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Cognitive Development, Ages 12 to 24 Months


The brain grows dramatically through the second year of life. Around 12 months, toddlers develop a new ability to remember experiences that occurred a few hours or even a day earlier. Toddlers often show off this new ability by repeating an experience they remember. For example, they may throw a ball or stack blocks again at a later time. Changes in the brain allow a toddler between 18 and 24 months of age to think in more complex ways, such as recalling events that occurred days earlier. The older toddler starts to play pretend. For example, he or she may give a teddy bear a "drink" from a cup or let the bear "talk" on the phone. These toddlers are also starting to understand symbols (for example, that words can stand for objects).

Toddlers also start to see connections between events. For example, when they open a music box, they know they will hear a song. Or when they throw a ball, they know it will bounce. They'll probably throw their dolls, food, and many other objects to see if they'll bounce too.

At 18 months, toddlers have a greater understanding of the world outside of home. Toddlers start to form a sense of self, the ability to see themselves as separate from others. They can now imagine a threat. They often go through a period of clinging to parents and being fearful of strangers.


Current as of: March 1, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Susan C. Kim MD - Pediatrics
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Louis Pellegrino MD - Developmental Pediatrics