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Developmental Milestones: 12 months to 3 years

Let’s look at the typical phases your child goes through during this developmentally busy stage of childhood.

Your child’s brain is developing at a rapid pace

In early childhood, your child’s brain is being stimulated constantly by all the new experiences. This creates millions of neural connections that lay the foundations for learning, health and behaviour.

Your relationship with your child is one of the most important experiences in your child’s environment, as you have the ability to shape the world around them. 

Through loving, nurturing and supporting your child throughout the following phases, you’ll be able to help them grow and learn a little more each day.

12-15 months

At this stage, your child is starting to develop a sense of identity by using gestures to communicate, and vocalising rather than crying for attention. The word “no” starts to become something they understand in addition to a sense of “me” and “mine”. Your child may display the following behaviours throughout this stage: 

Standing alone with limited support

Scribbling with a crayon using their palm

Picking things up with their finger and thumb

Using building blocks to make a small tower

Eating with a spoon and drinking from a cup with limited support

Bending down to pick up objects and standing back up without falling

15-18 Months

Using words and gestures becomes more common at this stage, as children are able to point to pictures of common objects (such as a dog), and know where things are or belong. They also start to understand the difference between “you” and “me”. They might: 

  • Run very stiffly
  • Attempt to kick 
  • Help with little household tasks, e.g. putting their toys away
  • Learn to walk backwards
  • Start to climb on furniture 
  • Be able to remove their clothing by themselves (or with limited support)

18-24 months

Children’s vocabulary and sense of self increases throughout this stage.

Children are able to name common pictures of objects. They match colours frequently but use colour names randomly.

They may start to understand the difference between “self” and “others” but are still quite self-centred. They also tend to mimic real-life situations during play. Other abilities they might have developed include:

  • Walking up and down stairs whilst holding on to the railing
  • Turning pages of a book
  • Building bigger towers than they were able to at 12-15 months
  • Dressing and undressing themselves (with help from an adult)
  • Washing and drying their hands
  • Helping out with simple household tasks, e.g. baking or sweeping
  • Completing more detailed tasks such as putting beads or pasta on a piece of string

2-3 years

By two years of age, children learn to avoid simple hazards such as stoves, stairs, etc. Their sense of identity is quite well-established in terms of name, gender and place in the family. 

They also show a keen interest in learning at this age, often asking, “What’s that?”

They freely use the word “I” but still refer to themselves by their first name. 

At this age, your child may:

  • Jump in place with both feet
  • Be able to put on most clothing and dress themselves (while an adult supervises)
  • Steer and push toys
  • Carry a breakable object
  • Use zippers, buttons and buckles
  • Alternate feet when climbing the stairs or pedalling a tricycle 
  • Start to grasp a pencil (rather than using their palm or finger and thumb)

How you can support your child’s emotional and social development

Children’s development is greatly influenced by the quality of the relationships between themselves and their parents. We’ve listed some emotional and social support methods below that might help you and your child throughout their key development stages. 


  • Accept and acknowledge your child’s emotions
  • Help your child to put feelings into words, e.g. “It seems like you are feeling sad right now.”
  • Encourage your child to talk about situations that might make them feel certain ways, e.g. excited, happy, angry or worried 
  • Praise your child when they remain in control and don’t lose their temper 
  • Help your child separate feelings from behaviour, e.g. “I know you’re feeling angry but it is not ok to push others.” 


  • Model the social behaviour you want to encourage and allow siblings to also model this behaviour for your child
  • Ask your child to help out with little tasks and accept their offers of help
  • Celebrate successes through positive reinforcement and encouragement but also recognise struggles and see them as opportunities for growth
  • Help your child to understand their own feelings and those of others
  • Provide lots of opportunities for children to play with others 

Have you got questions about your child’s development?

This content was last reviewed 21/07/2020

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