Child Development 6 - One to Two Years

(Content revised 12/2019)

After the first birthday, your child enters the toddler stage. Being able to walk and talk a little, he becomes more independent and begins to try out his own self-control. You will find him testing your limits and discovering his own. Clashes between his wills and yours can be expected to occur. He is not intentionally trying to be mischievous, but simply trying to explore what he can do given his developmental capabilities. Remember that he counts on you to show him what is allowed and what is not, and will look to you frequently for reassurance and security. During this time, he will also show increasing signs of possessiveness with belongings and people close to him.

By the end of this period, your baby will be able to:


  • Use walking as the usual means of mobility by around 18 months, although she may look unsteady on her legs
  • Walk alone well by 2 years
  • Squat down to pick up object from the floor without falling
  • Walk with quick steps or even run
  • Carry or pull along toys while walking
  • Climb up and down furniture without assistance
  • Walk up and down stairs holding onto support
  • Try to kick ball

Hand and finger skills

  • Build towers of four or more bricks/blocks
  • Turn several pages of book at a time
  • Turn knobs and unscrew bottle cap
  • Put pegs into holes
  • Scribble with crayon
  • Show tendency to use one hand

Language development

  • Point to body parts in response to naming
  • Recognise names of familiar people and objects
  • Follow simple instructions like "give me the ball" without gestured cues
  • Say single words, mainly nouns first and then verbs
  • Start combining words e.g. "Mummy eat", "want cookies"

Cognitive Development

  • Begin to sort objects by shape and size
  • Enjoy pretend play, initially involving only himself (e.g. feeding himself with a spoon), then gradually involving others (e.g. feeding Mummy or a doll)
  • Start learning to solve problems with trial and error

Social and emotional development

  • Being self-centred
  • Enjoy watching and being around other children, usually older ones
  • Show possessiveness and compete for toys
  • Use gestures (e.g. pointing) or speech to show his needs and to direct your attention to his interest
  • Learn to play with others in an interactive way (towards the latter half of this period)
  • Imitate behaviours and activities of others, especially adults and older kids

Self care skills

  • Try feeding self with spoon and drinking from a cup
  • Take off shoes
  • Start indicating toilet needs

Stimulating young child's development

Toddlers at this age need supervision and a safe environment to explore in. Spend time with your child to encourage and guide her, and show her affection. Try to develop a consistent routine. Establish safety "rules" in simple terms that your child can understand. Encourage independent play by providing a wide variety of toys. As toddlers are great imitators, set a good example in your speech and behaviour for your child to learn from.

What you can do:
  • Avoid screen time with various electronic media for your child
  • Let your child spend at least 3 hours a day in a variety of physical activities spread throughout the day. Let her explore and practise different motor skills e.g. by bringing her to the park with outdoor facilities like slides, swings etc.
  • Avoid restraining your baby in a stroller, high chair or carrier for more than 1 hour at a time.
  • Take every opportunity to talk to each other
  • Read baby picture books and simple story books together
  • Sing and listen to nursery rhymes together
Toys that you can choose:
  • Balls of various sizes for kicking and throwing
  • Push and pull along toys
  • Building blocks
  • Crayons and paper for scribbling
  • Simple shape sorters and pegboards
  • Toys that encourage pretend play. Toys like dolls, toy animals, toy phone, kitchen sets and plastic household utensils are good for both boys and girls.
  • Musical instruments e.g. toy piano and drum etc.

The above information only gives you a general idea of the changes expected as your child grows. Each child is unique and wide variations in the pace of development are often normal. Don't be alarmed if your baby takes a slightly different timing or fails to attain certain ability at some stage. It may only signal a need for more attention.

Discuss with doctors or nurses if

By the end of 18-month, your child

  • Cannot walk alone
  • Does not play meaningfully but engages in throwing and mouthing of toys
  • Seldom look into the eyes of her carer
  • Does not show interest in playing with her carers, prefers to play on her own
  • Does not understand names of familiar people or objects, e.g. Grannie, cup, milk
  • Does not point with finger to indicate needs
  • Speak no words yet

Discuss with doctors or nurses if, by the end of this period, your child

  • Cannot walk steadily
  • Does not understand names of common household objects or body parts
  • Does not use gestures or words to draw your attention onto things/events of her interest
  • Can only speak in single words
  • Does not show interest in playing with her carers, prefers to play on her own
  • Does not participate in pretend play such as playing toy tea set
  • Appears not hear or see well

If you have any concerns or queries, discuss with nurses and doctors in any MCHC or your family doctor / paediatrician.

We have a series of "Happy Parenting!" workshops and leaflets for expectant parents, parents of infants and preschool children. Please contact our healthcare personnel for information.