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Toddler - Week #69

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16 months and One Week: Independence We Seek!

By Jodi L. Kelley, edHelperBaby

           What an amazing milestone this week! Evan is really mastering his gross motor skills. He is now able to scale his way up my bed. Our bed is rather high, and he has always had a difficult time trying to get up. Until this week, he would just come to the side and put up his hands crying for a lift. This week, he's become a professional climber. He will pull on the sheet and grip it to support his way up. He has also mastered climbing down the stairs this week. I have been so nervous about him even being near the stairs. But I have seen some clues to let me know he could do it. For instance, I have seen him go down a few small stairs at school. His ability to go up the stairs and down the slide also made me feel like he might be able to do it. So I watched him give it a try. He turned himself around and went down one stair at a time on his belly. Each time, his little foot searched for the next step. He was very careful but quite skilled. And boy was he proud of himself when he reached the bottom!


Creating Good Readers:
           Just like stair climbing, you have to let them do it themselves sometimes. Even the littlest ones like to pretend they are reading on their own. This is true even for your toddler. She can sit and make her own language as she turns the pages. As she gets older, she will make up stories to go with the book. My daughter does this now at age four. She will tell a whole, elaborate story. It isn't important that she gets all the correct words. Your role as a parent in this instance is to encourage and praise the creativity. You don't want to say she is wrong or that's not what the book says. You will turn her off. Instead, give her lots of praise for reading. Creativity and imagination is a very important part of becoming a good reader.


Book Of The Week:
           Where the Wild Things Are

       By: Maurice Sendak       

       This is a classic book. It is one of my favorites from my own childhood. Now it is a favorite for my own children. Evan is full of mischief these days. As he scales up the side of my bed, goes up and down stairs, and simply searches the house for places he can find trouble, I immediately thought of Max. Max is the main character in the book. He has been sent to his room for making mischief. He envisions a fantasy world of his own to escape his punishment, and his bed becomes his vehicle for exploration. But even though it seems he has been gone forever, he has really never left and finds his mom has brought him dinner upon his return.


           Our activities this week have included lots of movement. We love to play on the playground equipment. Going up the stairs and down the slide can last forever on its own! But the other equipment is useful as well. Sometimes it requires looking at the piece in a different way. For instance, on our playground there is a climbing piece that older kids climb on top of but Evan crawls under instead. You see there is a piece under the bars that is there as a safety net for the climbers. Evan found it makes a great tunnel for him. He really enjoys it when the older kids are climbing right above him. Look at the equipment and don't dismiss it simply because your toddler cannot enjoy it the correct way. Of course, don't do anything that would be dangerous either!       

       The other monster activity we enjoyed this week was finger painting. I know it sounds messy, but experiencing other textures is important. I like to let Evan use pudding as his finger paints. If you want them to have a little color just put a few drops of food coloring mixed in (not too much or it can stain). I just let him go to town and make a masterpiece. Once it is dry, make sure you display it properly! My daughter's artwork was recently framed at Grandpa's house, and she was very proud!


Rhyme Time:
           We did the "Monster Mash" this week. We are getting ready for Halloween, too. But the "Monster Mash" is fun anytime! Here are some of the lyrics:


       I was working in the lab late one night

       When my eyes beheld an eerie sight

       For my monster from his slab began to rise

       And suddenly to my surprise       

       He did the mash

       He did the monster mash

       The monster mash

       It was a graveyard smash

       He did the mash

       It caught on in a flash

       He did the mash

       He did the monster mash

       This is just the first stanza and the chorus. The chorus is especially fun if you add in some dance moves like mashing your hands together and smashing an imaginary monster on the floor with your foot, sort of like doing the twist!


Evan's Opinion:
           Evan loves the dancing and singing always! He also likes this book. He likes to growl and pretend to be a monster. He sure looked like a messy monster when he was covered in finger paint pudding! But that was nothing a bath couldn't handle. But lately, he acts like a monster sometimes. He is constantly climbing up on my bed, following me up the stairs, down the stairs, or wherever I go! He loves going to the playground. In fact, the playground may be one of the only places this little monster is not clinging to me. At the playground he becomes Mr. Independence. But at home he is Mr. Cling-on. And sometimes it gets to be a little bit frustrating these days!


You're Probably Wondering.....
           Question: "Why is he so clingy and what can I do?"       

       If you aren't wondering this about your toddler, I wish I knew your secret! Evan is so clingy I can barely go to the bathroom without him finding his way in or crying at the door! When I try to cook dinner, he is at my legs pushing me until I pick him up. Why does he do this? I believe it is all part of separation anxiety. He does not want me to leave him. The funny thing is after he gets picked up, he often wants to get right down. He seems to just be seeking that reassurance that I am there, staying there, and still willing to give him a little bit of love.       

       So what is there to do to stay sane throughout this period? Well, here are some things I do. For one, I don't pick him up every time. I just can't. I have things to do, and I want him to know that I don't need to pick him up every time just for him to feel safe or loved. I try to stay calm and always talk to him about everything. I will tell him I am cooking and will hold him soon or such. And I will try to get him involved in something like the finger painting so he is busy while I finish. But in all honesty, creative planning helps even more. I have to think of ways to avoid doing too much, like getting a meal in the crock pot early in the morning so I don't have as much cooking to do in the evening when the clinging is worse. Also, I try to get out as much as I can. Evan is not cranky when he is in the carriage, so walks are perfect. And as I mentioned, trips to the playground buy me a little sanity. As well, I like to go to friends for play dates. At someone else's house, the toys are new, and Evan seems to play a little more without needing to be right next to me.       

       The other thing I try to do is go out without him for little errands or whatever. It's important to me because I need to get time alone, and also, Evan needs to learn I can leave for a little bit and I will be back. Experts recommend being quick and upbeat about the handoff. Don't rush your exit or try to sneak out because that will cause more separation anxiety. The last thing your toddler needs is to be playing while you are there in sight and then have you disappear! That's why he is so clingy in the first place! That's his biggest fear. Instead, explain what is happening in simple terms: "Mommy is going to the store now." And be upbeat with a quick kiss and a quick "See you soon!" Then be back soon like you said. Try to avoid saying you won't be long and then returning after bedtime. Remember, the idea is to show your toddler he can play on his own and trust that you'll return still loving him so that you can function in the house one day without him stuck to your leg!


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