Developmental Delay

10 red flags for toddler development that you should not ignore!

Could your toddler have a developmental delay

Even after checking out milestones charts you’re not sure if your toddler is really developing correctly

He seems to do some stuff differently to the other kids at the park. But maybe he’s just a late bloomer? Or that’s his personality

toddler dressed as nurse doing development screening

How to tell if my toddler has a developmental delay? 

Developmental delay means a child has not reached certain milestones. They may be minor (slight delay in one or few areas) or global (overall delay in many areas). 

Developmental delay is often unseen. An invisible disability. Or just a slight lag in development. 

Maybe you were very “on the ball” when it came to your baby’s development but now that the baby has become a toddler it’s harder to understand if they are developing correctly. 

 You are your toddler’s most powerful advocate 

You mama need to know this and also why you (yes you!) are your toddler’s most powerful advocate when it come to development: 

  1. Our toddlers aren’t being checked properly for developmental delay: Only 1 in 5 parents were asked screening questions about their child’s development by a healthcare provider during the previous year. 

        2. When we are asked these screening questions, health care providers rely heavily on whether you have concerns about your toddlers development 

        3. A delay in toddlerhood doesn’t have to always mean a developmental or learning disability later on. 

        4. Early intervention:

Therapy can dramatically influence or change your toddlers development if started early. The sooner the better! 

       5. We are being hugely underserved: 

It is estimated that 15% of toddlers in the United States have at least one developmental delay. However less than one-fifth of those children receive early intervention services before age 3.

What is a red flag for developmental delay? 

When we say a certain behaviour or action is a “red flag” it means that it points towards a possible developmental delay.

If we notice that one of these red flags fits for your toddler’s development, it is important to seek early intervention services. 

father holding toddlers hand

10 red flags for toddler development

Delayed Milestones: 

Whether it be not walking at 18 months or not speaking in short phrases or sentences by age 2, delays in milestones are red flags for toddler development.  

You may like: Toddler Development: What to look out for in your toddler from ages 1-3 years. 

Muscles and posture: 

Look out for tightness and difficulty opening joints (seeming a bit balled up or tight), or loose and floppy muscles (look uncomfortable in upright positions or positions that require movement).

toddler development eating utensils

Drooling and difficulty eating: 

You may notice that your toddler is constantly drooling (not only when teething) to the point where they are wetting their shirt. This red flag for developmental delay may also be seen in that your tot seems to have difficulty chewing and swallowing food.

The 2 sides of the body look different: 

You may notice that your toddler seems to heavily favor one side (Neck movements, arm movements, legs) and almost ignores the other side of the body or that one side looks physically different to the other side. 


It’s important to take note of whether your toddler is showing signs of nonverbal communication. Like eye contact, responding to her name being called, pointing and shared laughter and interest. 

Interest in the world around them

Babies and toddlers are natural explorers: some are real adventurers by personality and others cautiously explore the world alongside their parents. A red flag for developmental delay is when a toddler shows a lack of interest in things around them: like toys and other children. 

toddler hands not being able to grasp toy shows developmental delay

Difficulty using hands or manipulating small objects

Does your toddler seem to have difficulty holding a spoon or stacking blocks? Naturally their hands use bigger, less refined movements than an adult hand however if you notice that they don’t seem to effectively use their hands in manipulating small objects (like stickers) it could be a sign of developmental delay. 

Doesn’t understand simple instructions: 

Even by age one you should start to see some understanding from your tot in simple commands (no, bring, sit). Of course, as toddlers trying to exert their power and autonomy, they may not follow the instruction but it’s important to notice that they understand your instruction. 

red flag and mask to symbolise danger of developmental delay

Lack of range of emotions: 

Toddlers are emotional creatures which can be hard to manage but is good for their development in the long run. However if you notice that your tot doesn’t show a range of emotions (happy, sad, disappointed, excited) and that the predominant emotion is anger (at an extreme level) that could be a red flag. 


Have you noticed that your toddler had mastered a developmental milestone (like walking, talking or using their hands) and suddenly they don’t seem to be able to do that anymore?

I think my toddler has a developmental delay 

If any of these “ring a bell” for you I strongly suggest that you ask your pediatricians advice or ask for a referral to relevant therapists (like OT , SLT or PT). 

Remember when it comes to early intervention-the sooner the better! Therapy can be started at any age! 

Because development builds on development, even a slight developmental delay in toddlerhood can snowball

We all, as mamas, want to set our kids up for success. Tackling any concerns about toddler development is critical to do that. 

I’m still not sure if my toddler has a developmental delay? 

Maybe these red flags for developmental delay don’t exactly fit for your toddler? 

You are still on the fence- your gut tells you that something isn’t totally right but it seems like a grey area? 

You may like my upcoming post on toddler sensory issues.