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Your toddler 1-2 years

Your toddler 1-2 years

At this stage your toddler is becoming much more mobile, is talking more and is trying to be more independent. They are also beginning to know what they want and what they don’t want!

Your toddler will start to express their likes and dislikes. They may wriggle away when you change their nappy or throw their dinner on the floor. This behaviour is quite normal - your toddler is becoming more independent and is learning about how to manage their emotions.  

For every challenging moment there will be loads of wonderful moments. Try to enjoy and celebrate your toddler's new skills.

The following information provides information about the stages of your toddler’s development and some tips for what you can do to support your toddler. Your toddler may do some things earlier or later than described here.  

There is more detailed information about your baby’s development in the ‘Bump, Baby & Beyond’  book (External link). This also has information about feeding your toddler, teething, vaccinations and making your home safe. If you are worried about your child’s development – ask your GP or health visitor.

Between 12-18 months your toddler may:

  • Be walking, running and climbing;
  • start to say words and understand them;
  • find their feelings hard to handle, which may lead to some tantrums;
  • begin to feed themselves; and
  • enjoy playing and building with bricks

Between 18 months – 2 years your toddler may:

  • understand the word ‘no’ but are unable to control their impulses yet;
  • start kicking and throwing balls;
  • know a range of single words and start putting them together to make sentences;
  • get cross when they can’t do something for themselves; and
  • begin to enjoy pretend play like talking on a toy telephone.

Tips to encourage and support your toddler's development 

  • Give your toddler lots of cuddles, attention and praise. Give them individual attention whenever you can. 
  • Give your toddler lots of praise when they are doing something positive
  • Keep things the same as much as possible. It will help your toddler feel more secure if you have a routine. Try to feed, bath and put your toddler to bed at similar times each day. Find the routine that works for your family.
  • Try to model the social behaviour you want your toddler to adopt. For example saying, ”please” and “thank you” when you talk to them and praising them when they share or help you. 
  • Avoid too much television and other devices like tablets or smart phones. These can be entertaining for your toddler, but limit their use to no more than half an hour each day.
  • Label your toddler’s feelings when you observe them, for example when you see that they are happy, sad, cross, disappointed or frustrated. It will help them learn the word for that feeling or emotion so they are able to learn to express how they feel later.
  • Talk about the things you see and the things you do. When you’re on the bus, in the car, walking to the shops or in the supermarket point out the things you see. 
  • Allow and encourage your toddler to feed themselves. You could cut food into strips or fingers and let your child use their hands rather than a spoon or fork. In the early days of learning to eat, your child will find this easier to manage.
  • Give simple choices. “Do you want an apple or a banana?”  “Do you want the car or the train?"
  • Ignore minor irritating behaviour or distract them with a new activity, toy or game.
  • Try to stay calm during tantrums. When you are calm, it helps your toddler to recover more quickly. Try to ignore the tantrum unless your child isn’t safe. 
  • Plan Ahead! Put things away which are dangerous or could break. Put up a safety gate on the stairs and latches on drawers and cupboards. This will keep your toddler safe and you won’t have to keep saying no.
  • Share a book  (External link). You don’t have to read all the words, you could just name the pictures. There are ideas for songs and books on the Words for Life (External link) and Read on. Get on (External link) or at your local library.
  • Play! Share a cup of pretend tea with a plastic tea set or build a tower with blocks. Give your toddler toys with knobs and buttons to press (this will spare the television!). 
  • Don’t expect or force your toddler to share with other children as they aren’t developmentally ready. It will take your toddler time to learn to share and this is normal. Encourage them by praising them whenever it does occur or distracting them while they wait their turn. 
  • Dads matter too. Research has shown that Dads have a big impact on their child’s development. Getting involved in daily activities like dressing, playing, bathing and reading create lots of opportunities to encourage your toddler’s development.

What doesn’t work

  • Getting angry with your toddler - your toddler doesn’t have much self control yet. If you respond calmly you will teach your toddler self-control. 
  • Never bite or hit your toddler. Some toddlers bite or hit when they are angry or frustrated. Don’t bite or hit your toddler back. This will hurt them and may make them believe this behaviour is okay. 
  • Don’t punish your toddler’s mistakes and accidents or criticise your toddler when they get it wrong. Your toddler is still learning. Praise them and encourage them instead.
  • NEVER shake your toddler. Shaking can damage your toddler’s brain and the injuries can last forever.

If you’re feeling frustrated or angry, put your toddler somewhere safe for a short time (for example, a cot). Take some time out until you feel calmer. Or put your toddler in their push chair and go for a walk to let off steam. Or ask someone else to look after your toddler for a while.

It’s OK to ask for help. If you are worried about feeling stressed, low or depressed talk to your health visitor or GP.  

The connections between your toddler’s brain cells are developing constantly. New learning experiences ‘feed’ your toddler’s brain and help it to grow.

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This website has been developed by the Welsh Government with the help of a range of organisations and professionals. Every child and every parent is unique. This website gives parents ideas so they can make decisions about what can work for their child and family. It aims to help parents to build a positive, healthy relationship with their children.

About Parenting. Give it time.