What you need to know

  • Children develop at different rates and there's a wide range of normal.
  • Comparing your child to other tamariki can be stressful and may cause you to worry unnecessarily.  
  • If your child isn’t developing social, communication, or physical skills at the same rate as most other children their age, talk to your Plunket nurse, other Well Child health provider or doctor about your concerns.
  • It's important to detect any developmental issues early, because it helps ensure your child gets the support they need.

Your child's development: one to two years

By 12-15 months old most toddlers: 

  • will hug you 
  • point to body parts, favourite toys or familiar people when you name them 
  • drink from a cup, although there may be some spills 
  • use a spoon 
  • can follow simple instructions (e.g. ‘Please give me the ball’) 
  • try to help when you dress them 
  • hold a crayon and possibly scribbles after you show them how.

By 15-18 months old most toddlers: 

  • have strong bonds with you, your partner, and/or primary caregiver 
  • understand their own name 
  • may be walking on their own 
  • remove some of their clothes to help you get them undressed 
  • sit in a small chair, or try to get into your chair 
  • get a toy from another room when you ask 
  • pick up very small objects – for example, pebbles or crumbs.

By 18-24 months old most toddlers: 

  • begin to have temper tantrums 
  • may have separation anxiety when they are separated from you 
  • start to feed themselves with a spoon or drink from a cup 
  • says two to three word sentences 
  • asks for ‘more’ and says ‘no’ when asked to do something 
  • copies you  
  • can sit on their own in a small chair 
  • walks around carrying larger objects.

Helping your child develop

Here are some simple things you can do to help your child’s development:

  • let them play with other kids so they can learn how to make friends and socialise with other children 
  • encourage everyday skills like using a spoon and putting on their shoes 
  • talk to your child and name and talk about everyday things (kitchen items, food, toys) to develop their language skills 
  • give meaning to your child’s talking by listening and talking back to them 
  • read together, tell stories, sing songs and recite nursery rhymes to encourage their imagination and speech.

Things to watch for

Talk to a health care professional if you notice your child has any of the following issues. 

If your child at 12-15 months: 

  • doesn’t make eye contact with you 
  • doesn’t follow moving objects with their eyes or has an eye that is turned in or out most of the time 
  • isn’t interested in sounds 
  • doesn’t respond to their name when called 
  • doesn’t babble or use single words 
  • doesn’t gesture (e.g. wave or point) 
  • doesn’t seem to understand you 
  • doesn’t show emotions or feelings 
  • can’t stand, even with support 
  • uses one hand a lot more than the other. 

If your child at 15-18 months: 

  • has trouble seeing or hearing things 
  • doesn’t say any single words 
  • can’t follow simple instructions (e.g. ‘please give me the ball’) 
  • doesn’t gesture (e.g. wave or point) 
  • doesn’t like eye contact or cuddles with you 
  • isn’t walking  
  • uses one hand a lot more than the other. 

If your child at 18-24 months: 

  • has trouble seeing or hearing things 
  • doesn’t say any single words 
  • doesn’t gesture (e.g. wave or point) 
  • can’t follow simple instructions (e.g. ‘please give me the ball’) 
  • doesn’t like eye contact or cuddles  
  • isn’t showing feelings 
  • doesn’t copy actions or words  
  • doesn’t play pretend 
  • can’t walk up and down stairs, even with support 
  • can’t run 
  • finds it hard to handle small objects – for example, a pencil or crayon 
  • isn’t scribbling 
  • isn’t walking on their own 
  • uses one hand a lot more than the other.
Child development: the first five years

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