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Toddler - Week #77

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Your 18-month-old toddler (week 77)

By Shelley Feldman, edHelperBaby

You've made it to 18 months!  Now What?
           If you feel that you are being a bit more challenged lately, and that "no" is the only word that both you and your 18-month-old can agree upon, you have officially entered the land of the 18-month-old and there is no turning back now.


No! No! No!
           At 18 months, your toddler is now feeling more confident asserting his independence, and wants to be certain that he gets a say in what goes on.   His vocabulary may now contain up to 15 words, despite the fact that it seems that "NO!" may take precedence over everything else, and he understands up to ten times more than he is capable of saying.  Although your little one's vocabulary remains limited, he has figured out how to use inflection, body language, and pointing to get his point across, and he is starting to figure out the benefits of incorporating tone in order to communicate more effectively as well.  Your little one is also beginning to understand simple directions (although compliance remains a challenge), and is able to link two words together forming phrases to express wants and needs.

       This month you can still expect to hear a lot of babbling while he tries his hardest to imitate your conversations, but if you listen carefully, you will begin to hear more and more identifiable words starting to emerge.  You will also start hearing your 18-month-old refer to himself by name (with the exception of my twins, who have both decided to call each other "Andrew" just to confuse people further as to who they are) and begin to make the startling revelation that everything else has a name too.  If you haven't become a human encyclopedia already, prepare now to start identifying and labeling everything for your child, as he is now becoming increasingly more interested in the world around him and how it works.

       Try your best to be patient during this stage of his language development, as he will ask you over and over what things are called, and may find humor in "mis-labeling" items just looking for your reaction.  Remember, this month he can comprehend a lot more than he can say, and despite not using his new vocabulary immediately, he is storing it away for a rainy day when you least expect it.  This month provides a great opportunity to begin teaching him nursery rhymes and singing games along with your everyday book reading, because the more words that he is able to learn and repeat now, the more confident he will be, trying out his new vocabulary later.  After a little practice, you are bound to be pleasantly surprised when you hear his cute little voice humming and singing along with you, along with cueing you before you turn the page of his favorite book.  Reading and singing both enrich your toddler's ability to communicate, increase his interest in language, and improve his listening skills so keep them both up.

       While your 18-month-old's vocabulary is developing, it is important that you praise what he is able say rather than correct his speech errors.  This is the month to tune up your deciphering skills and don't worry about grammar and pronunciation for the time being.  Enjoy the adorable mispronunciations that will inevitably occur, and you are bound to experience a few good chuckles at his expense (don't worry...he'll get over it).  Keep in mind that very few toddlers at 18 months speak clearly, and often no one will understand your little one but you and your own immediate family.  Be prepared to see some frustration from your toddler when he can't always get his point across, but step right up to the plate and let him know that you get it, play his interpreter for the time being and watch the smile of satisfaction spread from ear to ear.


Your Toddler's Improving Memory
           Around the 18th month, your toddler will begin to develop the ability to think about people, toys and other objects when they are out of her sight.  You will now catch glimpses of your little one trying to remember where things are kept, and she may even be able to go and get specific items upon request.  This is also the month when your toddler should begin identifying and recognizing herself in the mirror, and you will witness her wheels turning as she touches the mirrored reflection she sees and then her own face, all the while laughing hysterically at the realization that she is able to control her expressions.  Lastly, around 18 months your toddler will begin to get increasingly excited when familiar faces approach, and will regularly watch the front door with bated breath when she is told of an expected visitor's arrival.

       In order to further the development of your child's memory, it is the perfect time to begin playing little "memory" games together.  Your little one can now be an active participant in a simplified version of hide-and-seek, and is beginning to realize that when something is not where she thinks it is, she should continue the scavenger hunt.  By the way, she is also beginning to develop the ability to recall where things are that she gets pleasure from, so expect to be led (or pulled) to the kitchen, playroom, or closet where you hide all of the annoying toys that you thought she had forgotten about on a daily basis.

       On the down side, along with your little one's ability to recall positive things, she is now able recall negative things, so be prepared for some resistance if your little one should be confronted with something unpleasant from the past.  Now is the time when fear's truly impact your little one's day to day life, and she may screech with terror upon entering the doctor's office, when dogs approach, or when she is again in the company of anything associated with a negative memory.  Unfortunately, because your little one generalizes many things at this age, she does not have the ability to understand that she will not get a shot every time she sees the doctor, and that not every dog is going to bark, so for the time being be prepared for quick getaways, and always stake out the most accessible escape route...she will eventually figure it all out for herself, but just not quite yet.


Pretend Play and Imagination
           Around the 18th month, you will begin to witness the emergence of your toddler's imagination, and it is now the time to encourage "imaginative play" as your 18-month-old starts to "pretend."  Watch from a distance as your little actor gives his teddy bear a "drink," or kisses a beloved doll goodnight, and when he offers you a wooden block "cookie," go right ahead and play along.  But, remember that it is important to let your little one be in charge of his own show right now, and that you are only a guest in his little world where he makes the rules.  Constant hovering can inhibit his creativity, so do your best to just supply the props. You have finally hit the age where your toddler can play alone, and you may actually get a few minutes to yourself, so enjoy it

       Pretend play is a wonderful way to promote verbalization, strengthen social skills, and improve her ability to problem solve.  It is also crucial in furthering the development of his memory, and provides the perfect outlet to experience wish fulfillment.  Watch as your 18-month-old starts to enjoy having practice "conversations" with her toys before she tries it out on real people, as she will quickly learn that toys make much less intimidating and critical audiences.  Pretend play will reveal your little one's current interests, as well as his fears while allowing him to play them both out in a safe and structured environment.  Imaginations end boredom, and your little one is less likely to be at a loss for something to do when he can dig into his own mind and create something to do.



       This month is a great time to begin playing a simplified version of "Concentration."  Gather up three of your little one's favorite small toys and three or more bowls, or large stacking cups.  Hide one toy under one bowl, and do not place anything beneath the remaining two.  Show your little one how the game works by picking up the cups one at a time in search of her missing toy, and exaggerate your emotions when you do or do not find it, as it will aid her in grasping the concept.

       Although it may take a few trial runs before your toddler fully understands the point of this activity, she should quickly have fun searching for the toys that you hide, and should continue to look and look until the goal is reached.  After a little practice, you may even catch your toddler playing "Concentration" by herself, and it is also a great game to distract her with when you're waiting to be served at a restaurant.  Obviously, you won't be lugging bowls around everywhere you go, but dinner napkins do wonders in a pinch.


  Andrew and Devin's Opinion
           When my 18-month-old twins emerged from their bedroom today yelling "Beg-a-boo" with "blankies" covering their heads, I knew that the timing of the "Concentration" activity was right on.

       I gathered a handful of my boy's smaller trucks (Playskool makes wonderful little vehicles for ages 18 months and up that are small, but not too small), as well as the three largest stacking cups we had.  I then placed one truck beneath one of the cups and left the other two empty.  At this point, when everything was set up I guided my little ones into the playroom (blankies of course, dragging right behind) and sat them on the floor near the cups.  I then asked Andrew and Devin where their truck was, to which they replied in unison, "Oh! No! Where be?" as they scoured the floor.  I then lifted the cup to reveal the treasure hiding beneath and they shouted "Der it is!" and their facial expressions revealed such relief now that their long lost toy had been found.  I then proceeded to repeat the action again, but, this time I held off the big reveal until the third cup was lifted.  I have to admit it was funny to see Devin and Andrew watching with bated breath waiting, and waiting, and waiting for their beloved toy to appear, and I did feel a little guilty.  The third time we played I allowed the boys to look under the cups themselves for their truck, and was happy to see them actually taking turns during the search.  When at last they succeeded, you would have thought that they discovered gold because they both shouted "Hooray!" and clapped.

       Things were going great with this activity and they appeared to enjoy playing independently for a little while.  I actually began to think that I may have time to make my third cup of coffee, when suddenly Andrew and Devin decided they were through, grabbed their blankies, threw them over their heads and proceeded to waddle out of the room shouting "Beg-a-Boo."  Wishful thinking.


  Have you begun to wonder...
           How much television is too much television for my toddler?       

       The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that television should not be watched by children under 2, so according to them any television at this age is too much television.  However, despite wanting to follow their recommendations, I will be the first to admit that I have not followed them completely.  No matter how well behaved children are, and how much you love them, I for one, believe that there is a time and place for everything (within reason), and to be perfectly honest, parents just need a 30 minute break sometimes to remain sane.  Overall, for my own children, I have concluded that television in itself is not good or bad, but its positive or negative impact depends upon the quality of the programs watched and how the viewing experience is used. So, keeping the Academy's recommendation in mind, if you should still choose to allow your child to watch television here are a few guidelines for you to follow.

       Limit television viewing and don't use it as a replacement for interacting with your toddler...it should not be a babysitter.  If you can, watch television as a family, talk about what you're observing during the show, and extend the program you have chosen to watch with books afterwards.

       Excessive television may actually hinder your child's ability to imagine, and reduce concentration.  Furthermore, if she watches for too long she may become socially isolative and unable to amuse herself.  You want your toddler to enjoy television without it becoming all consuming, so stay on top of how much time is spent there.  Keep her viewing increments short, as she will go on autopilot after 20 minutes, and start out limiting her time at a very early age because a three Blue's Clue's a day habit can be hard to break.

       Choose to expose her to calm and relaxing shows, because the slower-pace allows her to pay attention to what it going on and too much action can be confusing. Also, have your toddler view a specific show, not whatever happens to be on, carefully select a program that is age appropriate, and most importantly, shut off the television when it is over.

       Remember that firsthand experience is still better than observing someone else do it, but if you do choose to allow your little one to watch, do it wisely.


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