From 12 to 36 months, your toddler is learning so much and becoming more independent. He’ll continue to have well-child visits with his pediatrician throughout toddlerhood to monitor his health and developmental progress. Well visits examine all areas of development to ensure that your toddler reaches necessary milestones for his age. His pediatrician will use a combination of assessments, screenings, and tests for an accurate picture of your toddler’s health and development.
Why is Testing Important for Toddlers?
Not all developmental problems are caught during infancy. Your baby’s first year is a time for a lot of growth, and every baby develops at his or her own pace. The same is true for toddlers, but it can be easier to spot warning signs during these months that your baby transitions to moving, talking, and playing more.
The first three years of life are crucial for diagnosing developmental delays that could influence your toddler’s ability to socialize, communicate, and more. It’s best to find delays as early as possible to take advantage of early intervention before your toddler reaches school age.
Recommended Tests for Toddlers: 12-36 Months
Your toddler’s pediatrician will carry over many of the same tests from baby well visits to his toddler visits, but some will evolve to check age-appropriate milestones. Here are some routine tests and screenings you can expect for your toddler:
Overall health exams.
During toddlerhood, you can expect your little one to have his vision, hearing, weight, and height checked at every well visit. Most doctors stop checking head circumference after the 24-month checkup unless there have been abnormal measurements. At this visit, the doctor may also start checking your toddler’s body mass index (BMI), which can signal that a child is under or overweight.
Your toddler may also have tests for tuberculosis, dyslipidemia, and anemia at least once during this age range, especially if there are known risk factors for them.
Screening for lead becomes less frequent in toddlerhood, but it’s still necessary. According to the AAP, toddlers still need to have a risk assessment for lead at 18, 24, and 36 months, with additional screenings through age 6. If the risk assessment indicates high lead levels, the pediatrician will likely recommend a blood test for further testing.
Your toddler’s well visits have two primary purposes: to check his overall health and to monitor his development. His pediatrician will move through a series of exercises and activities at each visit to see how your toddler is progressing in all areas of development, such as social-emotionally and physically. Some of the milestones the doctor will check between 12 and 36 months include:
- Repeating words that others say
- Sitting, standing, and walking
- Gesturing to communicate
- Ability to point to named body parts
- Saying short sentences
- Following simple directions
- Stacking objects, like blocks
- Naming objects in a book
The AAP recommends developmental screenings at 18 and 30 months. These screenings are usually more in-depth than monitoring for a more comprehensive look at your toddler and his progress in all developmental areas. You can learn more about milestones for your toddler’s age by checking the BabySparks development program.
Many pediatricians and daycare centers use an assessment known as the ASQ®:SE-2 to check for potential social-emotional delays in babies and toddlers. Your pediatrician probably has a schedule they like to follow with these assessments, but many conduct them at 12, 18, 24 or 30, and 36 months.
The doctor may also recommend an autism screening if your toddler has shown any red flags from monitoring or screening. Some pediatricians may start screening at 12 months, but the assessments are usually conducted between 18 and 24 months.
Oral health monitoring.
By 12 months, your toddler probably has a few teeth (or will soon!), so the doctor will want to look at them. Even if no teeth have erupted yet, a quick peek inside your toddler’s mouth can check for potential problems with the gums, tonsils, jaw, or tongue. If your toddler does have some teeth, the doctor will likely recommend that he starts visiting the dentist if he’s not already.
It seems like a lot of exams for your toddler, but it’s for his benefit. Being proactive with his healthcare can make sure he stays as healthy and developmentally on track as possible. Don’t be afraid to ask the pediatrician questions to learn more about each assessment or test.