Red Flags in a Toddler's Behavior

Children tend to reach milestones at different times, so a slight behavioral delay is usually not a cause for concern 1. However, if your toddler is lagging too far behind her peers, some red flags will appear to help you determine whether interventions are necessary.


A 2-year-old who doesn't speak at least 15 words or use two-word sentences might be experiencing language delays. Pay careful attention to your toddler's speech. If it is extremely loud, soft, nasal, high-pitched or monotone, you might want to set up an evaluation with a speech therapist. By age 3, a child should have an extensive vocabulary and be speaking in sentences. She should understand and be able to follow simple commands such as "Get your shoes and coat." If your child has any of those signs, contact your pediatrician for a referral to evaluate further.

Motor Skills

Toddlers are naturally active and on the go. If you child struggles to walk, run or jump by age 3, she is in need of further evaluation. A child who frequently falls or struggles to use the stairs should be evaluated. A toddler should be able to manipulate toys such as building a tower of blocks or throwing a ball. A toddler who is unable to perform simple tasks such as zip a zipper or pull off pants might need an referral to an occupational therapist.

Social Skills

Toddlers are social creatures, curious about the world around them. A child who shows little to no interest in other children or toys might be suffering from a developmental delay. If your toddler screams, cries or throws a tantrum when in a social situation, consider contacting her doctor. A toddler who seems particularly bothered by social situations should be evaluated by her pediatrician or referred to a specialist for further evaluation.

Cognitive Skills

A child should, by age 3, engage in different types of pretend play, both on his own and with peers and adults. Your toddler should demonstrate interest in the world around him and "why" questions should be heard often during this developmental period. A child should be able to draw simple shapes such as a circle or square by copying your example. If your child is not engaging in pretend play or attempting to copy simple shapes on a piece of paper, further evaluation might be necessary to rule out any type of developmental problems.