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Toddler - Week #70

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Your second week with a 16-month-old toddler (Part II of IV)

By Shelley Feldman, edHelperBaby

  Let the Show Begin!
           If you thought these past 15 months were fun....be prepared to be amazed and truly entertained!  Right around the 16 month mark, so many new and exciting things are beginning to happen.  Your child recently began to understand that he is an independent and separate entity from you, and despite the slight sadness that a parent may feel at this time, you now have a front row seat to the best show in the world.  Your baby has now begun to develop into a little, yet real person, becoming more and more aware of who he is and what he is all about.  Now is the time when you will start to catch glimpses of his funny little personality slowly beginning to emerge, and in front of your very own eyes, you will be witness to your child's own remarkable evolution.  Most importantly, be prepared to laugh more than you've ever laughed before, and love more than you've ever loved before.  Just a word of caution though, from one parent to another...these days you will see your toddler trying to imitate everything you do and say, and it's time to begin watching what you say and do around your little eaves dropper and peeping tom.  Don't heed my warning, and you may be shocked at what he ends up repeating to the clerk at the grocery store checkout!


  The Onset of Self-Awareness
           As your 16-month-old toddler's skills and abilities continue to flourish, he is beginning to develop a greater sense of self-awareness and independence.  As an infant, he did not have the ability to distinguish himself as separate from you, and was completely and utterly defenseless against the world.  Now, by utilizing his five senses to examine and explore, he has learned that he is his own little person capable of doing amazing things. Your clever little toddler is now able to understand that you are an extension of himself, and will utilize this to his advantage.  You will now feel your child pushing and pulling you towards objects which are out of his reach, and grasping at your hand for guidance when trying to navigate over difficult terrain.

       If it hasn't started already, you can now expect to see your child trying to carry objects twice his own size and weight, and be adamant about succeeding at every new challenge.  Let your 16-month-old make numerous attempts, and allow for some healthy struggling (as long as he's safe) along the way.  Be prepared for a little "frustration" from him when he is unsuccessful, but be right there to help when he's ready to accept it.  Remember the old adage...if at first you don't succeed, try, try, again (and again, and again, and again)?  Well, now is the first time of many for you and your child when it rings true.  You are now beginning to witness the development of problem-solving skills, and it is also a great opportunity to begin building up his self-esteem.       

       Toddlers at this age also love to help, so it is a perfect opportunity to let him be your little assistant.  Don't set your hopes too high though, he's not going to help you build an extension on your house tonight, but he may be able to follow simple instructions, like hand something to you when asked, or help out in his own way like handing you a Goldfish or Cheerio for a job well done.  Praise your child for success, and commend him for trying even when he is met with failure.


  The Emerging Personality of Your Toddler
           By now you've probably noticed that your perfect angel is beginning to develop quite a little personality.  It's time to lay your mind reading skills to rest for a few years, as his ability to say what's on his mind and express likes and dislikes will increase every day.  Despite being an amazing time in the development of your toddler, be prepared for an increase in tantrums as well.  As I'm sure you already know, toddlers at this age can become very frustrated when things don't go their way.

       The question I have recently found myself asking is, when should a parent let go and when should they hold on?  I am fully aware that it seems early to start asking this question, but in desperate search of an answer, I'm starting to believe that once again it's that delicate balancing act that we as parents must continuously perform, allowing our children to develop a sense of independence, while always wanting to protect them a little longer.  When a child's personality begins to emerge, parents should continue to encourage achievement, positively reward him, and show enthusiasm for his accomplishments.  Provide him with ample time to figure things out for himself (as long as safety is not an issue), let him make a few mistakes along the way, and then sit back and watch the new "smile of mastery" spread across your child's face when he finally succeeds.

       Believe it or not, besides the emergence of your 16-month-old's endearing personality, they may also begin to use those "magic words" we all love to hear.  Now, don't expect miracles overnight, but your toddler is now ready to start learning a little etiquette.  Most likely, you will hear "peas" and "tank oo" but it's a start.  As you already know, your child is watching you ever so closely, and becoming an expert at mimicking.  If you set a good example, your child will most likely follow.


  Playtime and Socializing
           The precious moments of you being your child's only friend are slowly beginning to dwindle.  As a parent, it was natural for you to be your toddler's first playmate, and because of the beautiful relationship that the two of you have developed, he has learned how to appropriately interact with other people.  Now it is his turn to learn how to play games, communicate, and make friends with other little toddlers his age, and continue to build on the first experiences he has had with you.  At 16 months your toddler is constantly exploring the world around him, and as his ability to communicate increases and improves, he is beginning to understand how fun it can be to interact with others.  Just remember, children have vast personalities and your child may be shy and appear timid, or may be outgoing and boisterous.  Be aware of your toddler's level of comfort and discomfort around people, and teach him how to play with others if he doesn't quite seem to understand.  It can be a scary place outside of the safety zone that the two of you have created over the past 15 months, and it can take time to feel comfortable away from you.

       When your child takes a chance and finally leaves the safety of your side, don't be surprised if you see him sitting side-by-side with a new playmate, yet playing entirely on his own.  This type of play, referred to as "parallel play," is actually the very first step you'll see when children actually begin to play together.  Needless to say, don't worry when you see this, within a few months you will begin to notice that your toddler and other toddlers begin to interact together, and stop playing alongside one another in their own little perfect worlds.


           The Hokey Pokey/Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes/Ring Around the Rosey       

       As your toddler continues to want to try new things, and his ability to interact and communicate with others improves, it's time to try a few new games.  Here are a few activities, which may actually hold your 16-month-old's attention a little longer than you may expect.  These basic singing games encourage a new level of interaction that your toddler is more able to enjoy and participate in now.  They are also wonderful ways to begin teaching your 16-month-old different body parts and how to begin playing along with others.       

       The Hokey Pokey (Keep it basic and simple.)

       "You put your hands in, you put your hands out, you put your hands in, and you shake them all about, you do the Hokey Pokey and you turn yourself around, that's what it's all about."

       Continue to repeat this song but replace lyrics with body parts that they know and are familiar with.       

       Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes (Start slowly, then as your little one gets the hang of it, try to speed up.)

       "Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes

       And eyes and ears and mouth and nose

       Head, shoulders, knees and toes."       

       Ring Around the Rosey(Hold hands with your toddler and walk slowly around in a circle, then at the end fall gently to the ground.)

       "Ring around the rosey, pocket full of posies, ashes, ashes, we all fall down!"


  Andrew and Devin's Opinion
           Quite honestly, I didn't expect much co-operation from my twin boys for these three activities.  Following directions, and actually listening to me has not been their strongest suit lately, so I was doubtful.  Determined to at least try, I figured that my odds would be most favorable as long as they were fed and not sleepy, so after a nice breakfast and before naptime, we all wandered into their playroom/bedroom to begin.  The second I veered from our normal playtime routine, they both knew immediately that I was up to something, so I did my best to wrangle them both in front of me to begin my performance of a lifetime.

       The Hokey Pokey was definitely the most difficult to keep the boys focused on, and to be perfectly fair, we didn't get past the first verse before they decided to initiate their own version of duck duck goose and chase each other around and around (a common sight in our house lately).  Needless to say, I learned very quickly that games and "action rhymes" such as these need to be short and sweet at this age, and nothing too drawn out.

       Quickly figuring out that I needed to move on if I was to keep their attention, I began to belt out a slightly out-of-key version of "Head, shoulders, knees and toes", and much to my surprise, it was a hit!  I think it helped that my boys were familiar with this song, as I've used it on occasion at meal times to stop them from throwing food at me.  Despite the fact that Andrew was poking at Devin's eyes, and Devin was determined to stick his finger up his nose as far as it would go, I believe it was a success and they actually were able to follow the basic directions to the best of their ability.  I even received a round of cheers and applause from Devin at the end of the song (one of his famous little tricks that he has learned lately).

       Next up was Ring around the Rosey, and being fully aware that there was no way my boys were actually going to be able to hold hands, I decided to try it first with each of them individually.  I figured that once we got it down alone, we could give the interactive thing a shot at a later date.  Andrew was first up and found the entire experience hysterical.  His favorite past time lately is pretending to fall and then rolling around on the floor shouting "Oh! No!", so I thought he might enjoy it.  The tricky part was getting him to stand up again after it was over.  Needless to say, he did have some difficulty walking around in a circle, but with a little practice he soon became quite adept.  Next it was Devin's turn, and I wasn't too sure how he would fair.  He learned to walk almost 6 months after his identical brother (go figure?) and is still a little wobbly, so I was a bit skeptical about his ability to maneuver in a circle.  After taking a few little spills, he kept trying and trying and was eventually able to do it without incident.  Just like his brother before, he quickly was hysterical about the entire thing, and wanted to keep falling at the end over and over and over.

       I think the most important thing to take away from this activity is to have fun just playing with your little one, or little one's as in my case.  They may not be the best cooperators yet, but, keep practicing with them and laugh as much as possible.


  Have you begun to wonder....
           How do I help to build my child's self-esteem?       

       According to the "experts," parenting styles that are based on respect, empathy, and responsiveness appear to be most effective in fostering a healthy sense of self, and serve as a strong foundation for future relationships.  It's been said that successful parenting involves remaining sensitive to a child's feelings, even when they are in conflict with your own, or expressed at an inconvenient time.  Parents who are able to consistently provide a shoulder to cry on when a child most needs it, and provide the appropriate levels of freedom and structure seem to be playing their cards right.  It always seems to come back to the delicate balancing act of trying to raise a child in this day and age, with the least amount of heartache along the way.

       Part of self-esteem is self-confidence.  Praising a child can build them up, but be cautious because if the praise isn't genuine, your child will see right through it, and firm limits can actually do much more to build self-esteem than half hearted compliments.  Instead try to assist your little one in learning to cope with a range of emotions, and to understand that it's alright to feel whatever it is that he is feeling.  A little validation goes a long way, even at the ripe old age of 16 months.

       Lastly, and possibly most importantly, respecting your child is an essential part of building self-esteem.  Just like love, giving respect comes full circle eventually.  So, try your best to listen through the babble, focus your attention on the exciting things that he is discovering every day, and find some time in your busy schedule to just sit and be with him in his own little world.  Turn off the television, realize that the laundry isn't going anywhere and the dishwasher can be emptied later.  Life through the eyes of a 16-month-old can be truly refreshing and a lot less complicated than the lives we have created for ourselves.

       Don't ever forget that there is no such thing as the "perfect" parent.  Parenting just can not, and does not ever go exactly as planned, and it's best to be prepared for a few little surprises along the way.


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