Baby Development Month-by-Month: Month 20

All babies grow and develop at different rates but here is a rough guide on what to expect from your little explorer at 20 months.

Feeding and sleeping

Your little one will continue to need around 13-14 hours of sleep over a 24-hour period, made up of 11-12 hours at night and an afternoon nap of 1-2 hours. There may be days where her nap is shorter or she skips it altogether – try to include some quiet time into her day where this happens, reading books together or doing some drawing.

Teething of those pesky molars and illness can cause night-time wakefulness at this age, as can a sudden change to her routine, such as staying away from home. When a sleep regression occurs, try to find the root of the problem, and return to her normal routine as soon as possible. If that routine seems to be taking longer every night, try to ensure your little one has enough time to wind down before bed. If the evening summer sun is keeping her awake, invest in some blackout blinds or curtains to make her room darker. Be consistent and she will soon realise her attempts at delaying bedtime are not successful.

Where food is concerned, continue to offer your toddler three meals per day, a couple of healthy snacks, and around 400ml of whole cow’s milk or breastmilk, alongside her vitamin drops. Avoid anything high in salt or sugar and avoid adding these to her meals or offering drinks other than water or milk, which should ideally be offered in an open cup.

If your independent toddler starts to refuse your lovingly prepared meals, try not to offer alternatives as this will create more work for you in the long run and will likely only increase her fussiness. If she is hungry (and genuinely does not hate something that you have offered), she will eat what she needs.


At 20 months old, your child may be saying up to 50 recognisable words, as well as babbling away in what sounds like her own little language at times as she learns the rules of conversation and practices speaking. She should be able to understand simple instructions and knows how to follow them, even if she does not always do so willingly.

Daily tasks such as feeding and getting in the car sea may sometimes feel like a battle. This is because your toddler wants to feel like she is in control over something in her life. Offer plenty of opportunity for your little one to ‘help’ – preparing meals with mum on a little stool, pressing the soap dispenser to wash her hands, and feeding herself, even if it is messy. While this can make simple tasks take a lot longer, you might just avoid that impending meltdown or even spark an early interest in something, such as cooking.

Senses and physical development

Your little explorer will likely be into everything, pressing buttons she perhaps shouldn’t and trying to empty the contents of the cupboard, so keep those eyes peeled.

Most 20-month-olds will be walking and running around unaided by now. Some little ones might also be working on their ability to master climbing those stairs or standing on one leg supported by you or a chair.

Just when you thought teething was over, you may experience some periods of fussiness and broken sleep this month as your little one’s molars pop through.

Playing with your twenty-month-old

Try to work with your toddler’s independent will rather than against it – get her involved in simple chores and activities for example. This is a great time to teach her new skills and builds her sense of pride if she feels like she has helped in some way.

Read together regularly, encouraging your little one to name familiar items in books, while introducing her to new words to support her language development. Pairing the familiar with the unfamiliar can help to boost her confidence if she comes up against a word she does not know. Books which offer the opportunity to count are great to introduce at this age, even if she may not fully understand numbers for several months yet.  

Now is also a good time to start encouraging her to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ during playtime to build her concept of manners. You do not have to insist that she says those words, but model good behaviour and she will soon pick up on it. Sing together regularly and she will likely join in with some familiar nursery rhymes.

Your little one may enjoy drawing with crayons – try drawing straight lines together, naming the different colours as you go.

Playing outside together – over the park or kicking a ball around the garden – is great for everyone’s health and will support the development of her coordination and hopefully burn off some of that relentless energy.

While the above indicates what you can expect to see your toddler doing this month, it is important to keep in mind that all children are unique and will develop at their own pace. If you have any concerns about your baby’s development, talk to your doctor or health visitor.

Jen Dowding, Baby massage and baby yoga instructor, Basking Babies Laindon & Orsett

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