Baby Development Month-by-Month: Month Eighteen

Your toddler will love to play and explore – every room will be a play area! She will be showing more independence by the day and using basic words to communicate her wants and needs.

Here is what you can expect to look forward to this month.

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. You may notice that this afternoon nap starts to get a bit shorter around now, cutting down on your daily time to yourself! This is normal but do try to keep the nap in if possible, to avoid overtiredness in the afternoon and early evening.

Your little one is unlikely to need a big bed for another six months at least but if you do decide to move her out of her cot, a rolled-up towel under the sheet or rail at the edge of the bed can help to prevent any bumps in the night.

At this age, separation anxiety is in full swing as your child learns that you can leave her but not that you will always come back which can cause some upset at bedtimes. This is a normal part of her development and will pass. Try to remain consistent with your usual bedtime routine and provide lots of reassurance that you will return.      

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. Try to encourage her to eat at least five different portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Popping a handful of spinach into a banana and milk smoothie at breakfast can be a great way to incorporate those all-important green leafy vegetables if she is not a fan of eating them. Encourage her to watch and prepare food with you where possible as this can help her to try more things and set up a lifetime of healthy eating habits.  

Communication

At 18 months, your toddler may by able to combine words together into short sentences or phrases, with a vocabulary of around 10-20 words. She may attempt to sing familiar nursery rhymes with you and might chatter away to herself while she plays.

For late talkers, language comprehension will have been ticking along nicely and you will soon have a chatterbox on your hands, even if they vocalise just one or two words at the moment. If you are concerned that your child is not interacting with you through smiles, babbles and that first word, speak to your health visitor or GP.

Around now your child will start to be able to think things through before she does them so some of that baby impulsiveness might start to fade and you may find it easier to reason with her than previously. She may also be showing signs of a developing empathy and kindness for others, bringing you things, and even kissing a sore spot on your hand to make you feel better.  

Senses and physical development

At 18-months-old, most babies are toddling around. If your little one has been walking for a few months, she may be rapidly progressing to running and might be less likely to fall or bounce off the furniture than when she took her first steps. She may also be able to kick a ball, love climbing and be able to walk upstairs, placing both feet on each step as she holds onto your hand.

If your child has always bottom-shuffled her way around, she might be later to take those first tentative steps as she finds shuffling an efficient mode of transport.

Playing with your eighteen-month-old

Your toddler will be constantly on the go and will need to burn off some energy through exercise. Try taking her on short walks without the buggy, dancing together around the kitchen and running around the garden. Blowing bubbles in the garden for your little one to pop is another fun activity to play outside. If the weather is restricting your time outdoors, try setting up an indoor obstacle course out of sofa cushions and soft toys.

As she starts to reduce her daily nap time, you can incorporate quiet time with cuddles on the sofa into your toddler’s routine – reading stories, colouring, or enjoying movie afternoons as a family.

There are lots of things you can do to encourage your little one’s speech development. Continue to read together daily and use this time as an opportunity to discuss emotions and feelings, labelling her smiles as feeling happy for example. Narrate your daily activities together, pointing out objects when you are out and about and encourage her when she says a word correctly and in the correct context. If a word she uses sounds like gibberish but you understand it, say the word correctly back to her to expand her vocabulary and speech. There is no need to correct her explicitly, what is important is that she is joining in and feels understood.

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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