at this stage. At this age, babies can follow simple, one-step directions like “get your blanket” or “give me the cup”.
18 Month Old Red Flags
- Can’t walk independently
- Doesn’t gain new words or vocalizations
- Not yet attempting to communicate with gestures (pointing/reaching/showing) or with vocalizations
- Doesn’t notice when a caregiver leaves or comes back
- No interest in feeding self or attempting to use cups/utensils
- Any noticeable loss of skills they once had
2 Year Old Development and Red Flags
At 2 years old, you may start to feel that your baby is no longer…a baby! Real emotions begin to form (you may even see some tantrums and defiant behavior), communication (verbal and non-verbal) makes a huge leap and motor skills begin to take off!
At 2, your growing toddler may begin to notice and react when someone else is upset and will even look to you to gauge how to react to an emotional situation.
Fine motor skills take off with 2-year-olds beginning to use both hands at the same time to manipulate objects (bilateral coordination). They may be able to complete simple two-handed actions like taking the top off of a container. The spoon they were practicing a few months ago is now an easy way to get food to their mouth!
Communication is key at this age with words becoming short, more intentional sentences (e.g. “my ball”). Kids at this age can identify objects in books and are beginning to recognize their own body parts. Simple gestures like waving and pointing progress to more complex ways of communicating like shaking their head no or nodding yes and blowing kisses.
Balls are so much fun for kids this age and you may notice your child developing their gross motor skills by throwing, kicking and trying to catch. You will marvel at the awkward toddler run and you will gradually learn to let them fall and get back up as they figure out this new, faster way to move. And stairs…oh the stairs! At 2 years old, kids may walk up and down stairs while holding onto a hand or handrail and placing two feet on each step.
2 Year Old Red Flags
- Doesn’t seem to know what to do with familiar objects (toothbrush, cup, spoon, toy)
- Doesn’t follow simple directions
- Not yet putting simple, two-word phrases together
- Doesn’t copy simple actions (clapping hands, putting objects into containers)
- Not yet showing affection or recognition of familiar people
- Unable to walk steadily on their own
Resources to Support Healthy Development
If you’re tired of wasting time creating your own shareable handouts and resources about developmental milestones, we’ve got you covered with our Developmental Milestone Handbook and our Developmental Milestones Handout Pack.
Learn more about the toddler age group, including milestones and activities to support fine motor, gross motor, and sensory processing skills for this age.
Did you know that the CDC has updated their list of developmental milestones? You can find the milestones list here.
And learn more about how therapists and other professionals are reacting to the CDC Milestone Updates.
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