Milestones: birth to four years

Children aged one to two years

This is a year of firsts - first steps, first words, first tantrums. Most children are moving freely, running, climbing and exploring. They are self-centred and see everything and everyone as being there for them alone.

Relationships and feelings

By 18 months babies usually:

  • like to be cuddled
  • show different feelings and can easily move from happy to sad to angry
  • are afraid of strangers
  • show a strong attachment to you or a main carer
  • become upset when you leave - and may be clingy when you return.

Talk to a community nurse or your doctor if your toddler does not:

  • show preference for people they know well
  • seem to like cuddles.

By two years babies usually:

  • play near other children, but not yet with them
  • are unable to share or take turns.


By 12 months babies can usually:

  • pull themselves up on furniture
  • side step around furniture whilst holding on
  • push a small trolley along in a straight line.

By 18 months they can usually:

  • walk - at first with feet wide apart, until their balance improves
  • walk downstairs while holding your hand
  • fall over if they try to run
  • climb on to low furniture
  • place objects - like three small blocks - on top of each other
  • use a spoon right side up
  • start to scribble with a pencil
  • turn pages of a book
  • try to kick a large ball if shown how
  • pick up small objects.

Talk to a community nurse or your doctor if your toddler is:

  • not yet walking
  • not holding a spoon or is not able to get food into their mouth
  • not picking up small objects.

By two years babies usually:

  • explore more widely, open doors and drawers and push buttons
  • run fast without falling over when turning corners or stopping
  • squat steadily to pick up objects
  • bring a small chair to the table and sit on the chair at the table
  • walk backwards pulling a toy or trolley
  • get up without using their hands.

Talk to a community nurse or your doctor if your toddler is not walking steadily by two years, or is limping.

Learning to talk

By 18 months babies usually:

  • babble loudly to themselves and others
  • listen to what is said and understand a few things such as ‘no’ or ‘stop’
  • point to one or two body parts
  • follow simple instructions like ‘please get your shoes’
  • identify familiar objects when they are named
  • know and use eight or more words in addition to ‘mama’ and ‘dada’ - even if you are the only one who understands them.

Talk to a community nurse or your doctor if your toddler is not:

  • babbling a lot
  • starting to use some meaningful words
  • listening when people speak to them.

By two years babies can usually:

  • use at least 50 recognisable words
  • listen to things that are said to them
  • start to put two words together such as ‘daddy car’
  • remember two things at a time such as ‘please get the ball and bring it to Daddy’
  • join in with songs and nursery rhymes
  • point to six body parts
  • babble while playing, with a few recognisable words in the babble
  • tell you most of what they want with words, such as ‘outside’, ‘milk’, ‘want more’ or ‘go away’.

Talk to a community nurse or your doctor if your toddler:

  • is mostly silent while playing
  • does not respond when people talk to them
  • does not point to objects when named
  • uses signs, grunts or gestures but not words when they want something.

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Last updated: 11 March 2016

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