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Toddler - Week #78

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Your 18-month-old toddler (week 78)

By Shelley Feldman, edHelperBaby

Slow Down Little One!!
           Do you feel that fast-forward is the only speed that you move in lately?

       Well, your "pause" and "stop" buttons are taking a long hiatus, only to return again in approximately 16 years.  Sorry.  The 18-month-toddler is an endless ball of energy that gains momentum as the day goes on.  She gets into and onto everything and will test you from the second she wakes, until that wonderful moment when she falls asleep.  This month, you may even begin to notice that her adorable little "baby face" is slowly disappearing, and she is beginning to look more and more like a pretty little girl.  Don't worry though; she will always be your little baby, no matter how old she may be.


Gross-Motor and Physical Development
           Your 18-month-old is now a proficient walker and enjoys walking and running as fast as his little legs will carry him.  Despite wanting to be perfect with his new found mobility, he continues to trip over himself a lot because he wants to do things he isn't quite ready for, or capable of yet.  This month your toddler will really like to show off his skills, especially when he has a new trick to perform and has a captive audience.  At this point, his gross-motor development continues to be more of a focus than his fine-motor, because he does continue have difficulty remaining still for long periods of time.

       To encourage the development of your little one's gross-motor skills, there are many activities which you can do together.  Toddler's love to play with large beach balls, especially rolling them, laying on top of them, and falling over them.  Although he may have difficulty kicking and throwing a small ball at this time, give it a try too, as you may be surprised at his abilities.  Toddlers at this age love to push carts, pull wagons, and pull along toys that are attached to a string (but, be sure to keep an watchful eye on your toddler with toys that do have strings, as they can pose a danger if left alone).  Whenever feasible (even if it means leaving a little early) let him walk this month.  He wants to practice, so let him.

       This is the month to start letting your toddler run, run and run some more.  Children who get a lot of exercise during the day make much better sleepers, and who isn't up for that?  At this age, he should be able to run, walk and then stop without toppling over.  He may even try to jump (and I emphasize the word "try"), but is more likely to get one foot off the ground instead.  Your 18-month-old can also climb up onto adult sized furniture, turn himself around, and sit with pride like he is the king of his own castle.  Help him learn how to climb down safely once he has arrived at the peak, because that can be the most difficult portion of his exploration.  This month he will master getting into and onto things without a problem, but it is an entirely different story when he tries to get out or down.

       Along with running and reeking havoc, your little angel can now kneel, as well as squat down into that stereotypical "toddler" position where their little tush is 1 inch off the ground with 3 inches of diaper peeking above their pants.  He should even be able to get up from that adorable squatting position to stand by himself.

       To give you fair warning, your toddler will soon want nothing to do with the play pen that buys you a few minutes of sanity while you get work done.  At 18 months, he will now find its walls too confining and he may even find a way to escape.  He still needs a place to play that has physical barriers (verbal ones don't work quite as well right now), so find a safe place where he can spread out and enjoy himself.  I have found that gating off one room of the house works wonders at this age, and if you don't have a "playroom," designate one room of your house as a "safe-zone," and gate the door, this way he'll have more freedom, but, not too much.


Fine-Motor Development and Dexterity
           As your toddler reaches the 18-month mark, she'll want nothing more than to succeed at everything she tries, so prepare yourself, as she will test her (and your) limits constantly.  She is now thrilled with her new found independence, but at the same time, frustrated with her limitations.  Whether she is stopped mid-adventure for safety reasons, or she is unable to complete a task because she has not developed the necessary skills yet, get ready to be confronted with a disappointed child at times.

       Your little explorer has quickly figured out that the more she tries, the more she learns, and the more independent she becomes. Fiddling with everything she can wrap her little fingers around, opening and closing anything in her path, and turning switches on and off will quickly become her favorite past time, while proving to be effective teaching tools as well.  Unfortunately for you, now she will want to empty all of the drawers and cabinets, and will then attempt to put everything back in again too (although it probably won't look like it did before she re-arranged it).  She will also enjoy pushing every button (not only yours) that she can find, especially on telephones, computers, and televisions, so keep track of the owner's manuals as they will definitely be needed.

       This month there are a few activities that may actually grab her attention away from re-arranging your home for a few minutes, while allowing her to focus on her fine-motor development.  Now at around one and a half years, your toddler will love to scribble and finger paint, build with blocks, and string large beads.  I also strongly recommend breaking out the shape sorters, nesting cups, simple puzzles, pop-up toys, and hammer-and-peg toys, as they will definitely keep her occupied while you turn all of the light switches back on in your house that have been turned off, close all of the closet doors that she has opened, put all of your spices back in the drawer, and re-configure your stereo and television so they work again now that they have been re-programmed by your little one.  Whew!


Safety Issues
           Now that your little one is one-and-a-half, there are many safety precautions for you to be aware of.  Continue to monitor that your stairs are securely gated and your windows are securely latched.  Climbing has become your toddler's favorite pastime, and because he is still unaware of the potential dangers that it may pose, it is your job to ensure his safety.  Use particular caution when your child is around water, as even a bucket or few inches left in the bathtub can lead to disaster.  In particular, never leave your child alone in the bathtub, and be sure to empty the tub immediately after use.  It is also important that electric outlets, as well as wires are inaccessible, because at 18 months they are all very intriguing objects for little wandering fingers.

       Continue to keep all medication, cleaning agents, and any other hazardous items securely locked away, and remember he can now climb anywhere and get up onto anything, so be sure all dangerous objects are completely inaccessible.  You may also want to remove your "precious" items from harm's way, or, prepare yourself for the worst by stocking up on crazy glue.

       This is the likely month when your sound sleep may be broken, as he is now more capable of climbing out of his crib at night for a visit.  If this should occur, it may be time to put a mattress on the ground or move him into a "toddler bed" a little early.  If your little one is like mine, then he is also becoming tired of the containment in his high chair and stroller.  Your toddler's decision to make a quick escape may lead to a fall from either of these places if he is not harnessed in, and to make matters worse he may actually start to figure out the buckle pretty soon as well so be careful.

       This month it is also essential to use great caution when backing out of the driveway, and always check behind your car before getting in to leave.  Your little one is walking now, and without your knowledge he may slip out the door to follow you for another good-bye kiss.  Horrible accidents do happen, and as parents, we can never be too careful when it comes to our children.


           Dance Party!       

       Children love music, especially when they can dance around and let off a little steam.  Hearing instruments and voices coming out of the stereo speakers can be such a novelty for your little one, especially if it sounds different from what he's used to.  Music has the wonderful ability to set a mood, so pay close attention to what your toddler likes, because it may help resolve a tantrum or lull him to sleep if you're lucky.  It can also be a wonderful activity to be shared, or may become an independent pleasure he enjoys by himself.

       This month you will start to hear your toddler sing little tunes that may even be recognizable, and he may try to dance to simple rhythms.  As his memory develops further, he will begin to remember basic nursery rhymes that are especially well-liked by toddlers because of their sing-song nature, and predictable pattern as well.

       Now is the time to add a few new children's artists to your CD collection, and don't worry...they aren't as bad as you may expect.  To tell you the truth I've even found a few that I really enjoy myself.  A few of our favorites are Laurie Berkner, Dirty Sock Funtime Band, and The Putumayo Kids Collection (especially the Caribbean and Reggae Playground).  The Putumayo Kids Collection has an amazing variety of music from all over the world ranging from Celtic to Jazz, and provides a wonderful avenue to expose your little one to different cultures in a positive and fun way.

       For your dance party, pick out a few upbeat CD's, move all the furniture up against the walls of a room where you can contain your toddler and boogie down!  I recommend trying a variety of different types of music, and include some of your own favorites as well.  There is no reason that your little one shouldn't gain a little musical appreciation for what you love and it will expand her repertoire as well (and there is only so much Raffi, Wiggles, and Elmo that you may be able to tolerate). Turn the volume up and have some fun.  Show your little one some of your best moves and watch him try to copy you.  Remember, he thinks you're amazing, even if you are a bit "rhythmically challenged."


  Andrew and Devin's Opinion
           Being shy, calm and quiet are not genetic traits that were passed on to my 18-month-old twin boys.  Give them an open area to run, or a group of people to impress, and good luck trying to keep up.  I have never been so exhausted in my life, but, fortunately for my sanity's sake, I have uncovered a clue as to how to grab their fleeting attention, and it is found in the rhythm of music.

       From the time my little guys were tiny infants, I have exposed them to a variety of music from Classical to Reggae.  Depending upon what is piping through my speakers, I can instantly change the mood in the room from chaos to calm, or from tantrum to laughter.  I quickly learned that Devin is not a fan of anything too loud, or too "busy," and Andrew just loves noise.  Armed with this information, I can now feel more in control of a situation where I am completely outnumbered.

       For this activity I chose one of my favorites from the Putumayo Kids Collection, called Caribbean Playground.  This CD is just a really fun, upbeat group of tunes and is a perfect introduction to this genre of music.  I then pushed all of the furniture in my living room back to expose the "dance floor" and all that was missing was the disco ball.  I then turned up the music and we just had fun.

       Andrew enjoyed spinning round and round, and Devin (after pacing the room a few times and watching from a distance) bounced his knees to whatever beat he was hearing in his little head.  Devin is also a fan of being picked up, so he enjoyed a great deal of our "party" attached to me, thumb in mouth and blankie in hand like usual (not that I'm complaining one bit).

       Overall, I would say that our "dance party" was a success, and we were able to get through the entire CD, and then a few from Sesame Street's "Platinum Album" before we had to hang up our dancing shoes.  But between you and me, the best part of the activity wasn't until a few hours later when both of my boys fell sound asleep at 7:00 p.m. and didn't make a peep until the morning.


  Have you begun to wonder...
           Is it too early to start potty training?       

       Most "experts" believe that 18 months is too young to start potty training, however it does depend upon your child.  The most important thing for you to do if you sense she may be ready is to look for signs of "readiness" which may appear between 18 and 24 months.  If your little one starts to prefer being dry, lets you know when she is wet, stays dry for up to two hours, and starts to give you a sign when she is going to have a bowel movement you may have a shot.

       It is important to remember that although your child may exhibit some of these early signs, it doesn't necessarily mean she's ready though.  Pushing her to toilet train too early may cause her to rebel and could inevitably keep her diapers even longer.  It is not a good idea to put too many demands on a child at 18 months, especially because she is learning so many new things everyday.

       All in all, it could still be a long time before she is able to recognize her need to go and actually get to the bathroom in time, so don't rush her, and try not to expect too much at one-and-a-half.  It will most likely be at least six more months before she's really ready, and even then it can take quite a while until she has the routine down pat.  For this milestone, she's truly the one in charge and when she's ready she'll let you know.


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