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Development and Milestones for Toddlers (1 - 3 Years)

mom holding smiling toddler son

Development and Milestones for Toddlers (1 - 3 Years)

Three toddler girls outside in sandbox playing

From Ages 1 to 3 Your Child Has Many Developmental Milestones

From ages one to three, your child has many developmental milestones. These milestones are skills like showing greater independence and recognizing themselves in pictures or a mirror. It’s also things like putting words together, talking in sentences and exploring new objects and people around them. Each of these milestones are things most children do by a certain age. They cover a wide range of behaviors like playing, learning, speaking, and moving (from walking to jumping to running).

80% of the Brain Develops by Age 3

80% of your child’s brain develops by age three. It’s during these years that your child’s brain begins to develop memory, language, thinking and reasoning skills. They learn by imitating the behavior of others, especially adults and older children. It can also be a trying time, as they begin to show defiant behavior and set out to explore the world around them. 

toddler holding book with mom smiling behind him supporting book
Father playing with bubbles with daughter

Steps Milestone Checklists

The small steps you take during these first three years make a big difference in your child’s future success. The Steps Milestone Checklists for toddlers contain things most toddlers do by this age in the areas of:

  • Social & emotional development
  • Language & communications development
  • Cognitive development (learning, thinking, problem solving)
  • Movement & physical development
  • Plus, things to watch out for that might need a doctor’s attention

Toddler Milestone Checklists

toddler playing with globe

18-Month Checklist

Milestones include:

  • Says single words
  • May walk up steps and run
  • Can help undress themselves
  • Drinks from a cup
Get 18-Month Checklist
toddler playing with blocks

2-Year Checklist

Milestones include: 

  • Says sentences with 2 to 4 words
  • Begins to sort shapes and colors
  • Plays simple make-believe games
  • Stands on tiptoe or kicks a ball
Get 2-Year Checklist
toddler playing on play place

3-Year Checklist

Milestones include: 

  • Follows instructions with 2 or 3 steps
  • Can name most familiar things
  • Climbs well and runs easily
  • Can work toys with moving parts
Get 3-Year Checklist

Milestones App

At this stage of life, a child's development changes greatly from month to month. For an easy way to keep track of when your baby should reach certain milestones, download the free Center for Disease Control Milestones Tracker app. The App also includes activities and learning tips for each age and an area where you can keep track of all your doctor appointments

Get Milestone Tracker App
toddler walking away from mom
dad reading to two kids with kids wearing paper crowns

Children Develop at Different Rates

Although most children learn to do things and reach specific milestones by a certain age, not all do. Different children develop at different rates.

If you suspect your child is behind, has a development delay or physical issues that hold him back, don’t delay. The sooner you get help, the faster your child will be able to cope with whatever challenge he faces. 

Early On

Early On Michigan can help you give your child the best chance for success. Find out more. Call 1-800-EARLY-ON (1-800-327-5966) and we’ll work with you to evaluate your child's current development and figure out the next steps.

Visit Early On
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Make Play Educational

Playing is one of the ways toddlers learn. The Steps Play is More than Fun & Games infographic has ways to help you make the most of play.

Get Play Tips

More Resources for Parents

Get Positive Parenting Tips

Find positive things you can do as a parent broken out for every age group – in English and Spanish from the Center for Disease Control.

Visit PBS Parents

Find shows and videos to watch, play activities, ways to help your child thrive, ways to learn and grow at each milestone and more.

Find Development Resources

Find videos, milestone checklists, Milestone Tracker mobile app, view the Milestones in Action photo and video library, and more from the Center for Disease Control.

Get Pathways Development Tips

Find resources by different age groups, videos for parents, a baby games calendar, baby’s first year milestone guide and more from