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|Toddler - Week #72|
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|Eating wars, shrinking naptimes? What's going on!|
So many things are changing this month that it's hard to keep up! Along with the emergence of your 16-month-old's personality and independence she is realizing that she has likes and dislikes (which are subject to change without notice) and wants you to be the first to know about it. Don't be surprised when the macaroni and cheese comes flying across the table and all she wants to eat are pancakes at every meal. She is learning to express herself now and will not be shy about it. It is also time to start changing her beloved naptimes, so get ready for a bumpy road ahead. Just keep in mind this is a temporary stage, and that this too shall pass like everything else has. Count backwards from 10 to 1, take a few deep cleansing breaths, and remember she's only little once.|
If your vacuum has been working overtime lately, it should be of no surprise. Your 16-month-old toddler is now pickier than ever about food, and the dinner table may be the source of a major battle. Expect things that your little one ate ravenously yesterday to receive a turned up nose or to end up on the floor.|
It's quite normal that toddlers this age are extremely picky, and fickleness with food is just one area that you will begin to see it most often. She may begin to become very expressive regarding foods that she does not like, and may only choose to eat from a select group of foods. This "picky eater" phase can be expected to begin when her ability to walk kicks in and rarely leaves before her second birthday. Along with her desire to eat only chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese, you may also begin to notice regular protests when two different foods that have been strategically placed on her plate are touching, so be prepared ahead of time and purchase those wonderful plastic plates with the separated sections. Your best bet to have a peaceful mealtime is to try and make the overall experience as relaxing as possible. The more stressed you are, the more stressed and uncooperative your 16-month-old will be.
Developing healthy attitudes about food start when your little one is very small and her ever-changing appetite, temperament, and overall development can also influence her eating habits. Just to ease your mind a bit, you don't have to worry about your toddler starving during this stage of "picky-ness." Studies show that healthy children will eat as much as their little bodies need for normal development and growth, despite appearing otherwise. Also, it's good to remember that the average child's growth is slower after the first year and she actually needs a smaller amount of food because of this temporary slow down.
In order to stay as focused as possible throughout this stubborn time, your 16-month-old should have three recognizable mealtimes, and two snacks a day. Remember to serve small portions, as your 16-month-old has a small appetite and a large amount of food can be overwhelming to her. Also, try to be creative with the meals you present. It can be very appealing to your little one when she sees a smiley face staring back at her made out of her favorite foods (and it's also an easy way to sneak in a few new vegetables!).
This month your new job (besides clean-up committee) is to provide her with a variety of healthy food choices at every meal and then sit back and relax while your toddler explores. It definitely doesn't hurt if you set a good example yourself and eat well in front of her. Remember that foods you enjoy will automatically appear more appetizing to your toddler, even if she doesn't tell you that right away.
While playing referee at the dinner table, it is also the perfect time to begin teaching simple manners and basic etiquette. Encourage your toddler to say "please" and "thank you" at meal times, and you may be surprised when she begins to use these words on her own. Remember that much of what your child learns she learns through imitating you, so make a good impression!
Ah, naptime. The most glorious time of the day for all parents of toddlers. Unfortunately, if you haven't started already, now is the time to begin the transition from two naps, morning and afternoon, to one midday or afternoon nap. Consolidating from two naps to one can be a major transition, both physically and mentally for both of you, so be prepared for some resistance. This can be very tricky because for a short period of time one nap is not enough, but, two naps are just too much. Whichever way you slice it, you are temporarily left with either an over tired 16-month-old, or one who is wide awake and doesn't want to go to sleep at night. Inevitably, you can expect a few weeks of crankiness before the transition runs smoothly, but it will eventually work itself out.|
There is a positive side to switching from two naps to one. He should now sleep about two and a half hours in the afternoon, and if you're lucky this lovely long nap could be your new best friend over the next two years. Just keep in mind that these sleep times are average, and your toddler may sleep more or less, but in general it's what you should be striving for in the long run.
When you are ready to give one naptime a shot, try to delay his morning nap more and more for a few days (or weeks), and ideally in the end get him to sleep sometime between 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. Once your new routine is established and you are both more comfortable, it is a good idea to keep this regularly scheduled nap time, as your little one needs the routine to keep his internal clock on schedule (and so you can catch your breath and have a third cup of coffee). It can often be difficult for toddlers to get to sleep when they still see daylight, so always set the stage for him at naptime in his quiet, serene, "dark as possible" bedroom. Providing a short version of your nighttime routine is also a good idea before the nap, as this will help to remind your little sleeping beauty of what his next step is (or is supposed to be).
Don't forget that your 16-month-old is now looking for a new adventure around every corner, even when he is supposed to be doing other things. Naptime is "jack-in-the-box" time at my house, as my twins alternate bouncing right back up after I lay them down to sleep, over and over again on alternating sides of their room for what seems like hours. My advice is to try your best not to play along if you are also privy to this lovely naptime game. Your little circus performer will eventually lie down when he's ready (and exhausted from all the exercise he just got).
It is recommended that around the 16-month mark, toddlers get somewhere between eleven and twelve hours of uninterrupted sleep every night. If your schedule permits, try to get him to sleep somewhere between 7:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., and if you're lucky you should not see him again until around 7:00 the next morning. Remember that toddlers this age need transition time in order to prepare both mentally and physically for sleep, so don't try to rush through your bedtime routine because it will undoubtedly backfire. These routines not only reassure your 16-month-old toddler, but when he sees that activities occur in a certain order day after day, he starts to realize that his life has a certain amount of predictability. More importantly, when he eventually accepts and grows to expect his "routine," he is most likely (but, not definitely) going to be a bit more cooperative throughout the day. When it comes to developing great sleep habits (which I, myself have not experienced since the birth of my son 4 years ago), I have learned that everyone in my home sleeps better when we follow a predictable "it's time to start getting sleepy" routine before bed. Giving your son a bath, brushing his teeth, putting on his pajamas, and letting him climb into your lap to read a bedtime story night after night can provide specific cues and prepare him for a good night's sleep. It may appear to be just a relaxing and simple routine now, but it is actually another great gift you will be providing your little one with for the rest of his life.|
Unfortunately, no matter how wonderful and structured your bedtime routine may be, you can still expect a few visits with your toddler in the middle of the night this month. If your blessed silence is shattered by the screech of your precious toddler at 2:00 a.m., try your best not to take him out of his crib. Reassure him by patting him on the back and bend over to kiss his head, but, try not to take him out. As you already know, once he's out - game on, and you can say good-bye to any last ditch efforts to get some shut eye. This midnight visit is the perfect opportunity to grab his favorite "lovey," wrap his arms around it, and pray that his worn out blue blankie becomes your closest ally in this sleep war yet. (Now, who's kidding who? Of course, there will be those nights that you run in for the much anticipated rescue, wrap your arms around him, reflect momentarily about how it's humanly possible to love someone so much, and snuggle up on the couch for the remainder of the night. But, at least we can all learn about what we are supposed to be doing.)
In order to instill a love of reading in your child, read to her often. By listening to your voice, she will become more able to hear written language, and in turn learn new words.
As we all know so well, 16-month-olds are not the best at handling things gently. Because of this, pick sturdy board books that will be able to handle the test of time. Choose books that will be of special interest to her and find ways in which your toddler can participate in the story telling. Teach her the hand gestures that may go along with a story, and point out the recognizable images for her to repeat. Don't forget that you are ultimately the story teller (and she will never know if you change the story a little bit) so add lines to include your child in the story, make the adventure something that may catch and keep her attention, or shorten it up if you need to.
Books can be wonderful ways to gently introduce an upcoming experience such as a trip, party, doctor visit, or the arrival of a new sibling to your toddler. And once your little one finds a book that she loves, be ready to read it over and over and over again.
Here are a few examples of wonderful books to read with your 16-month-old:
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
From Head to Toe by Eric Carle
The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss
My Little Word Book by Roger Priddy
Happy Baby Words by Roger Priddy
|Andrew and Devin's Opinion|
Books are an essential feature seen throughout our house. Picture books, art books, history books, novels, we've got them all. So, it wasn't surprising that the first destructive activity that my 16-month-old twins discovered a few months ago was to take every book off of every bookshelf within their reach. I could have become quite frustrated with the never ending restocking of my bookshelves very quickly, however, I soon realized that my boys were not only redecorating my living room with books, they were looking through them in the process. It was fascinating for me to watch them actually leafing through Picasso books and taking a few seconds to check out the artwork within. Granted most of the time they were looking at the pieces upside down (I'm the first to admit that a few of his pieces actually looked better that way), but they were exploring. My children have been exposed to books since before they were born. Our family is known to be regular fixtures at the library (as parents of three toddlers it's our "big night out") and we are firm believers in developing little imaginations as early as possible.|
Our favorite time to hit the books is usually right before naptime because it gets a little crazy trying to wrangle three little boys around the bedroom. Someday soon I'm hoping we can incorporate it before bedtime too, but this month it's just not happening.
Lately, Andrew and Devin's favorite books have been from the series of picture word books by Richard Priddy. These books are wonderful for little hands, with soft-to-touch covers (that have rounded edges so they hurt less when thrown at you), and simple everyday images that are easily recognizable. I decided to choose the largest book that I had from his series for this activity because it's rare that I get to do things one-on-one with my boys, and wanted to spend a little extra time with each of them.
Andrew sat with me first as his attention span is slightly less than Devin's at this point. While we snuggled up in the reading chair, I sat Devin on the floor next to us with a little book from this series of his own. Andrew and I then proceeded to explore page by page in our book, pointing out and labeling the images which were familiar, and the images which were not. He is fascinated with cars, trains, and planes so we spent a little extra time on those images, and because he is only interested in bananas right now, we flew through the pages with the food. I knew when he started to shut the book early saying "bye, bye" that my time was limited, but I am very proud to say that he was able to stay focused and sit with me until we were down to the very last page.
Devin was eager to sit solo on my lap, so he quickly scurried up as soon as Andrew made his grand escape. I knew that Andrew was not going to sit and read next to us now, so he just ran around the room pretending to crash into imaginary objects and spastically fall to the ground while Devin and I had our cuddle time. Devin is the type of toddler who can sit longer than expected looking at books and I was actually able to get through two books during our time together. He loves to look at pictures of faces and babies right now, so those were the images that we spent most of our time on. Despite being convinced that everything is called "baby," he did remarkably well trying out a few new words. He is also quite sure that "noses" are called "eyes," and "ears" are called "noses," but we're working on that too.
I love reading with my children, particularly because it's time I can spend with each of them alone. Lately it seems rare that I have a second to sit, take a breather and just be, so I treasure those fleeting moments when I am able pick up one of my boys and a book and remember what being a parent is all about.
|Have you begun to wonder...|
My 16-month-old is still dependent on the bottle - how do I end this without a battle? |
Many toddlers are ready to start moving away from their bottle around 12-16 months. Unfortunately, although it may be providing comfort, continuing may result in a poor appetite for solid foods because of too many fluid calories. In order to aid in the transition from bottle to cup, it may be easiest to begin by restricting the bottle to mealtimes, and only offer it after solid foods have been eaten. For at least one meal a day, try and put milk in a sippy cup instead of a bottle. Also try to limit juice drinking to sippy cups only.
Lastly, the most difficult transition is loosing the bedtime bottle. This bottle often provides final comforts before sending your little one off to bed, and is often treasured by both parents and children alike. It may be helpful to try something new during your bedtime routine in order to replace "bottle time," like reading a new book, singing a new song, or snuggling a little longer to get your little one to sleep. It is also possible to just stop the bottle "cold turkey," but personally I have never been brave enough to go that route.
Remember that all children are different and ultimately you are the one that knows what is best for your little one. Look for the cues that your toddler gives you and trust your own intuition. I promise that you will know exactly when it's time to say "bye bye" to the "ba ba" for good.
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