What’s Normal for an 18-month old?

Physical/Thrill seeking behavior:

  • running through the house
  • going as fast as possible
  • squealing with joy
  • bangs, dumps out toys, runs, splashes, babbles happily
  • throwing balls, stomping, climbing all over everything
  • cackles with laughter; volume up!


  • easily distractable by noises
  • doesn’t finish activities s/he starts
  • sitting still almost impossible
  • comforts quickly most of the time
  • surprised by loud noises like sirens or machinery
  • can be redirected to more appropriate things most of the time

Love of Learning

  • exploring behavior: new toys, wrapped presents, etc.
  • a 5-10 minute attention span with something they like
  • beginning to scribble
  • pays focused attention when learning something
  • notices a mess, spill, or something “not right”
  • takes joy in discovery, getting something right
  • may understand many more things than is able to accomplish (puzzles, stacking correctly, using legos)
  • following one-step directions
  • starts to understand/get excited about specific trips, errands, etc.
  • may be able to put on own shoes or shorts
  • understands/may initiate taking a bath, getting dressed, toileting, independent skills better (though help still needed)
  • starts to notice new textures like gloves, socks, tags, etc.


  • starting to enjoy some close friends or entertaining strangers
  • joins in other children at playground or nursery
  • enjoys affection, tickles, physical games
  • looks to parent for approval/attention
  • comes to get help from caregiver, sometimes tries to “explain”
  • smiles, acknowledges, waves, greets, etc.
  • acknowledges name or being spoken to
  • still needs attention when you are busy (oblivious)
  • probably not able to play alone for long

Beginning Fears

  • clinginess may still be an issue
  • beginning fears (vacuum, elevator, high places, tunnel, storms, dark, bug)
  • learning to either embrace or beware of new places, people, crowds, etc
  • able to brush off most hurts, but pays more attention to them
  • learns some safety procedures from a previous dangerous experience (beginning awareness of limits)
  • easier to settle down for bedtimes, but some disappointment, fears, or dream behavior may start

Moral/Emotional Understanding

  • is sad over something broken or lost
  • understands No; may be sensitive to disapproval
  • understands some of the rules and makes guilty faces when testing
  • may show more discrimination to most/least favorite movies, toys, colors, clothes, locations etc.
  • protests leaving places where having fun
  • beginning to follow rules when asked
  • beginning empathy when others are sad
  • may offer to share or give
  • can learn to take turns but has a hard time waiting
  • may understand expectations like finishing dinner to get dessert
  • beginning tantrum or breakdown behavior
  • beginning jealousy behavior
  • starting to follow requests when doing something disobedient
  • protesting or mild anger when offended, disappointed
  • frustration more evident, appropriate
  • tearful behavior more predictable
  • clear tiredness signals
  • may be able to calm self down after being mildly upset
  • emerging “do it myself” behavior; may give up stroller or being held
  • may decide to try harder or give up when something is hard

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