• The Complete Guidelines
  • Tip Sheet

19 to 36 MONTHS

Toddlers are developing independence and gaining a strong sense of self-identity. They increasingly insist on working on tasks by themselves and exerting control over their environment. They like to explore, test, and figure out what is happening in the world around them. They have a growing interest in books, art, toys, and other activities. Although they will spend the majority of their time playing alone or with adults, they will engage in parallel play with peers. Their ability to communicate continues to increase, as does their understanding of the world around them.

For some specific examples of these indicators within each domain and what you can do to support children, visit the Parents & Caregivers section for 19-36 months.

Download the Guidelines for children 19-36 months for complete descriptions of specific behaviors and suggested supports.

  • Perceptual Development: The developing ability to become aware of the social and physical environment through the senses.
  • Quickly and easily combine the information received from the senses to inform the way they interact with the environment.
  • Gross Motor: The developing ability to move the large muscles.
  • Move with ease, coordinating movements and performing a variety of movements.
  • Fine Motor: The developing ability to move the small muscles.
  • Coordinate the fine movements of the fingers, wrists, and hands to skillfully manipulate a wide range of objects and materials in intricate ways.
  • Use one hand to stabilize an object while manipulating it.
  • Health: Maintenance of healthy growth and participation in physical activity.
  • Participate in physical activity.
  • Begin to practice health and safety behaviors.
  • Interaction with Adults: The developing ability to respond to and engage with adults.
  • Interact with adults to solve problems or communicate about experiences or ideas.
  • Interaction with Peers: The developing ability to respond to and engage with other children.
  • Engage in simple cooperative play with peers.
  • Relationship with Peers: The development of relationships with certain peers through interactions over time.
  • Develop friendships with a small number of children and engage in more complex play with those friends than with other peers.
  • Empathy: The developing ability to share in the emotional experiences of others.
  • Understand that other people have feelings that are different from their own.
  • Sometimes respond to another's distress in a way that might make that person feel better.
  • Social Understanding: The developing understanding of the responses, communication, emotional expressions, and actions of other people.
  • Talk about their wants and feelings and those of other people.
  • Describe familiar routines.
  • Participate in coordinated episodes of pretend play with peers.
  • Interact with adults in more complex ways.
  • Relationships with Adults: The development of close relationships with certain adults who provide consistent nurturance.
  • When exploring the environment, from time to time reconnect, in a variety of ways, with the adult(s) with whom they have developed a special relationship: through eye contact; facial expressions; shared feelings; or conversations about feelings, shared activities, or plans.
  • When distressed, may still seek to be physically close to these adults.
  • Identity of Self in Relation to Others: The developing concept that the child is an individual operating with social relationships.
  • Identify their feelings, needs, and interests.
  • Identify themselves and others as members of one or more groups by referring to categories.
  • Recognition of Ability: The developing understanding that the child can take action to influence the environment.
  • Show an understanding of their own abilities and may refer to those abilities when describing themselves.
  • Expression of Emotion: The developing ability to express a variety of feelings through facial expressions, movements, gestures, sounds, or words.
  • Express complex, self-conscious emotions such as pride, embarrassment, shame, and guilt.
  • Demonstrate awareness of their feelings by using words to describe feelings to others or acting them out in pretend play.
  • Emotion Regulation: The developing ability to manage emotional responses, with assistance from others and independently.
  • Anticipate the need for comfort and try to prepare themselves for changes in routine.
  • Have many self-comforting behaviors to choose from, depending on the situation, and can communicate specific needs and wants.
  • Impulse Control: The developing capacity to wait for needs to be met, to inhibit potentially hurtful behavior, and to act according to social expectations, including safety rules.
  • Sometimes exercise voluntary control over actions and emotional expressions.
  • Receptive Language: The developing ability to understand words and increasingly complex utterances.
  • Demonstrate understanding of the meaning of others' comments, questions, requests, or stories.
  • Expressive Language: The developing ability to produce the sounds of language and use vocabulary and increasingly complex utterances.
  • Communicate in a way that is understandable to most adults who speak the same language they do.
  • Combine words into simple sentences.
  • Demonstrate the ability to follow some grammatical rules of the home language.
  • Communication Skills and Knowledge: The developing ability to communicate nonverbally and verbally.
  • Engage in back-and-forth conversations that contain a number of turns, with each turn building upon what was said in the previous turn.
  • Interest in Print: The developing interest in engaging with print in books and the environment.
  • Listen, ask questions, or make comments while being read to.
  • Look at books on their own.
  • Make scribble marks on paper and pretend to read what is written.
  • Cause-and-Effect: The developing understanding that one event brings about another.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of cause and effect by making predictions about what could happen and reflect upon what caused something to happen.
  • Spatial Relationships: The developing understanding of how things move and fit in space.
  • Predict how things will fit and move in space without having to try out every possible solution.
  • Show understanding of words used to describe size and locations in space.
  • Imitation: The developing ability to mirror, repeat, and practice the actions of others, either immediately or later.
  • Reenact multiple steps of others' actions that they have observed at an earlier time.
  • Number Sense: The developing understanding of number and quantity.
  • Show some understanding that numbers represent how many and demonstrate understanding of words that identify how much.
  • Classification: The developing ability to group, sort, categorize, connect, and have expectations of objects and people according to their attributes.
  • Group objects into multiple piles based on one attribute at a time.
  • Put things that are similar but not identical into one group, even though sometimes these labels are over-generalized.
  • Symbolic Play: The developing ability to use actions, objects, or ideas to represent other actions, objects, or ideas.
  • Engage in make-believe play involving several sequenced steps, assigned roles, and an overall plan.
  • Sometimes pretend by imagining an object without needing the concrete object present.
  • Routines: The developing ability to understand and participate in personal care and sleep routines.
  • Initiate and follow through with some personal care routines.
  • Problem Solving: The developing ability to engage in a purposeful effort to reach a goal or figure out how something works.
  • Solve some problems without having to physically try out every possible solution and may ask for help when needed.
  • Memory: The developing ability to store and later retrieve information about past experiences.
  • Anticipate the series of steps in familiar activities, events, or routines.
  • Remember characteristics of the environment or people in it.
  • Briefly describe recent past events or act them out.
  • Attention Maintenance: The developing ability to attend to people and things while interacting with others and exploring the environment and play materials.
  • Sometimes demonstrate ability to pay attention to more than one thing at a time.
 

Note: It is important to arrange for regular health and developmental exams with a health care provider. These are usually part of a well-child visit and can include vision, hearing and oral health screenings.

Questions? Concerns?

The Guidelines describe how a typical child develops but it is important to understand that each child learns and develops at his or her own individual pace. Since each child is different, caregivers should talk with a health care provider or other trusted professional about any questions or concerns. For more information about questions or concerns you may have, please contact us.