18 Months Old

Picture of little girl in mother's dressPARENT'S PAL

It’s a paradox: Even though your child is struggling to become his own person with an identity separate from you, she is still fiercely in love with you. She loves her parents “best of all” and continues to want to be near you whenever she can. You may notice that she is modeling her behavior after yours. At this age, toddlers begin to seriously imitate their parents in posture, in attitude, and in activities. “Helping” with household chores is a favorite game for her. Letting her “work” alongside of you will make her feel good about herself and also enable you to supervise her play. Of course, she won’t set the table as well as you do, but she will take pride in her effort and become more proficient in time!

Even more importantly, being involved with these everyday activities is the single best way for toddlers to learn about their world. Folding the laundry, setting the table, taking out the garbage, picking up the toys — parents don’t enjoy these mundane activities much because we’ve done them so often that we’ve become bored with them. But to a curious toddler, these performances are refreshing, new, fascinating. What better way to learn about colors, textures, sorting and classification than by folding laundry? And when a parent is willing to talk through tasks (use words to describe what is going on), what better way to learn new words?

Parents are often concerned that they should be “teaching” their toddlers. And yet the most important “learning” for any toddler is the pleasure of enjoying everyday experiences with a loving adult who is willing to share those experiences patiently. Toddlers are being bombarded with sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches on a daily basis. When adults talk to them about these sensations in their world, children begin to lay down the “connectors” in their brains for processing this information. Therefore, the most important brain development comes not from flashcards and teaching drills, but from a growing understanding of how the world works.


One of the great pleasures of this age is that your child is able to pretend. He likes to pretend that a block is a car, pushing it along an imaginary road. He has imaginary conversations on the telephone, and loves nothing more than a “tea party” with you, especially if he gets to do the pouring! The development of the abstract thinking skills necessary for him to pretend are an amazing accomplishment for a young child! You should feel very proud when you see your child make this important “leap” to symbolic play.


You are probably seeing a real growth in your toddler’s language ability. She understands simple questions and uses a few words meaningfully, even perhaps putting a couple of words together. You can enhance her language by “stretching” her talk. If she says “Drink,” or “Want drink,” you can respond by saying, “You want a drink of water.” Although she may be frustrated at being unable to say what she means, her receptive language is much more developed. She can follow simple instructions. Be sure to get her attention before telling her to do something by tapping her on the shoulder and looking her in the eyes. And be aware that sometimes eighteen-month-olds understand directions perfectly, but choose to ignore them anyway!


Toddlers can begin to follow a simple story that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. They have come to understand cause and effect: that one event can cause another to happen. Stories set up a situation, then a problem occurs, and in the end the problem is solved. Stories may eventually teach your child how to solve his own problems!

Information adapted from Baby TALK