Every child develops at their own pace, and at this point life with your 16-month-old toddler may be both busy and exciting. You may witness increasing curiosity and boundless energy along with progress in their communication and motor skills. You might notice your little one starting to stack blocks, trying to feed themselves, or using new words or gestures. As parents, recognizing and celebrating these developmental milestones can help you support their growth and prepare for the continued changes ahead.
Sleep and Naps: Managing the Transitions
At 16-months your toddler may sleep between 11 to 14 hours a day and take one or two daytime naps. A minimum of 13 hours and 15 minutes of sleep over a 24-hour period for 16-month-olds is recommended by some experts. If they still take two naps, around this time is when they may start to transition to only one longer nap in the afternoon, which may lead to a more predictable and stable schedule for everyone.
The transition can be tricky so it’s important to know your child’s sleepy cues and adjust your schedule until you find what works best for them. Toddlers often become cranky when ready for a nap or bed, and not putting them down at the right time may lead to overtiredness and a bad night’s sleep. By 16 months, most toddlers can sleep for longer stretches at night, so making sure they get the right amount of daytime sleep can help ensure some long, uninterrupted sleep for parents.
Keep an eye out so you can tailor their schedule to support their growth and keep them happy.
How to Support Your 16-Month-Old with Sleep
- Continue with their bedtime routine. Many toddlers enjoy baths, books, or songs as part of their routine to wind down for the day. By 16-months, you probably have an idea of what works for you and your family’s nighttime routine!
- Keep their environment nice and calm. After a busy day of exploration, start limiting screen time before bed and promote more relaxing play as nighttime draws closer. As with all babies their room should be dark, quiet, and between 68-72 degrees. Also keep it cozy and remove any distractions—with a busy toddler, extra toys could wind them back up!
- Keep an eye on their sleepy cues. It's important to remember that your schedule can be adjusted based on your baby's individual needs, wake windows, and sleepy cues. Yawning, rubbing their eyes, or pulling their ears are all signs that your toddler may be getting sleepy. Use these signs to adjust your schedule to the appropriate nap and bedtime.
- Be patient and consistent. While you likely are experiencing longer stretches of sleep, don’t fret if you have a bad night here or there or things start to shift—different developmental milestones, teething, or off daytime sleep can throw them off. Keep an eye on their sleep cues, stick with your routine, and adjust it if necessary. They likely will get back on track quickly.
Sample Sleep Schedules for 16-Month-Olds
Understanding your baby's sleep patterns and establishing a consistent sleep schedule is essential for promoting healthy sleep habits. While every baby is unique, here are two examples for 16-month-olds to serve as a reference:
Sleep Schedule with One Nap
- "Good morning!": 7:00 AM
- Nap 1: 12:00-2:15/2:30 PM (Awake: 5 hrs., Nap: 2 hrs. 15 mins.)
- Start Bedtime Routine: 7:30 PM
- "Good night!": 8:00 PM (Awake: 5 hrs. 45 mins.)
Sleep Schedule with 2 Naps
- "Good morning!": 7:00 AM
- Nap 1: 10:15-11:30 AM (Awake: 3 hrs. 15 mins., Nap: 1 hr. 15 mins.)
- Nap 2: 3:15-4:15 PM (Awake: 3 hrs. 45 mins., Nap: 1 hr.)
- Start Bedtime Routine: 7:45 PM
- "Good night!": 8:15 PM (Awake: 4 hrs.)
Whether your 16-month-old takes one nap or two, they should have approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes of daytime sleep. If your child is experiencing difficulties sleeping at night or waking frequently, it may be time to consider transitioning to one nap per day.
Can a 16-month-old baby sleep through the night?
With the right sleep coaching your 16-month-old can absolutely sleep through the night. It's all about syncing with your baby's natural sleep patterns and encouraging those self-soothing skills. Thanks to sleep coaching, babies can experience fewer nighttime disturbances and become more confident at settling themselves back to sleep if they wake up. It's a fantastic way to foster peaceful nights for both little ones and parents.
Luckily there is no official 16-month sleep regression. However, some babies may experience signs of sleep regression earlier, around 18 months, which can be triggered by factors like teething and separation anxiety (which is developmentally appropriately).
A 16-month-olds your toddler is likely making significant strides in their physical development and strength, and may be in constant motion: playing, kicking, throwing, walking, and perhaps even at this point, running.
They may try to do more things independently, such as climbing stairs, furniture or playground structures, and even feeding or dressing themselves, on their own. This is no surprise, as at this age their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination often improve by the second.
How to support your child’s physical development at 16 months old:
- Encourage independent play
- Help them feed or dress themselves
- Create a safe environment for them to explore
- Spend time outside
- Get on the floor and play with them
At 16 months, your toddler already may have several words, and don’t be surprised if they start imitating things you say and do. Even if they don’t have the word yet, you may see lots of gestures (pointing, nodding, shaking their head) to convey their wants and needs.
Problem solving is also big around this age, so you may see their little minds working as they try to open a cabinet door or pick something up off the ground. Encourage this skill with the introduction of new toys and giving them the space to figure out something if they look stumped.
Emotional and Social Development
With the big milestones happening around this age, your toddler may become frustrated when they can’t verbalize or convey a want or need. Don’t be surprised if you see an increase in tantrums or aggressive reactions out of frustration. Demonstrate positive behaviors and good manners, and be patient and supportive if your child seems upset. To handle tantrums, try not to react, leave the room, or implement a short time-out. Once calm, explain to your child why their behavior was inappropriate.
Separation anxiety is heightened at this age. Your little one may develop a stronger attachment to you and follow you around more frequently at this age. Arrange playdates with other toddlers of the same age, and make sure to take your toddler out and about. Social stimulation is important, and every outing or activity an opportunity for development.
How to Support Your 16-Month-Old's Development
It’s so rewarding to watch your toddler’s curiosity, independence, and abilities grow. At this age, 16-month-olds are like little explorers, eager to discover the world around them. As a parent, your role is pivotal in nurturing their physical, cognitive, social, and emotional growth. Helping support your 16-month-old's development is crucial at this age, and it can be as fun!
Here are some ways to support their growth:
- Establish regular routines. Establishing daily routines isn't just about structure; it's like giving your child a comforting hug throughout the day. These routines offer a sense of stability and predictability that wraps them in a cozy blanket of security. From morning to bedtime, having a familiar rhythm helps your little one know what's coming next, making transitions smoother and nurturing their growing self-confidence.
- Create sensory play experiences. Sensory development is crucial for toddlers as it lays the foundation for their understanding of the world, fosters cognitive growth, and supports physical and emotional well-being. Create a sensory bin filled with items like rice, pasta, or colored water. Let your child explore different textures and colors using their hands or small toys.
- Let them explore safe household items. Unbreakable containers and wooden spoons are great ways to enhance your child's fine motor skills and hand-eye. Playing and exploring everyday objects stimulate their physical development by encouraging them to practice grasping, stacking, and manipulating.
- Listen to nursery rhymes. Nursery rhymes and music in general are both nostalgic to you and beneficial to your child’s development. Learning rhymes helps familiarize your child with different sounds and letters, which can benefit them as they learn to read. Through repetition, they begin to recognize patterns and connections between sounds and letters, laying a foundation for future reading abilities.
- Go on a nature walk. Every new experience helps with your toddler’s development! Being outside in nature and listening to the sounds, seeing the colors, and smelling the air support all facets of development.
Remember, every child develops at their own pace and has their own tastes and preferences. Engaging in these activities and providing a supportive environment will nurture their motor, cognitive, social, and emotional development, helping them thrive and grow.
Feeding a 16-Month Old – Milestones and Tips
We are what we eat, and that’s no different for a toddler. However, eating and mealtimes at this age are more than just for nutrients. They also offer opportunities for development! Feeding toddlers can be tricky though, so here are some eating tips for a 16-month-old:
- Offer a variety. Introduce lots of different foods from all food groups, including fruits, vegetables, proteins (like lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, and tofu), grains (whole grains when possible), and dairy or dairy alternatives.
- Encourage self-feeding. Promote independence by offering finger foods that are easy for them to pick up, like small pieces of fruit, cooked veggies, and cubes of protein. Let your child use utensils and practice self-feeding, even if it gets messy. This helps develop fine motor skills and independence.
- Let them choose how much they want to eat. Toddlers have small stomachs, so a toddler-sized portion is smaller than an adult's. Let your child decide how much to eat; they have a good sense of hunger and fullness. Provide smaller meals and snacks throughout the day to meet their energy needs, but don’t get discouraged if they don’t eat a lot. Your 16-month-old should be eating three meals and two snacks per day, on top of the recommended two 8-ounce cups of whole milk.
- Eat your meals together. Create a positive mealtime atmosphere without distractions like TV or screens. Encourage conversation, model healthy eating habits, and make mealtimes social, pleasant, and relaxed.
- Be patient. Toddlers may be slow eaters or go through phases of refusing certain foods. Be patient and avoid pressuring them to eat. Keep offering different nutritious options, textures, and tastes, and consult your pediatrician if you have any concerns about your toddler’s eating habits.
Remember that every child is unique, and their eating habits may vary. Focus on providing a balanced diet, creating a positive mealtime environment, and allowing your child to explore and enjoy food at their own pace.
Warning Signs About Your Child’s Development
All children develop at their own pace. If you’re concerned about your child’s development, share your concerns with your pediatrician.
How We Wrote This Article
The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.
Cleveland Clinic, What Is Sensory Play? The Benefits for Your Child and Sensory Play Ideas
American Academy of Pediatrics. Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5
American Academy of Pediatrics. The Wonder Years.
Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, Toddler Bedtime Routines and Associations With Nighttime Sleep Duration and Maternal and Household Factors