18-Month-Old: Independent and Assertive

At 18 months old, your toddler may be growing more and more independent and even a little feisty—he may even start saying “no” more often to things you ask him to do. You may notice that he’s getting better and better at walking up and down stairs and at coordinating the use of his hands and fingers. Read on for developmental insights and advice that might be helpful this month, and to learn what else might be in store now that your little one is 1 and a half years old!

Toddler Development Milestones

Every child is a unique individual, developing at his own rate, so your 18-month-old toddler may reach these milestones either this month or a little earlier or later:

  • Declarations of independence. Around this time, your toddler may be getting more independent and assertive. As he gains confidence, he may start saying “no” when you ask him to do something he doesn’t want to do. It may even become his new favorite word, so watch out!
  • Confident stair climbing. Up until this point, getting up and down stairs might have been tricky for your little one, but it may be getting easier now as he learns to climb stairs while holding onto the railing. Around this time, he may also be able to turn corners without falling. Make sure that you supervise him when he's around stairs.
  • Increased self-awareness. At around 18 months old, your toddler may be more self-aware. He may be able to say his own name, identify himself when peering into a mirror, and generally be more interested in self-care activities like combing his hair. How exciting to see your little one starting to grow up in this way!

How to Support Your 18-Month-Old’s Development

These are some ways you can help support your 18-month-old’s development:

  • Encourage activities that improve hand and finger skills. Around this time, your little one may pick up small objects and move them around with control. For example, he may be able to put the pieces of a wooden peg puzzle in place, scribble with a pencil, finger-paint, build basic towers with toy blocks, and more. Provide plenty of opportunities to do arts and crafts, which will allow him to express his creative side as well as boost his fine motor skills.
  • Play with your toddler. Try a game of hide-and-seek, or toss or roll a ball back and forth. He may want to bring you a toy and tell you what to do with it; let him be the director. Given your child is at the stage where he will want to explore, keep an extra-close eye on your toddler and ensure your home is babyproofed.
  • Take your child on outings. Trips to the neighborhood playground or park provide opportunities for your child to explore and play and to work off some of that manic toddler energy. If you have more time, consider heading to a children's museum or the zoo. Even riding the escalator or a glass-enclosed elevator in a shopping mall or a hotel is entertaining for an 18-month-old.
  • Get ready for potty training. Typically, experts recommend potty training start after the second birthday, but some toddlers might be ready earlier. Read up on the signs of readiness so that you know what signals to look out for. In the meantime, you can begin saying the words pee-pee and poop when you change your little one’s diaper, and help him become familiar with the toilet or the potty, perhaps by letting him help choose a potty chair and leaving it out for him to see.
  • Make up a story. Find a picture book that has few or no words and help your 18-month-old make up a story. To get him going, ask questions about what he sees: Are there any people? What are they doing? What kind of scenery is there? You could encourage him to use a funny voice or facial expression for each character, too, as he "reads" his story. You and your toddler are on an imaginative journey—and he's also getting a big boost in language comprehension and vocabulary.

Mealtimes and Menus for Your 18-Month-Old

You may be noticing that your toddler’s eating habits are quite unpredictable. One day, he may eat everything in sight, and the next he may turn down anything you offer him, even a food that was his favorite. It might give you peace of mind to know that your toddler is not unique in this behavior. Most toddlers around this age have fluctuations in how hungry they are depending on things like their level of activity that day, their metabolism, and whether they are in the middle of a growth spurt.

Most children do well with three small meals and two snacks per day. Serve a variety of nutritious foods, and let your child what and how much of it to eat. You'll find that over the course of a few days his diet will naturally balance itself out so that he gets all the nutrients he needs.

At around 18 months, your toddler may be comfortable using a spoon, fork, and a cup, but he might not always want to. He may find playing with his food more entertaining. So, be prepared for this type of behavior when it comes to mealtime.

Limiting Sweets

It’s natural for your little one to prefer sweets over other foods. You may have noticed when feeding him baby foods that he gobbled up the sweet options, like carrots or sweet potatoes. Now that he's a toddler, he would most likely pick a cookie over a piece of cheese if those were offered.

As his parent, you are in control of the food served to your toddler, and it’s important to encourage healthy choices and limit his intake of sugary food. Even if he refuses dinner, don’t give in and let him have sweets just because he’s not eating.

18-Month-Old Toddler Sleep Schedule

At 18 months old, your toddler typically requires between 12 and 14 hours of sleep a day. Included in this number is about one nap per day, too.

If your toddler is in daycare, the facility often has one or two nap times scheduled each day. You may want to check in with the daycare staff to find out how well your child is napping. If you notice he’s overtired when you pick him up from daycare, it could be because these nap times are not productive. Ask the staff what could be done to improve the situation and how to better coordinate your toddler's sleep routine at home and at the daycare facility.

A Day in the Life of Your Toddler

Here’s a snapshot of what your 1-and-a-half-year-old’s day might look like:18-month-old daily routine


Your Toddler’s Health and Safety: In-Flight Safety

You might be planning to travel by plane with your 18-month-old, whether it’s to visit family who live faraway or for a vacation. Here are some tips to take into consideration when flying with your toddler:

  • Offer your child a pacifier to suck on during ascent and descent, which can help equalize the pressure in her ears and help prevent discomfort
  • Think about protecting your child’s ears from cabin noise with small earplugs or cotton balls. Noise-cancelling headphones, if she can tolerate them on her head, can also work well.
  • Choose a seat closer to the window, as an aisle seat can put your child at risk of getting bumped by a food service cart or by someone walking in the aisle
  • Dress your child in layers that are easy to remove, as the temperature on your flight can vary
  • Consider a diaper change before you board the airplane, and be sure to pack plenty of supplies in your diaper bag for the journey
  • Bring items that can help occupy your child’s attention, such as her favorite stuffed animal or blanket, books, and toys.


  • What should an 18-month-old be doing?

During this month, or sometime soon, your toddler may be able to do things like:
• Scribble and draw
• Follow simple instructions that you give to her
• Point to familiar objects that you name
• Speak using simple phrases
• Sort shapes and colors.

  • How do you deal with an 18-month-old’s tantrum?

It’s inevitable that your toddler will say “no” to something, and eventually this may lead to an all-out tantrum. Though not pleasant, tantrums are a normal reaction to conflict for toddlers at this age. Here are some ways to deal with these sudden outbursts:
• Instead of focusing on disciplining your child, think of your toddler’s tantrums as performances, with you as the audience. To stop the performance, leave the room. If she follows you or acts out any more, put her in a time-out
• If you’re out in public and she has a tantrum, take her to a restroom or back to your car, and have her finish her performance there
• After the tantrum or time-out is over, change the subject. If you made a request that was the source of the outburst, briefly repeat the request and then change the subject.
• If she holds her breath during a tantrum, as many toddlers do, she may faint for a short period. Make sure to keep her safe if this happens and try not to overreact, since it will just reinforce the behavior.

  • What time should your 18-month-old go to bed?

Choose a bedtime that works best for your toddler and your family and then stick to as best you can. This consistency can help her develop a healthy sleep routine.

  • How much milk should your 18-month-old have?

The daily milk recommendation for an 18-month-old is 2 or 3 cups of milk. Speak to your child's health care provider if you have any questions about milk or about her diet in general.

Your Life as a Parent: Setting a Good Example

Around this month, your toddler may be starting to imitate you and your partner more and more. She may see you talking on the phone, and she’ll do the same with her toy phone, or she’ll try to drive her toy car after seeing you at the wheel. Since her inclination to imitate is so strong during this time, it’s a good idea to be on your best behavior, too, so you can set a good example.

Here are some ways to set a good example for your toddler:

  • When you and your partner share something, point it out to your child, for example by saying “Daddy is sharing his piece of cake with Mommy. That’s nice of him, isn’t it?”
  • If you’re feeling frustrated, explain to your child that you’re frustrated and then show her how you calm down
  • Try to express your feelings, even if they do stem from frustration. These moments can teach your toddler that it’s OK to express her own feelings to you
  • Praise your child when she behaves well; for example, by saying “Good job for putting all your toys in the toy box.”
Monthly milestones

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