As new parents, your child’s early years can be incredible and daunting. It’s an exciting time watching them grow, discover and develop through exploration and discovery.

Seeing them take in the world for the first time through new, dreaming eyes is one of the greatest joys of parenthood. But it’s straightforward to get wrapped up in the nerves and uncertainty of new parenthood and the early year’s childhood development. The pressure for your child to develop at a certain rate and worrying about their safety and well-being is a lethal combination that often dampens this beautiful time for new parents. That’s why we want to help and alleviate some of that worry by giving you a base or starting point to go from when monitoring your child’s developmental rate.

In this article, we will look at the milestones for a 16-month-old. This is designed to help you appropriately monitor and maintain your child’s development. Hopefully, with this structure, some of the pressure falls off you, and it’s another thing checked off the parenting demands and concerns list. Read on to learn more about the milestones you can monitor for your child reaching up to 16 months.

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The importance of milestones

Firstly, we should note the importance of milestones in early development. Developmental milestones are significant as they offer clues and insights about your child’s developmental health and progress. This is an excellent way of managing and monitoring your child’s development. It can offer useful and effective insight into areas they may struggle with more than others so you can alter their at-home learning appropriately to offer the support they need. It also indicates their interests and strengths, which can give you a look at your child’s blossoming personality and any hobbies they may be interested in.

What reaching milestones means for your child

Milestones are a great indication of your child’s development, and there are some easy ways to use them to monitor your child’s progress. Below are the generic criteria of how your child is developing concerning their peers in terms of milestones:

  • Reaching them at the typical age – means your child is developing as expected, and everything can be assumed to go as it should.
  • Reaching them earlier than expected – may mean your child is advanced compared to their peers of the same age.
  • Reaching milestones later/not at all – this may be an early indication that your child has a developmental delay. Try not to worry before speaking to their physician or health visitor.

The domains of developmental milestones

All milestones fall into categories known as ‘domains’. By understanding this, you can see the importance these have on your children as they indicate the benefits they will have. Below is a list of these domains:

  • Social – how they interact and show emotion.
  • Language/communication – how they express their needs, share their thoughts, and understand what is being said to them.
  • Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving) – how they learn new things and solve problems. Includes how they explore their environment and figure things out and academic skills such as counting and learning letters and numbers.
  • Movement/physical development – how they use their bodies.

It’s important to note that some developmental milestones fit into more than one domain. For example, following directions can be a language/communication milestone and a cognitive one.

The 16×16 approach

The structure we use to monitor a child’s development is known loosely as the 16-by-16 approach. Children should learn at least 16 actions with objects by 16 months. Each month, they should be tasked with a new action involving an object. By each of these months, they should have this skill completed, indicating they are ready for the next one. The 16 by 16 approach gives you clear margins for what your child should achieve and display regarding their development. It marks the ages at which these milestones should be accomplished and regularly repeated. Below, we will provide a detailed explanation of this approach and show what to look for and use as a guideline.

9 months: mouth, bang, drop

At nine months, your baby should repeat different actions with objects. They mouth objects to explore their features. They bang them either with their hand, against surfaces, or bang two together to create different sounds and explore with actions and noises. They also drop objects, sometimes by chance and other times on purpose.

10 months: take off, take out

At ten months, you will notice a lot of grabbing and pulling from your child. They like to take things off, like shoes, socks, or hats. They may grab and pull a towel off their head and play peek-a-boo. They’re drawn to see what’s in an open drawer and then take things out to explore them. This is all to do with their discovery and exploration.

11 months: push, turn

At this age, babies learn to push. They can push and squish soft things and push against hard stuff. This means they can squeeze things like plush toys and teddies and push on objects like piano keys to make a musical sound or a button on a toy phone. They can push a train or toy car to make it move or knock down a tower of toy bricks.

Babies are also learning to turn things at 11 months old. They can turn a wheel on a toy car, turn a ball on their mobile, or perhaps the faucet in the tub. They can turn a page when looking at a book and a basket upside down.

12 months: pat, put in

At 12 months, you should notice that your baby is beginning to pat things, whether patting themselves with a towel to dry off or patting their teddy bear or your back. This is an important activity for them to develop as the pat will then develop into a hug, used to share their love. You will notice this will demonstrate their current emotional and social understanding as you may see a hug displayed when appropriate, for example, if someone is visibly upset or seeing someone they know after time apart which will show you their current understanding of empathy. They are learning functional actions with a purpose in mind.

At this stage, they can also put things in. A common example would be putting a shape into the right hole on a puzzle. From ‘put in,’ they learn a variety of functional actions. For example, they can put their sippy cup to drink, a spoon in a bowl to scoop, and then a spoon in their mouth to eat.

13 months: feed others, open and close

At this age, children are beginning to learn by observing others and then mimicking what they do and say. Perhaps they’re feeding their teddy bears with a spoon the way you feed them. This shows they are on the cusp of pretending and imagination.

They also open and close objects as they learn to use objects as tools. They open and close things such as cupboards and doors. As they become more mobile, you’ll realize nothing is out of reach. This is something you want to keep in mind for their safety, but it can also be a great thing. For example, you can harness this interest by inviting them to do safe and helpful things.

14 months: move objects back and forth, up and down

At 14 months old, your toddler will learn to move objects back and forth. They can try to roll a ball to you or push a toy and pretend to be vacuuming. Perhaps they’re pushing their pram with their doll in a game of pretend house. This can be very useful as they could also start to help you when brushing their teeth and hair.

They will also be learning to move objects up and down. Maybe they are interested in music and bring drumsticks up and down to experiment with musical sounds and rhythms.

15 months: pour, wash and dry

Children will learn to use two objects together with a plan in mind at this age. They can pour from one object to another, like liquid from a bottle to a cup. With a plan in mind, they can also help wash and dry dishes.

16 months: stack, cut out, scribble and draw

Sixteen months is a fascinating time as they begin making and creating things. They can create towers by stacking blocks together. They can cut out dough to make cookies and bake them. Your child should be learning to create drawings where they can scribble with a crayon, paint with a paintbrush, and with a little help, they can try and draw pictures with colored pencils.

Why these milestones are critical

This approach of the 16 actions with objects up to 16 months is crucial for your child’s development. It will help with many different aspects of their growth, whether academic, social, emotional, physical, understanding, or more. Below is a look at some of the reasons these milestones are crucial for your child:

To launch imagination

The 16 by 16 approach will vary depending on cultures and family values; however, the concept is all the same. Watching your child interact with objects and actions should tell you a lot about their development in play. It will spur their imagination as they incorporate these actions and objects into play. Imagination is key for young children because it allows them to visualize concepts, beliefs, dreams, and wonder. These are all fundamental traits in development and should be utilized thoroughly. This ability to talk, imagine and create new ideas sets the stage for lifelong learning and progression.

To launch language skills

These milestones are also what will help your child develop their language skills. This is because in doing these, they are learning new gestures that launch them into their first words and early vocabulary. They’re now aware that every gesture, action, and object has a name that can be said verbally. They make these connections better when you interact with them while they are doing these actions. Seeing you verbally discuss their actions with objects while you do it, too, will help them make these connections.

To improve focus and engagement

By interacting with these objects, your child is learning to focus, actively engage, and participate in things. They are learning to fixate on one thing and complete tasks. This is a necessary skill for the future. It will help them in social scenarios involving communication skills and etiquette, as well as in any education and careers when they need to focus and complete tasks effectively. You will notice this when you see that their eyes are starting to follow objects by focusing on them. This is why many parents of young children invest in mobiles. It helps them focus and follow an object even when it moves, strengthening their eye coordination and the connections they make regarding visual images and their minds.


These milestones are significant as the ages 9 to 16 months are the best times to prepare them for preschool. Sending them into education with the best chance they can have is a great way to help your child prepare and prepare for life and education. Their early years are their most formative years and these early months are no exception. The 16-by 16-approach is a great way to gauge and capitalize on developmental milestones.