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Toddler playing

You might be surprised at how quickly your baby is changing and learning new things. Read our pointers on what they might be doing.


By the time they reach 18 months, most children will have started to walk. Children at this age are discovering that the world is their playground and part of their increased mobility might include running and climbing on furniture, too.

You could begin to see the fruits of all the information they’ve been steadily accumulating behind the scenes, and their vocabulary of simple words should increase. Some toddlers begin putting two words together at this age and making simple sentences like ‘new shoes’ or ‘teddy gone’.

Children develop at very different rates, so don’t worry if they aren’t doing all these things yet. Just enjoy with them their fascination with their new abilities to explore and communicate (WHO Multicentre Growth Reference Study Group, 2006; NHS, 2016).


As they approach the year and a half mark, most children will have grown out of baby food altogether and should eat smaller portions of non-processed adult foods (First Steps Nutrition, 2016).

They might learn to use a spoon or fork themselves, though they will probably make a mess. Go ahead and let them try for themselves, even if food gets everywhere.

It might look like more has ended up around their face than in their mouth, but a good amount will probably have gone in. Just have a cloth at hand to clean up afterwards.

Toddlers don’t need low-fat products to eat and drink, even if these might seem healthier. Children need a certain amount of fat in their diet, so always give them full-cream rather than skimmed or semi-skimmed milk at this age (NHS, 2018). There is no need to avoid products like butter or yoghurt, and oil-rich foods such as avocado are very nutritious, so don’t hold back.


Sleep varies greatly from child to child, but most babies still need a nap at this stage. They’re learning and developing so much that at night time, they need to sleep for about 10 to 12 hours.

At bedtime, keeping to a routine makes the process more enjoyable and relaxing for you and your child, and helps lessen any resistance. This could include brushing your child’s teeth and reading a bedtime story together. Loads of books are suitable for this age group.

Some children might even enjoy singing songs or nursery rhymes before bed. Though if that’s not for you, do whatever both you and your child find relaxing.

Get your partner or other family members to help if possible. It’s a lovely opportunity for them to spend one-on-one together, and takes the pressure off you to do it every night after a busy day.


Toddlers at this age are constantly on the move, so try and channel some of that energy into kicking around a soft ball or climbing onto a ride-on toy car or horse.

They’ll be wanting to explore everything, so put child-friendly objects in low-down drawers and tempt them away from tipping over the real bin with a basket of scrunched up paper instead. It might just work…

Taking care of yourself

Toddlers can be very exhausting. Your child might seem to spend all their time running around, climbing onto everything, and throwing their toys (and whatever they can get hold of) onto the floor. You’ll probably have disruption and chaos on your hands.

Children of this age have no clear understanding of the difference between right and wrong. That means there is no point in getting angry with them when they do create chaos.

You can gently tell them they shouldn’t do whatever they’ve done. Yet don’t expect them to remember from one mealtime to the next the difference between ‘good’ behaviour and ‘bad’ behaviour.

Children learn best from example. So you can show them the way to behave by demonstrating the kind of behaviour you’d like to see from them, such as saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.

Don’t beat yourself up if you’re worn out. Try to get your partner and family to help whenever they can – even if that’s just the evenings and weekends – to give you a break.

Further information

Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.

You might find attending one of our Early Days groups helpful as they give you the opportunity to explore different approaches to important parenting issues with a qualified group leader and other new parents in your area.

Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.

Click here for more information on tackling toddler challenges.

Belsky Jay, Nezworski Teresa M. (2015) Clinical Implications of Attachment. Routledge. [Accessed 1st October 2017].

First Steps Nutrition. (2018) Good food choices and portion sizes for 1-4 year olds. Available from:… [Accessed 1st October 2017].

Ma L, Lillard AS. (2017) The evolutionary significance of pretend play: Two-year-olds’ interpretation of behavioral cues. Learn Behav;45(4):441-448. Available from: [Accessed 1st October 2017].

Murray L. (2014) The Psychology of Babies. London: Constable & Robinson [Accessed 1st October 2017].

NHS Choices. (2015) Drinks and cups for babies and toddlers. Available from: [Accessed 1st October 2017].

NHS Choices. (2016) Birth to five development timeline. Available from: [Accessed 1st October 2017].

NHS Choices. (2018) Milk and dairy in your diet. Available from: [Accessed 1st October 2017].

WHO Multicentre Growth Reference Study Group. (2016) WHO Motor development study: Windows of achievement for six gross motor development milestones. Acta Paediatrica Supplement (450):86-95. Available from: [Accessed 1st October 2017].

Further reading

NHS Choices. (2015) Foods to avoid giving your baby. Available from: [Accessed 1st October 2017].

NHS Choices. (2015) How to potty train. Available from: [Accessed 1st October 2017].

NHS Choices. (2017) Your baby’s health and development reviews. Available from: [Accessed 1st October2017].

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