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Toddler Development Milestones: 1-3 years old

Medically reviewed by John Paul Abrina, MD · Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital

Written by Tracey Romero · Updated Nov 12, 2021

Toddler Development Milestones: 1-3 years old

Theories on Child Development

Theories on child development propose different types of milestones for a child’s growth process. For example, Jean Piaget’s Cognitive Child Development Theory focuses on how children’s thinking or cognitive function passes through four stages. Meanwhile, Lev Vygotsky’s Social Development Theory also has four stages of child development, but it considers both how children think and how they socialize with friends and adults.

UNICEF has four domains that cover a child’s development:

  • Literacy-numeracy. A child needs to learn the alphabet and recognize the basic symbols for numbers.
  • Physical. A child needs the capability to move and play.
  • Social-emotional. A child can play with other children and does not easily get distracted.
  • Learning. A child can follow simple directions and do tasks independently.

Besides the UNICEF classification, the American Academy of Pediatrics also have a more standard and well-known classifications consisting of:

  • Gross Motor
  • Fine Motor
  • Language
  • Cognitive
  • Behavioral
  • Socio-Emotional

These theories are important because they can be used as standards for screening a child’s development. Such standardization is especially important for children in developing countries like the Philippines who are in danger of malnutrition or poor home conditions, which can harm their cognitive, physical, and socio-emotional development. Generally, children who live in poverty have stunted growth or do not perform well in social or educational settings.

Expected Developmental Milestones Per Age

Here are milestones for a child’s development from 1 to 3 years old, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Please note that there are many milestones per age group and they are further subdivided based on the domains (language, cognitive, etc). Here’s a brief rundown of what you can expect from your child’s development.

13-18-month-old developmental milestones

  • Moves independently, including walking, squatting, and helping themselves get dressed
  • Stacks objects
  • Develops a regular sleeping schedule
  • Eats a wider range of foods
  • Uses simple words and follows simple directions

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19-24-month-old developmental milestones

  • Uses and understands more complex words
  • Is able to follow simple commands and directions (e.g., pick up your toy, put it in the box)

2-3-year-old developmental milestones

  • Gets excited when playing with other children and becomes affectionate or concerned over friends even without prompting from adults
  • Displays a wider range of emotions and behavior (e.g., defiant or stubborn behavior due to the need to be more independent)
  • Likes routine and may become upset if scheduled activities are not followed
  • Speaks in phrases and can answer simple questions
  • Understands many simple sentences
  • Starts recognizing shapes
  • Plays make-believe games
  • Performs physical activities like running, climbing, throwing
  • Can handle buttons, door handles, or crayons

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Key Takeaways

It is important to recognize the whole child when evaluating if the child’s development is on track. Physical development covers weight, height, and motor functions. Mental and behavioral standards cover domains like language and social behavior.

But experts emphasize that each child is unique and development is multidimensional. So, your child may have a different growing and development rate. If you are worried about whether your child is hitting their developmental milestones, then consult a pediatrician and share your initial checklist results. Finally, don’t forget to bring your child for their well-baby check-ups, so the doctor can determine if there are issues with their development.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

John Paul Abrina, MD

Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital

Written by Tracey Romero · Updated Nov 12, 2021

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