Kids & Company Blog

Developmental Milestones for Children from 12-24 Months

This blog is written by our guest authors Samantha Martin and Hillary Ng, physiotherapist from Toronto Kids Physio. Kids Physio provides pediatric physiotherapy services across Canada; as babies, kids, and teens function differently from adults, and their spaces and team are equipped to provide the highest quality physiotherapy care, delivered in a FUN and engaging way. 


The 12-24 month age is when most children achieve the most anticipated gross motor skill - walking! Your child’s first steps are a very exciting time, and the start of a whole new set of gross motor skills including balancing, climbing, running, stairs, and learning to jump!


Typical milestones for 12-24 months and how to encourage their development through play.

Developmental milestones to look out for include: 

  • Walking
  • Crawling up and down the stairs
  • Walking across new surfaces outdoors
  • Rolling and catching a ball on the floor
  • Walking up stairs with 2-hand support while meeting each foot on the step above

Before a child can walk independently, they need to be able to stand independently (i.e. without holding onto a surface) and have ample balance to do so. Setting up their play space to encourage independent standing and walking can be difficult - especially if you have a small space and your child always has a wall/surface nearby to hold on to. However, here are some tips to encourage more independence in standing and stepping: 

  • Set up two surfaces that are their chest height (e.g. a couch and coffee table) and encourage stepping between the two surfaces by moving a desired toy or snack. As they get more confident, you can gradually move the surfaces further apart
  • Encourage standing play in the middle of a room so there isn’t anywhere nearby to hold onto. You’ll want to sit behind your child to support them at their hips while another parent or caregiver sits in front and holds toys up at standing height
  • Practicing standing and walking outside in an open grassy field (where there aren’t any walls or surfaces to hold onto) can be another great way to work on standing and walking skills. The soft grass is cushioned for the trips and falls that are normal at this stage, and also provides an unstable surface to challenge balance.

Once you have a new walker in the house, setting up a play space looks a little bit different than previously! There are plenty of ways to use the environment to challenge your child’s balance and coordination as they practice walking. Thinking about obstacles they might encounter in their environment (at home, outside, and at daycare) can be helpful when coming up with creative ways to help their gross motor development at this stage. Practice stepping over a broomstick, stuffed animal, or toy. Walking across different surfaces is also great for challenging balance and stability (e.g. carpet, sand, grass, woodchips, up and down small hills at the park). Remember - walking across any changes in surface at this age can lead to a few trips and falls - and this is totally appropriate while learning!

After your child has a few months of experience walking and seems ready to try and step up the stairs, you can help them by holding their hands (or hold one hand and have the other holding the railing) and staying close by for support. If you don’t have stairs at home - no problem! Try going to the park to practice, or set up a few textbooks or step stools in an open safe space at home and help your child practice stepping up and down to replicate stair climbing! 


When to reach out to a Pediatric Physiotherapist (the “motor development” experts).

As a parent, it's natural to be concerned about your child's development. If your child has not progressed their skills within 6-8 weeks, or you notice any of the below, it may be time to consider reaching out to a Pediatric Physiotherapist. 

Common reasons you may want to seek out help, include:

  • W-sitting. This is when your child sits on their bottom with their legs bent and splayed out to the sides in a W-shape. While this might seem like a comfortable position for your child, it can put unnecessary strain on their hips and knees, and can even lead to long-term issues with their walking and leg alignment. It can also be a sign of a weak core. Encourage your child to sit in other positions, such as with their legs in front of them or criss-crossed.
  • Walking variations like toe walking, in-toeing, or out-toeing. Toe walking is when your child walks on their toes instead of their whole foot, while in-toeing is when their toes point inward, and out-toeing is when their toes point outward. These variations of walking can cause more trips and falls and even poor walking endurance, as they are using muscles for longer periods of time than needed - so they start to fatigue and lose balance or stamina.
  • Poor alignment in the legs, such as knocked knees.
  • Sensory seeking or avoidant behaviours. Some children constantly seek out sensory input by touching everything they see or avoiding certain textures or sounds, which may cause them to avoid walking on certain textures or environments.
  • Trouble learning new skills. Sometimes children shy away from situations or don’t want to participate because they struggle keeping up with other children.

Early intervention can make a big difference in your child's gross motor skill development and allow them the ability to explore their environment in a fun and purposeful way!

This is part 2 of a milestone development blog series. If you have any questions or are in need of support connect with @kidsphysio on Instagram or visit Kids Physio provides pediatric physiotherapy services across Canada; as babies, kids, and teens function differently from adults, and their spaces and team are equipped to provide the highest quality physiotherapy care, delivered in a FUN and engaging way. 

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