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Toddler - Week #74

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Your second week with a 17-month-old toddler (Part II of IV)

By Shelley Feldman, edHelperBaby

On your mark, get set, GO!
           She's off and running, moving onward and upward, upside down and backwards...good luck keeping up with your toddler this month!  Also, you might want to dust off your catcher's mitt, because there are bound to be a few unavoidable close calls with falling.  Containment is becoming more and more of a challenge now, as she is learning to scale the walls of her pack-n-play, and wiggle her way out of the exersaucer with more and more agility.  Gone are the months of having a toddler who actually sat still, so keep your eyes open!  A new adventurer has moved into your house and her first challenge is to turn your living room (and your life) upside down.


Your little mountaineer
           This is the month of testing new physical abilities, as well as fine-tuning and combining skills that he has already learned.  Your 17-month-old takes great pleasure in his development, and now he can walk, run, squat down, pick something up off of the floor, and get right back up again.  His agility is amazing, but don't be too quick to judge.  You can still expect to catch him tripping over himself quite frequently and running around in circles without any particular plan.  Your best bet this month is to find a safe space where he can brush up on his mountain climbing, sit back and try to enjoy the show (until he climbs up somewhere that you didn't think he possibly could and needs your help getting down).

       Climbing remains at the very top of his to-do list and he is now able to maneuver himself onto any objects that are about chest high.  Once he has arrived at the summit of "couch mountain," he should even be able to turn himself around and sit facing forward now...a  pretty complicated feat.  He has expanded his world vertically and wants to go up and up.  Leave it to your little genius, and he will quickly figure out how to combine his new stacking and climbing skills.  If you do find him stacking things in order to grow a few more inches, you may want to consider purchasing a children's step stool, a much safer alternative.  This month, nothing is out of reach anymore, or safe from your toddler's little wandering fingers.  Scan your home for potential climbing hazards, but remain vigilant and don't expect to anticipate every possible situation.

       Now, you can't expect to keep your little adventurer from climbing, so don't try to.  He wants to practice and practice, which is very important, but he also has to learn that there are rules that go hand-in-hand with adventuring.  Teach him early on that some things are off limits and not to be climbed on, opened up, and "explored."  You may even want to check out the scaled down, toddler size gyms this month where he is safe to have a free-for-all and is sure to have a blast.  It's also a great place to meet other toddlers (and moms to commiserate with about the "challenges" of having a 17-month-old).


Is she a righty?  Is she a lefty?
           Right- or left-handedness is an inborn trait that will sooner or later become evident.   She is now likely to begin showing some hand-preference, but most often you will still see her switching back and forth seeing which hand provides the better fit.  Despite appearing that she is becoming ambidextrous, she is actually testing out both sides before her decision is finalized, and it will actually be a few more years before she will settle down with one.

       As your little one's motor skills flourish, she is now more interested than ever in using your "tools" and carrying them around with her while she explores the house.  If you watch carefully, you will catch glimpses of her experimentation with various hands and hand positions, practicing for future use and making little mental notes about what position works best.  Don't be too surprised when you find your keys, brush, remote control, nail clippers, and toothbrush suddenly gone from where you left them, and have made their way into your toddler's room.  They are very interesting items to a 17-month-old, and up until now she has only been an observer from afar.  This month she wants desperately to experiment with these exciting things herself and imitate what she has watched you do.  It's perfectly fine to allow her to check things out herself, but be sure she can't hurt herself and that you know ahead of time where her secret hiding place is.


Safe Explorations
           This is the month when you need to accept and encourage your toddler's interest in exploration. Your toddler is now feeling more confident about exploring his world by himself, and will go even farther knowing that you are always a few feet behind.   Despite the fact that his adventures usually turn into another mess for you to clean, exploration and experimentation are how a child learns about the world and how it functions.  When you begin to see things take a turn for the worse, step right in, but otherwise try to resist your impulse to restrain him from turning your house upside down.

       When your little adventurer takes the lead, remain nearby because he does not know yet what is and is not dangerous.  As a parent, you must think ahead for him, plan for what may happen ahead of time, and do your best to avoid situations that may put him in harm's way.  Also, keep your running sneakers on at all times, and expect to sit down even less than you already are.  As soon as you think it's time to take a breather, he's off and into something more treacherous.

       Continue to be prepared for his ongoing need to put everything and anything into his mouth, and begin to be on the lookout for things that were recently thought to be out of his reach.  Your 17-month-old is now able to climb into, onto, over, above, and under anything that he can in order to get to what he wants.  Safety has become even more of an issue than in the past, and it is time to make sure your safety gates are in good working order.  Remember that staircases and previously unexplored areas of your house are prime targets for unsafe exploration, so take the time to make sure all of your cabinet locks, door locks, and outlet covers are in place.  It's worth taking a few extra minutes to check and re-check that all of your safety measures are up and running, because at this age your little one will be the first one to get into trouble if these measures are not in place.

       This is also the month when your daredevil may try to escape from the confines of his crib, so be sure his mattress is as low as possible, and the railing is up whenever he is lying down.  If he does try to climb out, despite doing everything you can to keep him contained, you may have to begin considering a toddler bed or placing his mattress on the floor to avoid injuries associated with falling.

       It's always important to keep in mind that young toddlers have very limited memories.  Don't expect your little one to remember what they have been taught, and expect to repeat yourself over and over again before they actually "get it."  It may take weeks, or months before they finally learn a lesson (and sometimes it's unfortunately the hard way), so have no expectations of your 17-month-old when it comes to safety.  We cannot rely on our toddlers to avoid danger themselves, no matter how obedient your little one may appear to be.


           Bean Bags       

       Bean bags are a great activity to help your toddler develop coordination.  You may want to make a small investment and purchase a good quality set, as they will definitely come in handy over and over again.  There are many great websites on the Internet right now that sell handmade, inexpensive, personalized bean bags (they even take custom orders), which I found to be much better quality than the smaller, more commercial ones found in toy stores.  After our own experimentation with a variety of different sizes, my boys and I have also concluded that the larger-sized choices are better for little hands, as they are much easier to grab and hold onto.

       Bean bags are great replacements for ball playing indoors, and are guaranteed to cause a little less damage to your home.  Besides being fun objects to throw around, they are also great learning aids for colors, patterns, and shapes.

       For your toddler's first bean bag experience, I recommend placing the bags on the floor and letting him explore for a little while.  The texture and sound of the beans are bound to intrigue him and you might as well give him the opportunity for a full sensory inspection before trying to engage him in an activity.  Once he's done with his examination, I then suggest showing your toddler what he can do with the bags besides eat them.  Put a bean bag on your head and try to walk across the room, throw one in the air and try to catch it, get a basket and try to throw them in, or just get creative and see what else you can come up with.


  Andrew and Devin's Opinion
           I have recently noticed that my 17-month-old twin's ability to throw things at a target (particularly one another) has greatly improved.  With this in mind I was sure that the bean bag activity would be interesting to say the least.  I had previously purchased a set of bean bags approximately 5 inches by 5 inches in size, which were a variety of bright colors and multiple textures, and I, myself, found them interesting so I was hopeful that Andrew and Devin would agree.

       First, I laid the 6 bean bags on the floor of the boy's playroom and allowed them to fully explore.  They picked up each bag, one by one, and proceeded to gnaw them, squish them, and then hoard them.  After separating Andrew and Devin from their first battle of the morning, I decided to give each of the boys 2 bags (one for each of their little wandering hands) in hopes of avoiding a little chaos.  I then showed them how to place one bag on their head and wiggle until it fell off.  They both found the placement of the bean bag on their heads hysterical, let alone the whole wiggling aspect.  Andrew and Devin continuously repeated their new favorite word "Again? Again? Again?" over and over until I decided to try something different.

       Next, I showed the boys how to gently throw the bean bags into an empty laundry basket which I placed on their floor.  Of course they both immediately launched themselves into the basket before I could finish, but it was worth a shot.  I was eventually able to coax them out (Cheerios to the rescue once again) and one at a time took them over to the basket for some shooting practice.  They were both very excited to be able to succeed at this part of the activity (granted they were practically standing in the basket while they threw the bags) and were happily entertained for quite a while.

       Overall, I would say that the bean bag activity was a great success, but I believe that they were more interested in checking out the bags than actually "playing" with them at this age.  As far as I'm concerned though, anything that can hold my boys' attention for any amount of time is well worth the try.


  Have you begun to wonder...
           When is my toddler going to stop putting everything in his mouth?       

       Your 17-month-old's mouth is his "tool of discovery," and it is very normal at this age to put everything he can in there.  Despite that fact that it is not the cleanliest way to explore, it can continue to be expected for the next few months.  Like all developmental stages, the length of time which your toddler may "mouth" everything varies from child to child, some giving it up before they turn one, while most continuing until around the age of 2.

       If you have a stubborn little toddler, you will soon learn that voicing your own displeasure in his actions may only prolong the behavior, so do your best to just look the other way unless he is in danger of hurting himself or choking.  This month it is important to be extra wary of small items around your house, as they are bound to end up in his mouth eventually.  If he does begin to gnaw on something unacceptable, firmly request that he take it out, and if that doesn't work, step in and get it out yourself.  At 17 months, your little one is capable of understanding and following through with this command, but compliance is not his strongest suit right now.

       If your toddler is teething this month, and you suddenly see an increase in the amount of items which enter his mouth, don't fret.  The molars which are making their way through his gums right now can be exceptionally painful, and chomping on toys (as well as the arms of others) may temporarily ease the pain.  Hopefully when his teeth do finally pop through, the mouthing and chewing will also begin to diminish and a more pleasant and socially acceptable phase will take its place...like picking his nose.


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