Each stage with a child has some amazing and some challenging moments. From the sleepless nights with a newborn to the homework struggles of elementary school, moms and dads have to be prepared for the milestones and the missteps. At 18 months, the baby is becoming a toddler and going through a tremendous amount of changes that can be tough for a parent to figure out.
A lot of moms and dads mark the first birthday as a huge moment, but it's not necessarily the time when milestones are reached. Some babies might start walking before their birthday, but doctors actually look at 18 months as the time to start to be concerned.
The baby's second half birthday doesn't get the hype, but it's certainly a time to check in on how the little one is doing and figure out if they are progressing in their development physically and socially. Doctors will be on the lookout for a number of issues that might become evident at this time since it's the perfect time to start interventions before the true toddler years begin.
Here are 20 things a baby should be doing (and five they should be over with) at 18 months.
25 More Than A Few Words
Babies usually begin walking around their first birthday, although some start to talk a little earlier and some wait a little later. By 18 months, the expectations are a little higher — the baby should be saying at least 20 words, although it's possible that only mom and dad understand a few of those.
It might be a bit before the baby is talking in sentences, but many 18-month-olds are putting together a couple of words into phrases. There are varying degrees of how verbal babies are at this point in development, but moms should talk to doctors about any delays.
Early intervention can help a little one catch up quickly, so if the baby isn't speaking at 18 months, it's time for mom and dad to speak up and get him some help.
24 Walking Milestone
The walking milestone is a really broad one for babies. Some little ones start toddling around at nine months old, while others might not take their first steps until the 18-month mark. It's still considered normal, and a baby who walks at 18 months can be just as healthy and athletic as one who is an earlier walker.
But if the baby isn't walking after he turns 18 months, it's time to talk to the doctor. Therapy might help a lot in helping the baby to reach that important milestone, and 18 months is the time to get started.
23 Beginning Builder
Not all babies will grow up to be engineers, but they still all need to reach a milestone in building, and the first one comes at 18 months.
Blocks may not be every baby's favourite toy, but most enjoy a good stacking session, and it shows that they have the dexterity and mental development that they should.
At 18 months, a toddler should be able to stack three blocks, at least. It's a milestone that moms might not even think of, but it's an important signal in a pediatrician's mind that the baby is on the right track in terms of development.
22 Little Miss/Mr. No
Babies understand a lot when they are 18 months old. That includes the word "no."
On top of that, they are little parrots, who repeat just about everything they hear from mom and dad. So that special little two-letter word becomes one they hear a lot — and say a lot.
Little Miss or Mr. No still doesn't have impulse control, so they aren't going to be able to control their actions that much. They will even know that what they are doing wrong and might say no at the same time that they do something they shouldn't. That can be frustrating to parents, but it's part of learning and is a big 18-month issue.
21 Following Directions
Moms think that they will all have babies that mind, but they learn right away that they can't control their kids. Eventually, though, children do learn to follow directions — when they want to, of course.
That first milestone happens at 18 months. Moms should be able to give their toddler a simple command and expect them to do it. But it has to be one step, such as "hand me that toy."
Of course, if the baby doesn't want to share, then mom isn't getting the toy, but you get the point. Eventually, a child will be able to follow multiple-step directions, but this is the first big step in that direction.
20 Play With Others
It's hard for an 18-month-old to really have a friend. That's because babies don't really know how to play. But at this stage, they start to learn a little bit about playing in parallel with other kids.
At 18 months, the baby can play a little with mom and dad. They will hand things to them and make a game of it. Other 18-month-olds don't really get it, but eventually, they will figure out how to interact and enjoy each other more.
Eventually, the parallel play turns into playing together as friends, so it's an important step in the social development process.
19 Recognizing Themself
It's really fun to watch a baby look in a mirror. Many times, they will laugh and touch and interact — and not have a clue that the little one looking back at them in actually themselves. At 18 months, though, they figure it out.
It's when the baby recognizes himself and starts to realize what he looks like. He'll point to himself in a group picture and start to know who the kid in the mirror might be. It might be even more fun to watch an 18-month-old realize how that he can reach up and touch his hat and lift his shirt and see his belly.
It's really cute to see the toddler start to recognize himself.
18 Understanding Objects
By 18 months, babies are really smart. They might not be able to write a novel or solve a quadratic equation, but if you think about it, it's kind of amazing that they know what objects are for. They figure things out just from watching mom and dad, and that takes a lot of brain power.
For example, at 18 months old, a toddler will pick up a brush and start stroking her hair. She knows to sit in a chair and that a pencil is for writing, even though it'll be a few years before he knows how to write his letters. Those little smarties have a lot figured out for only 18 months of life.
17 The Mine Stage
Before children can learn to share, they have to go through the mine stage. It might seem like a bad thing, but before the baby hits that milestone, toys can seem like communal property. When he realizes that those things are important, that's when he takes ownership.
We know that sharing is an important skill, and all moms want their little one to be generous with their things. But it takes the ability to understand that those things are worth something to get to the stage where you are willing to allow people to share them with you. The mine stage can be tough, but it's developmentally appropriate at 18 months.
16 Beginner Artist
It can take a lot of lessons to figure out how to draw a landscape, and it takes the talent that few possess to create a masterpiece like the "Mona Lisa." But the beginnings happen when a baby is only 18 months old.
At that milestone, the baby should be starting to scribble. It might take a couple of years before the baby starts colouring in the lines, but he will automatically take a crayon and begin to make art.
The hand control can take time, but he's likely already got an artist's eye and a few art projects in mind even before he's potty trained.
15 Pointing Out Parts
"Head, shoulders, knees and toes," isn't just a cute song to sing to little ones. It can also help with their development. That's because babies need to figure out their different parts. And by 18 months, they ought to be able to point out at least three different body parts correctly.
Babies usually catch on to things like nose and mouth pretty quickly, and they love to poke mom in the eye while pointing out their peepers. Things like the belly and the ears are part of the baby, and if she knows her parts, then she can start to tell her parents if something is wrong.
It's important developmentally to get to the point where everything has a name, especially when it involves the baby's own body.
14 Understanding Emotions
We've mentioned that the seeds of friendship are starting to be planted. But one of the major milestones to that happening is that the baby will start to understand emotions and have empathy for others. He'll get upset when he sees someone else act sad, and he can get angry when he sees an injustice.
Emotions can be tricky, especially for kids who are on the autism spectrum. So if your 18-month-old doesn't seem interested when he comes across a really sad baby, it might be time to start asking about his development.
Toddlers can understand the concept of empathy and that is a sweet part of this stage in the toddler years.
13 Pretend Play
One of the best developmental activities that babies do is play. And one of our favourites to watch and participate in is pretend play.
By 18 months, babies will pick up a doll and pretend to feed him a bottle — or even place it under her shirt and try to nurse it. They will pretend to cook at a play kitchen and serve refreshments at a pretend tea party.
Pretend play is super cute and special, and it's also developmentally important. It's how babies mirror their parents and how they learn to operate in the world. Moms should cherish the time when their little ones give them pretend cookies and dress up like their favourite heroes. It's one of the best parts of having an 18-month-old.
12 Using A Fork and Spoon
At six months old, parents often start using a spoon to feed their little one a few bites of baby food. But a year later, the spoon is already in the baby's hands, as they are already ready to take care of the job themselves.
Parents choose a lot of different ways these days to introduce food to babies. Some wait longer and choose to allow the baby to start with finger foods. Others try to serve as early as four months. Some babies take a little while for their tummies to catch up. But handling a fork or spoon is more about manual dexterity.
All the little morsels might not make it to their mouth, but by 18 months, the baby should be practicing his skills at feeding himself.
11 Ms./Mr. Independent
Part of the reason that so many toddlers are taking the spoon from mom and dad by 18 months is that they want to be independent. This is the age when a little one might not be ready, but he's going to want to do everything he can for himself.
That goes for everything from brushing his teeth to feeding himself to picking out his clothes. And of course, at times mom or dad is going to have to take over, which will cause a major conniption. A strong-willed toddler who wants to be independent isn't always easy, but it's a sign of growing up.
10 Interest In Pictures
Reading can start long before a baby knows his letters. It can start as early as 18 months when the baby is interested in pictures. The pictures can be of family and friends or objects or animals — anything that has a visual appeal and is identifiable.
At 18 months, moms ought to be able to ask a baby to point at something in a picture and the baby responds, such as identifying a bird in the sky. Of course, babies are still learning about language, but figuring out the concepts for what words mean is a big first step. Some 18 months old can even turn pages. It's all the beginning of reading, and it's amazing to watch.
9 Sweet Little Singer
As we've mentioned earlier, babies should be talking at least a little bit before they reach the year and a half mark. But it's more than that. They should also be singing — it's not necessarily about the words but about the sing-song kind of patter.
Babbling and making noise in an interesting musical way is a part of developing socially. Even kids who can't carry a tune when it's time to sign up for middle school choir had to pass the singing milestone as a toddler.
Every little one's singing voice is precious in his mom's eyes, so listen for the beautiful lilt and know that it's just a part of figuring how to communicate.
8 Help Getting Dressed
Another one of those tasks that the baby wants to take over at around 18 months is getting dressed. Even the act of putting on your own pants can seem like a really big deal when you are doing it for the first few times.
Toddlers like to dress themselves because it is a way to parrot their parents while at the same time asserting independence. Some babies want to go to the closet or dresser to pick out their own clothes, while others are willing to put up a fight to try to put on their own shirt.
It can be frustrating — especially when you are in a rush to get out the door — but it's a big deal for the 18-month-old to put on his own socks and shoes.
7 Doing Squats
Walking is one thing, but staying upright can be an entirely different physical milestone. For younger walkers, it can be easy to get started but another issue entirely to stop, pick something else and keep going.
One milestone that doctors and parents can watch out for is the ability for the baby who is walking to squat down to get something and get back up again without any help — and without falling down. This task requires a different kind of balance, and it's a big thing that babies need to learn to master around the time they reach the 18-month-old mark.
6 Temper Tantrum Stage
Life can be really hard when you are 18 months old. At this stage, toddlers have all these new skills of walking and talking, but they can't communicate everything they want and they can't go everywhere their legs can take them. There are limits, and that can lead to a lot of temper tantrums.
While crying happens with a baby from the very beginning, seeing a toddler go through their first real temper tantrum can be harrowing. They want to be independent, but moms just want them to be safe, and that can lead to conflict.
Poor 18-month-olds can be really emotional, and life can be overwhelming. The truth is that the terrible part doesn't wait until they are 2, not when tantrums are a normal part of life for an 18-month-old.
5 Over With: Bottle Baby
Giving the baby a bottle is a sweet part of the first year. It's what moms learn to do when they were babies themselves, playing with their dolls, and even moms who breastfeed can enjoy the act on occasion. But by the time the baby is 18 months, he's ready to graduate to a cup.
Most moms decide to trade in for sippy cups, but there is a milestone that comes when the baby is a year and a half that says he actually should be able to sip out of a regular cup. Of course, it can be messy, so we don't mind the lid, but moms should let their little one give it a try every once in a while.
The toddler is usually pretty interested in mom's cup of water anyway, so let him have a try. It's all a part of growing up.
4 Over With: Waving Bye Bye (The Attachment Phase)
It's super cute when babies start to wave, which usually happens around nine months old. But by 18 months, they are over it, at least the saying goodbye part.
That's because, at a year and a half, many toddlers are fully in the throws of attachment. They hate it when mom, especially, leaves the room, and it can be heartbreaking.
A tiny toddler can have an extreme reaction to mom or dad to the point where it's hard to go to work or to have a date night. This is a hard phase, but it happens because the baby loves his mom so. Every phase has its pros and cons, and this one might be the most gut-wrenching part of having an 18-month-old.
3 Over With: A Second Nap (Maybe)
Babies need naps — from the moment they are born, they need a lot of sleep. But their sleep patterns change a lot over time, and for some, a new change happens at around 18 months. The time period can also have some sleep regression, but don't get us wrong, the baby still needs a nap, and moms will know it.
Usually, on the first birthday, babies have a nap in the morning and another in the afternoon. It's hard to say when that morning nap will go. Some tiny toddlers will rebel for a while but go back to two naps. The baby might be over 2 before he settles on his nap schedule, so it might be a rocky six months.
2 Over With: Formula (But Not Necessarily Breastmilk)
Baby's diet changes a lot after the first year.
As a newborn, the baby needs breastmilk or formula as the basis of her nutrition, even when solids are sprinkled into the diet. For families who formula feed, that can be really expensive. But luckily doctors usually allow moms to switch to cow's milk and other nutrition somewhere around the first birthday (or adjusted age for preemies).
While a tiny toddler might not need the nutrients in formula anymore, it's OK if they aren't done with breastmilk. In fact, the World Health Organization encourages moms to nurse for two years if they are able. There are benefits to continued breastfeeding even past that point, even though the baby might be getting all of the nutrition that she needs through solid food.
1 Over With: Resistance To Change
Many babies enjoy a routine. But as newborns, it can be easy to take the baby out at naptime and just let them sleep in mama's arms instead of the crib, for example. But changes in routine are a lot tougher on an 18-month-old. They are over a more spur-of-the-moment lifestyle and they cling to routine.
Toddlers are pretty resistant to change. Anyone who has tried to add in a vegetable to an 18-month-old's diet that has been mac and cheese for a week will know that. They can be little terrors when there is a disruption to their routine. But temper tantrums, as we've mentioned, are a way of life.
This phase between babyhood and toddlerhood is always interesting, and sometimes moms just have to do all that they can to get through and help their little one keep growing and smiling.