You’re already four months away from having a two year old! 20 month old developmental milestones are amazing to see, but can be exhausting to live through.
As your toddler gets older, they get more opinionated. They also run faster, talk louder, and rebel more. Here’s a guide on what 20 month old milestones may look like, and how to manage their development and keep them on track!
Life With a 20 Month Old
Toddlers at this age tend to enjoy asserting their independence. One way to help encourage this without having them run your house is to provide plenty of opportunities for them to help, or make their own decisions. For example, let them feed and dress themselves. Also, when asking them to do something give them the chance to make their own decision while also doing what you want them to. For example, ask them if they want carrots or cucumber instead of just telling them their snack is ready.
Your 20 month old likely will have their hands in everything. Curiosity at this age has them touching, tasting, examining and exploring everything! Impulse control is also lacking, so try and keep anything dangerous out of their way as they may not realize what’s safe and what’s not.
While 20 month old communication milestones are continually improving, tantrums and emotions still run wild as they attempt to (and sometimes fail to) communicate their needs. Also emotional regulation is hard for anyone, and they are still working on navigating them.
Sleep and Nap Tips for 20 Months
Establishing a consistent sleep and daily routine is key for both you and your 20 month old. Adequate sleep is crucial for their development, and routines can provide a sense of security and predictability in their world. Here’s an example 20 month old schedule.
Some parents also start to at least think about transitioning their toddlers from crib to bed around this time, especially if you have an escape artist on your hands! Often a toddler isn’t ready until closer to 3 years old, but if you are concerned your 20 month old will climb out of their crib, try to lower their mattress to see if that helps.
Here are some tips for dealing with common sleep-related issues for 20 month olds:
- Nightmares: It’s not always easy to tell if your 20 month old is having a nightmare or another sleep-related disturbance. If you think it’s a nightmare, go in their room to comfort and soothe them back to sleep. Reminding them you’re close and nearby always helps. If you think their nightmare is related to a book, or movie or show, try and not expose them before bed.
- Early wakeups: The sun is often to blame here! We always recommend blackout shades...also, follow Smart Sleep Coach’s Smart Schedule which will tell you the best time to put them to bed to promote a longer stretch of sleep.
- Difficult naps or bedtimes: Independent toddlers don’t always love to follow their routine! But sleep is important, and they will eventually be tired. Try to avoid screen time before bed, read calming stories, or take a soothing bath. A consistent bedtime will always help (subtlety) remind them it’s sleep time. Smart Sleep Coach can help structure a bedtime routine, too.
- Sleep regressions: The 18 month sleep regression may sometimes start closer to 20 months. This can be because of teething or any of the many of the 20 month developmental milestones that have their growing brain going a mile a minute! But don’t fret—keep to their bedtime routine and they’ll get back on track soon.
If you’re struggling with sleep, Dr. Craig Canapari, pediatric sleep physician and director of the Yale Pediatric Sleep Center, recommends you try tracking your 20 month old’s sleep using an app like Smart Sleep Coach. You may learn they are getting too much daytime sleep and you may need to drop a nap or move bedtime later...terrifying, we know.
Motor Skills Milestones for 20 Month Old
Motor skill development in a 20 month old child can vary, but here are some milestones that you may expect at this age:
- Walking with Confidence: Most 20 month olds can walk on their own and may even be starting to run! They also may be able to walk both forwards and backwards.
- Climbing: Your child may enjoy climbing on age-appropriate structures, such as low playground equipment or furniture, and may even be able to navigate stairs with assistance.
- Balancing: Some twenty month olds are starting to be able to balance on one foot. Activities such as gymnastic and toys such as balance bikes can help with this skill even more.
- Scribbling: Many 20 month olds can hold a crayon or marker and may start to make random scribbles on paper, showing the beginnings of artistic expression.
- Building with Blocks: Often 20 month olds can stack and unstack blocks, create simple structures and start to understand concepts such as balance and stability.
- Getting Dressed: Some 20 month olds can begin to at least help with putting on their shoes and socks, or unzipping their jacket.
At this age 20 months old still lack impulse control, so if something is interesting them they will be quick to go after it. Try and keep their environment safe and free from items that may be dangerous.
Remember that all children develop at their own pace, so these milestones may vary from child to child. If you have concerns about your child's motor development, speak with your pediatrician.
Communication Skills Milestones for 20 Month Old
The communication skills of a 20 month old are improving by the day!
Most 20 month olds may use around 50 to 100 words, and understand closer to 200! These words might include common nouns like "mama," "dada," and "dog," as well as other easy words relevant to their day-to-day. We wouldn’t be surprised if “no” is one of them! They may even be able to point to and name objects, such as their favorite toys, food, or activities.
Some 20 month olds may even be starting to string together two word sentences. Examples could be “more juice” or “my toy”. They love to imitate adults, so whenever you’re doing something with them talk them through each step of the way. This can really help with their language development so they continue to reach their developmental milestones.
Non-verbal communication like pointing and facial expressions are still huge for a 20 month old. They often have very specific wants and needs but are still figuring out how to communicate them to you.
Don’t be surprised if they get upset if you don’t understand them—they are still figuring out how to manage their emotions. You may start to see them expressing empathy, and comforting others if they think they are upset. Responding to the feelings of others is all part of their emotional development!
20 Month Old Mealtime Ideas
Food preferences are constantly changing as your toddler approaches their second birthday. To keep mealtimes fun and productive, and to support their newfound independence, here are some tips.
- Let them be part of the meal planning. Ask them to pick between two different fruits for their plate, or to choose what shaped pasta they want to eat.
- Take them to the grocery store. This is another way to make food exciting, and give them some control. The colors and smells of a grocery store also offers giving an exciting sensory experiencing!
- Keep offering rejected foods. Toddlers are fickle when it comes to food, and new foods are often rejected. By making a foreign food a common food they may be more likely to give it a try.
- Cut foods into fun shapes. Presentation can make all the difference. Heart shaped pancakes just taste better!
- Involve them in meal prep. Whether it’s mixing batter or pouring their milk, 20 month olds love to feel included and likely will be more excited to eat what they help to make.
Keep in mind toddlers don’t grow as fast as babies do in their first year, so don’t be too concerned if they aren’t eating as much as you thought they would. Talk to your pediatrician if you’re concerned about their eating habits.
20 Month Old Milestones Checklist
There are many 20 month old developmental milestones in areas such as language, motor skills, social skills, and emotional intelligence. Here's a general checklist of milestones that you may expect from a 20 month old. Keep in mind that children develop at their own pace, and there can be some variation.
- Uses and understands around 200 words (and some two word sentences) with vocabulary continuing to expand.
- Follows one-step instructions such as "Give me the ball" or "Point to your head.”
- Walks and climbs independently and may begin running.
- Can stack up to four or more blocks, and sort objects by color or shape.
- Begins to scribble or make marks with crayons or markers.
- May start to resist help from adults.
- Enjoys pretend play, like feeding dolls or stuffed animals.
- Begins to show empathy and may comfort others who are upset.
- Enjoys being read to.
- May be able to use a spoon or fork, although it may be messy.
- Typically toddlers sleeps around 11-14 hours of sleep per day, including a single nap that can last 1-3 hours.
Remember that these 20 month milestones are a general guideline and can vary from toddler-to-toddler. If you have concerns about your child's development, it's a good idea to discuss them with your pediatrician. They can provide guidance and support based on your child's specific needs and progress.
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.
CDC, “How Much Sleep Do I need?”
American Academy of Pediatrics, “Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5”
American Academy of Pediatrics, “The Wonder Years”
American Academy of Pediatrics, “Media and Young Minds”
Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, “Toddler Bedtime Routines and Associations With Nighttime Sleep Duration and Maternal and Household Factors”
Behavioral Sleep Medicine, “The Family Context of Toddler Sleep: Routines, Sleep Environment, and Emotional Security Induction in the Hour before Bedtime”