At 20 months, there are moments when you still see your child as a baby and other moments when you are struck by how much of a little kid they have become. As fast as time seems to be moving, there are so many wonderful experiences ahead. And, it may come as a relief to know that many snuggle-resistant toddlers have changes of heart in a few months and become eager again to cuddle. 

Your 20-Month-Old’s Behavior

You may find your toddler is digging in their heels more often these days. They could decide to make a battle out of just about anything: something on the dinner plate they don’t want to eat, shoes they don’t want to wear, a playground they don’t want to leave. It’s really about exerting their independence, which is ultimately a good thing—even if it doesn't feel that way when you’re hauling a flailing, wailing little body away from the swings and into the car.

Try to look at the big picture. There are likely some instances when other factors are contributing to your toddler’s behavior, such as when they are tired or hungry. That doesn’t mean they should “get away” with tantrums, but it does help to have a bit of understanding. Also think twice before drawing a line in the sand. You should try to only say “no” to things when you are prepared to follow through with it. (For example, don’t threaten to leave a party if you don’t want to.)

Remember, your 20-month-old is trying to figure out the world and their place in it. As their ambassador during this process, communicate with love, respect, and care. More often than not, that’s all it takes to get the job done.

20 Month-Old Toddlers and “Bad” Behavior

One way that your toddler might begin to show you how they feel is with acts of aggression, like hitting, biting, or kicking (ouch!). There’s a difference between these potentially dangerous behaviors and ones that are merely annoying (like dawdling or whining). When it comes to aggressive acts (aka “red-light behaviors”), you need to act swiftly with a take-charge consequence: either a time-out or a “fine” (taking away a valued privilege or object). Learn more about take-charge consequences.

Your 20-Month-Old’s Development

Babies are born curious. But, by 20 months, your child really has the tools, skills, and brainpower to help them investigate the things that pique their interest! With a pretty advanced understanding of where things belong and ordinary routine, many toddlers note when things deviate from their expectations—and are often interested in figuring out why this happened. If there’s a simple explanation, share it with them! 

Toddlers also like exploring how their actions can cause different effects. Only, the way they go about this varies: Some kiddos like to line up toys, organize, and keep everything tidy. Others prefer to play Godzilla by knocking down block towers and dumping toys out of baskets!

If you want to encourage certain behaviors in your child, try to point out positive examples. This isn’t about comparing them to other tots (so avoid saying, “Ben is so good at eating dinner. Why can’t you eat better?”) Rather it’s about noticing a behavior and allowing your toddler to connect the dots all on their own. 

Teething at 20 Months Old

Teething feels like it never ends, doesn’t it? While your little one’s mouth probably looks pretty full of pearly whites these days, they’ve still got chompers to sprout. These are some teeth that may make their appearance around 20 months (see the full teething schedule):

  • First upper molar: erupts between 13 and 19 months 
  • Upper canine (cuspid): erupts 16 and 22 months 
  • Lower canine (cuspid): erupts between 17 and 23 months 
  • Second lower molar: erupts between 23 and 31 months

To help ease teething pain, you could offer some Tylenol or ibuprofen (learn more about pain relievers for babies and toddlers), or give your tot something to gnaw on (like a frozen washcloth). And don’t forget to keep using white noise at bedtime—this rumbly sound can help distract from discomfort!

20-Month-Old Child Motor Skills

By now, your toddler is getting steadier on their feet. That may lead them to test their motor skills in new ways, such as by wanting to climb the stairs by themselves. It can certainly help to have a baby gate by the stairs, but there is a caveat: If your child has learned to climb over the gate or open the latch, experts recommend removing it to avoid injury from accidental falls. Then, practice stair-safety with your toddler by teaching them to keep a hand free to hold the rail, to ask an adult for help, and to never play or jump on the stairs.  

On the fine motor skill front, your toddler may be more willing and able to hold crayons for arts-and-crafts. Although you shouldn’t expect anything too advanced at this point, be on the lookout for straight lines and circles. You can also help correct your toddler’s grip on the crayon so it’s less of a clutch and more of the correct form they will use when holding a pencil. 

Your 20-Month-Old’s Health: Time for an Eye Check? 

Think about this: When babies are born, they can scarcely see beyond their own noses. By 20 months, their vision has come such a long way! However, this may also be a time when you begin to have some concerns about your child’s vision. According to the American Public Health Association, about 10% of preschoolers have eye or vision problems. The good news is that many of these problems can be easily addressed.

  • If your child doesn’t seem to be identifying or pointing out objects like other children their age, it’s worth exploring whether their vision is contributing. Other signs of a vision problem include bumping into things, rubbing their eyes, light sensitivity, holding books close to their face.
  • Most pediatricians do not perform vision screenings until the preschool years. If you have concerns, you should schedule an appointment with an optometrist who has the tools to do a more thorough eye and vision examination.
  • If an issue is diagnosed, eyeglasses and/or eye therapy can help slow or correct the progression. 

< 19 Month Milestones | 21 Month Milestones >



  • The Happiest Toddler on the Block, Dr. Harvey Karp, MD
  • Baby Gate-Related Injuries Among Children in the United States, 1990–2010, Academic Pediatrics, May-June 2014
  • Child Injury Prevention Alliance: Stair Safety
  • American Optometry Association: Preschool Vision: 2 to 5 Years of Age


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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.