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What are the key toddler milestones?

What are the key toddler milestones?

Congratulations on arriving to toddlertown. We all know that this is a time of rapid growth, but what exactly are those key toddler milestones? What should we look out for and celebrate?  

Thanks to Michelle Tangeman for walking us through the key milestones between 18-23 months. Behaviour analyst and creator of the Thriving Toddler, she’s got all the details you’re looking for.  

Following one-step directions 

At this age range, you’ll notice that your little one is more receptive and aware of their surrounding environment. They will begin to master simple questions or one-step directions—think, ‘can I have this toy?’ or ‘come here.’ While simple, this is a big step and means your bub has transitioned from sounds to words to sentences.  

Sorting toys 

This one usually requires some parent participation, so when your little one can sort their toys and put them in piles (prompted to do so or not) it is a great step.  

Learning to relinquish items 

Ever taken your toddlers favourite toy off them? Well, cue the tantrum. When your little one learns to relinquish items without argument, they are making great progress.  

Exploring running and ball-kicking 

We’re big fans of getting out and enjoying nature—in fact, we believe mother earth is the greatest provider of all. It’s a happy day when you toddler gets out into the sunshine, and even better when they grow confident enough to run and kick some balls around. How cute!  

Making adorable animal sounds 

Don’t underestimate this one. Learning to mimic what they’ve heard is not only adorable, but also a great milestone.  

Joint attention and referencing 

This is a big one. And by this, Michelle gave us a great example: Imagine you’re outside and playing with your child. You look up and see an airplane flying by and point this out to your toddler. When they meet your gesture, they’ve mastered how to reference both you and the sky (to look for that plane.) This one takes some focus, so it’s truly great development.   

Asking yes or no questions 

When your little one is able to seek out information with yes or no questions, they’re making great strides not only with their social skills but also with language development.  

Mastering cause and effect  

When children notice how their actions can change a result, they’re starting to understand cause and effect. They’ll learn that the way they engage with people or different objects changes the outcome. If you want to solidify this one further, you can even try some fun activities. Bathtime is a great way to do this: what happens if I move slowly in the water? If I make a big splash? They’ll notice how their body is interacting with their surroundings, producing different outcomes.  

Embarking on make-believe adventures 

This is a wonderful sign of their developing imagination. Maybe your little makes up skits, maybe they venture into faraway lands, maybe they talk with their teddy bears.  

Showing empathy by comforting others 

If you’ve noticed that your little one comforts others who seem distressed, they’re developing strong social skills and empathy. Ways you can encourage this further include talking about feelings, using pretend play and reading stories about feelings. They’ll become more familiar with different emotional states and how to respond to them.  

Expressing frustration when not understood

Remember that temper tantrums are a form of communication. If your child expresses frustration or distress when they feel they aren’t being understood, this is completely normal. Maybe they throw their toys and stomp off -- maybe they yell. Remember that this is an important stage of development and will cease once they further cultivate their language skills.  

As you navigate the tumultuous time of toddlerhood, remember to celebrate all the baby steps. Your bub is becoming a little person, and it couldn’t be more exciting. Thanks again to Michelle for sitting down with us to share her expertise. Want to connect with her? She can be reached at 


LittleOak has been nourishing children for many years and feeds millions of infants, babies and children across the globe each and every day, in countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. In the US, we're proud to have our FDA compliant Toddler Milk available for families. 


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