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April 13, 2024

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Toddler Milestones to Watch For

You thought her first steps were a big deal? Just wait. She's getting so big now and your toddler’s milestones have only just begun!

When Sara and Joe King’s daughter, Miley, started walking at 12 months, they cheered her on and started calling her a “big girl.” Soon she grew more and more confident — and fast — so when they discovered her at the top of the stairs she’d climbed — gasp! — they knew even more fun and games were on the way.

Parents get excited with their baby’s first steps, which typically occur within months of the first birthday, according to Caring for Your Baby and Young Child (American Academy of Pediatrics, Sixth Edition, 2014). But the other motor milestones that come up after 12 months can be even more thrilling. Running, climbing, becoming increasingly independent and expanding the capacity for play and learning are all things to look forward to. And even if your child seems to be on a slower track, don’t panic, it doesn’t necessarily mean that she’ll be any less coordinated than other kids. Here’s what you can expect in the coming months.

Pushing & Pulling (12 – 18 months)

Push toys are fun for little ones and will help your toddler get balanced on her feet. Once she’s a confident mover, pulling a toy (like a small cart on a rope) will help her learn to handle objects as she goes. All of that means more independence and freedom which she’ll love!

Climbing (12 – 18 months)

Some toddlers make their parents frantic by teetering up stairs and even onto tables — but that’s all an important part of their physical development now. Encourage her climbing when you’re there to watch. To keep your toddler safe, childproof your home, mounting heavy furniture to walls, keeping chairs pushed into desks and always being there to supervise the explorations.

Running (15 – 16 months)

Your little walker wants to go, go, go, and she may go from walking to running in a matter of days, says Harvey Karp, M.D., best-selling author of The Happiest Toddler on the Block (Bantam, 2008). Inspire sprinting in your child by running after her and then having her chase you. Help her build leg muscles by encouraging her reaching capacity. Play where falling won’t hurt, like on your carpeted floor or on a nice day, outside on a blanket on the grass.

Throwing & Kicking (18 – 26 months)

Balls will fascinate your toddler at this age. Show her how to toss one of the light-weight kinds you can get at grocery or toy stores. Roll it back and forth and cheer her on when you see she’s following your motions. Next, try kicking the ball in her direction. If she has trouble balancing when she lifts her foot to kick it back, have her hold on to a coffee table or Daddy’s hand while she takes aim.

Jumping (24 months)

Around the age of 2, your toddler might start jumping up and down when she gets excited. Encourage her! Play music and start moving together. Jumping comes before dancing, and she’ll enjoy all kinds of music with you that’ll get the bouncing started. Show her some moves: Your child will love trying to imitate you!


“How your child plays, learns, speaks and acts offers important clues about your child’s development,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Developmental milestones are things most children can do by a certain age.” The CDC offers this checklist for important physical developmental milestones for ages 3 – 5. You are encouraged to check off the items that your child reaches and discuss with your pediatrician those that are left unchecked.


  • Climbs well
  • Runs easily
  • Pedals a tricycle (three-wheel bike)
  • Walks up and down stairs, one foot on each step


  • Hops and stands on one foot up to two seconds
  • Catches a bounced ball most of the time
  • Pours, cuts with supervision, and mashes own food


  • Stands on one foot for 10 seconds or longer
  • Hops; may be able to skip
  • Can do a somersault
  • Uses a fork and spoon and sometimes a table knife
  • Can use the toilet on her own
  • Swings and climbs

Source: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,

About the Author

Erica Katz

Erica Katz is a freelance writer.