Developmentally Appropriate Behaviors for an 18-Month-Old Child

By Catherine Kohn
An 18-month-old child is becoming a person in her own right.
An 18-month-old child is becoming a person in her own right.

An 18-month-old child is at a key stage of development: not quite a baby anymore, and not quite a toddler. Knowing what behavior is appropriate for your child will enable you to guide and maximize her progress, and prepare you to seek help if she appears to be falling behind in a specific developmental area.

Verbal Skills

An 18-month-old child is just beginning to use words for expression.
An 18-month-old child is just beginning to use words for expression.

Language development increases rapidly at this age. By 18 months, your child should be able to say 10 to 20 understandable words; ask for his mother or father; say “hi,” “bye” and "please" (with reminders); and ask for things by pointing or using single words.

Social Skills

An 18-month-old child should interact directly with family members, and show them affection.
An 18-month-old child should interact directly with family members, and show them affection.

An 18-month-old child is becoming a more social being. A typical child will demonstrate this progress by looking directly at the person speaking to her; expressing frustrations through words and actions; and showing affection toward others.

Intellectual Development

Toddlers love to listen to stories and look at pictures.
Toddlers love to listen to stories and look at pictures.

At this age, children normally spend a great deal of time exploring their environment. Your child should be able to listen to stories; identify objects in picture books; ask or look for objects that are not present; laugh at silly things; solve problems using trial and error; follow simple one-step directions; imitate others; and display a sense of ownership by using the word “my” to identify people and possessions.

Physical Development

Stacking blocks encourages physical coordination.
Stacking blocks encourages physical coordination.

Children at this age love to move and test their limits. This is the age for pulling things out of drawers, pulling off socks and hats and dumping toys all over the floor. Your child should be able to use a spoon and cup with help; sit on small chairs without help; run (but without a great deal of coordination); help you to dress him by holding out his arms and legs; squat to pick up toys, and stand back up without falling; stack two to four blocks; and scribble with crayons.

Play Recommendations

Play helps children learn and grow.
Play helps children learn and grow.

University of Maryland pediatricians suggest that the best way to promote a child’s physical, emotional and intellectual development is to allow her to help around the house; encourage play involving building and creativity; and read lots of books together. You should also control the amount of television your child watches, and provide a safe outdoor play space.

Warning Signs

If you are concerned about your child's development, see your pediatrician.
If you are concerned about your child's development, see your pediatrician.

Observe your 18-month-old child’s behavior carefully, and be alert to possible signs of developmental delays. Consult your child’s health care provider if he is unable to stand or walk alone, kick a ball or understand short requests; lacks interest in feeding, objects, dressing or people; plays with toys using random motions, such as simply dropping or banging them; or can't speak any clear words.

About the Author

Catherine Kohn is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience. She holds a BA in writing from the University of South Florida and is a certified elementary and secondary teacher. She has taught preschool, elementary, middle and high school. At Morris Communications she was special sections editor, education reporter, news editor and features editor. She is also an award-winning newspaper layout designer.